While hip-hop was born in New York City, one of the culture's elements — breakdancing — owes a lot to L.A. and the Bay Area. And one of the newer styles of hip-hop dance was created on the streets of Oakland. It’s called turfin, and it looks like a mix between breakdancing and ballet.
“Turf dancing consists of pantomiming, acting out a story, footwork, something like Michael Jackson — a little bit of slipping and sliding, popping, staying on beat. And just putting your own swagger to it,” explains Jasmine Haynes, who hails from Richmond and goes by TurferGirl. She’s one of a growing group of women trying to make their name in this male-dominated street-dance culture.
Turfin is the latest in a long line of street-dance styles that borrow and evolve from each other. Many people have heard of popping and locking, popularized during the 1980s breakdancing craze. But there’s also strutting, waacking, flexing, roboting, tutting and — going way back to the 1960s — boogalooing, which was also an Oakland creation.
“Strutting, boogaloo and robot started first, and then it went in to popping in the '80s,” explains Agatha Rupniewski, also known as Agatron. After competing in organized dance battles in Oakland for years as one of very few women, she became a promoter and has put on several all-female dance battles. A July 26 event, held in a classic car restoration shop, was open to all styles, not just turfin.
Dance battles like these date back at least to the 1970s. Two dancers get about a minute apiece going back and forth a couple of times before a panel of judges decides who won that round. Like any sports tournament, the winners of each match advance to the next round; the final winner gets a $500 prize.