Introduction to Iconic Dance and Urban Movement

This is a Boston Conservatory course offered through Berklee Online.


Authored by Ruka White


Course Code: OCDAN-103

Next Semester Starts
Jan 10, 2022

Level 1

Level 1

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


This course will take you through an analysis of dance trends and their absorption and cultivation in American culture, focusing on urban styles and their evolution in commercial and social settings. We will examine iconic dances as movement trends stemming from ordinary spaces in society, reflecting the socio-political ideology of the culture and show how they define the eras of their origins. Like barometers, sensationalized movements reflect the values, attitudes, and ideas of the people. 

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Through readings, visual assignments, and movement practice, you’ll hone your skills to decipher the coded language of dance in popular dancing styles. We’ll analyze various commercial dance cultural icons, skill sets, and political expressions through videos, learned steps, research papers and self-reflection. And you’ll develop a critical eye in movement analysis, which will be enhanced through physical practice of the ideas and topics discussed. 

By highlighting notable directors, choreographers, icons, and unseen contributors who have illuminated dance within social spaces, we’ll introduce you to dance styles in a nonlinear, intertextual format. This course will acknowledge the ability of these iconic dances to transcend time through the use of technological advances of the day. 

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate iconic dance movements 
  • identify and use jargon that illustrates iconic movement 
  • identify the ways in which urban culture creates sensationalized movement
  • analyze and critique popular culture and iconic dance
  • recognize cultural appropriation in urban dance styles 
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: What is Iconic? An Analysis of Class, Race, Sex, and Gender 

  • A World of Dance: Europe
  • A World of Dance: Asia
  • A World of Dance: Africa
  • A World of Dance: United States
  • Assignment 1: Interview a Classmate

Lesson 2: Iconicism in the 1920s

  • Iconicism in the 1920s 
  • Dance and Fashion 
  • Notable Figures 
  • Ring Shout, Buck, Wing, and Jig Dances
  • Authenticity: Appropriation, Acculturation, and Assimilation
  • Assignment 2: Your Pop Culture Icon 

Lesson 3: Iconicism in the 1950s 

  • Race 
  • Sex and Gender 
  • The Music of the 1950s 
  • The Movement of the 1950s
  • Hand Jive
  • The Origins of the Hokey Pokey
  • Variations on Swing
  • Assignment 3: Devise a Short Dance

Lesson 4: Iconicism in 1960s 

  • Race
  • Innovative Genius
  • The Movement of the 1960s
  • Other Dances of the 1960s
  • The Roots of Bossa Nova 
  • The Impact of James Brown 
  • Assignment 4: Family Oral History: Interview and Narrative Essay

Lesson 5: Iconicism in 1970s (Part 1)

  • The Culture of the 1970s (Part 1)
  • The Music of the 1970s (Part 1)
  • Breakdancing
  • Notable Breakdancers
  • Gender Inequality 
  • Electric Boogaloo 
  • Various Techniques
  • Assignment 5: Pop Culture Dance Appropriation

Lesson 6: Iconicism in 1970s (Part 2)

  • The Culture of the 1970s (Part 2)
  • The Music of the 1970s (Part 2)
  • Clubs, Parties, and Drugs
  • Disco Fashion
  • Disco Dancing Styles
  • The Bump and the YMCA 
  • The Funky Chicken and the Bus Stop 
  • The Significance of Soul Train
  • The History of J-Setting 
  • Assignment 6: Gay Liberation Movement: Research and Analysis 

Lesson 7: Iconicism in 1980s

  • Fashion of the 1980s
  • Media in the 1980s
  • The Significance of Madonna 
  • Vogue
  • History of the Moonwalk 
  • The Mechanics of the Moonwalk
  • Assignment 7: Develop and Perform Your Own Dance

Lesson 8: Iconicism in 1990s

  • The Culture of the 1990s
  • The Movement of the 1990s
  • Icons of the 1990s
  • The Macarena 
  • Assignment 8: Perceived Cultural Appropriation

Lesson 9: Emboldened Pop Culture

  • Feminine Boom
  • The Fly Girls
  • Paula Abdul 
  • CeCe Peniston
  • Missy Elliott
  • Britney Spears 
  • Assignment 9: Purity and Sexuality: Analysis and Essay

Lesson 10: Popular Culture in Asia

  • J-Pop
  • K-Pop 
  • English Language, Hybridity, and Cultural Appropriation
  • The Movement of K-Pop
  • Gangnam Style 
  • Bollywood
  • Assignment 10: Cultural Influences in American Popular Dance: Research and Analysis

Lesson 11: Iconic Millennial

  • The Culture of the 2000s
  • The Movement of the 2000s
  • Krumping 
  • Twerking
  • Icons of the 2000s
  • Assignment 11: Final Paper Draft

Lesson 12: Iconic Futurity 

  • The Movement
  • Beyoncé and Black Is King 
  • Recycling of Dance through Popular Culture 
  • Assignment 12: Final Paper 


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

  • This course does not have any prerequisites.

Required Textbook(s)

  • Required readings for this course include scholarly essays and articles, which will be available as PDF files throughout the course.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in live chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of  Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Ruka White

Author & Instructor

Ruka White is a native of Fort Lauderdale, FL where he trained with the Miami City Ballet. As a graduate of Hollins University he holds an MFA in Dance. He has danced professionally with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Philadanco, Armitage GONE!, and the Limon Dance Company. He received an Elliot Norton Award Nomination for Best Choreography in the show Choir Boy. He’s toured extensively with such artists as Missy Elliott, Celia Cruz, and Shirley Murdock. He teaches as an Assistant Professor at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee.


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