Locking, a vibrant and dynamic dance style, has captivated audiences worldwide with its unique blend of energy, expression, and creativity. Originating from the streets of Los Angeles in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Locking has evolved into a cultural phenomenon that continues to influence and inspire dancers of all ages and backgrounds.

In this exploration of Locking, we delve into its origins, tracing its journey from humble beginnings to global recognition. From the accidental discovery of signature moves by pioneers like Don “Campbellock” Campbell to the formation of iconic dance crews like “The Lockers,” we unravel the rich tapestry of history and innovation that defines Locking.

Join us as we unravel the mysteries behind this electrifying dance form and discover the stories, the people, and the passion that have shaped Locking into the vibrant art form it is today.

What is Locking?

Locking is a fun and lively dance style that Don ‘Campellock’ Campbell stumbled upon in the 1970s by accident! While attempting funky chicken moves, he’d often pause when he forgot a step, inadvertently giving birth to the signature locking moves. His friends quickly caught on, and before they knew it, they were showcasing this quirky new dance style at parties across Los Angeles. Initially danced to funk tunes by artists like James Brown, lockers have since expanded its repertoire to include various creative moves and styles.

What is Locking?
What is Locking?

The Origin of Locking

Locking, a dance style credited to Don “Campbellock” Campbell, emerged in the late 1960s to early 1970s in Los Angeles, California, purely by accident! During a casual dance session with friends, Campbell stumbled upon a unique move that caught everyone’s attention. Impressed by how he seemed to “stop” in the middle of his dance, his friends encouraged him to repeat it, dubbing him “Campbellock” in the process.

This era coincided with the tumultuous times of the Watts riots, a series of civil disturbances across America marked by heightened crime rates and the destruction of neighborhoods. In response to the unrest, black communities sought solace and unity through music and dance gatherings. Campbell and his crew seized the opportunity to showcase their newfound dance style at these parties, where it quickly gained popularity.

As they traveled from one party to another, spreading their moves, others began to emulate and add their own personal touches, thus giving birth to the vibrant dance form known as locking!

How it became popular

Following his initial success, Don Campbellock ventured into television, landing a spot on the popular show “Soul Train” as a regular dancer. On “Soul Train,” dancers formed two lines, creating what was known as the Soul Train, and took turns showcasing their dance moves as they traveled down the line. This exposure to a vast audience propelled Locking into the mainstream, fueling its growth and evolution.

Despite the newfound popularity, Campbellock felt it unjust that the dancers on “Soul Train” were not compensated for their performances. He advocated for their rights, insisting that they should be paid for their time and effort. However, his stance led to his expulsion from the show. Nevertheless, Campbellock had garnered a devoted following among the show’s audience, who continued to support him.

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In a bold move, Campbellock joined forces with Toni Basil to establish “The Campbellock Dancers,” later renamed “The Lockers.” The group comprised talented dancers such as Greg “Campbellock Jr” Pope, Leo “Fluky Luke” Williamson, Fred “Mr Penguin” Berry, Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quinones, and Bill “Slim the Robot” Williams. The Lockers became ubiquitous, performing at prestigious award shows, live events, making guest appearances on television programs, starring in films, featuring in advertisements, and even having their own television special. Their relentless presence across various platforms solidified Locking’s position in the entertainment industry.

How it became popular
How it became popular

The first crews

Following extensive tours and teaching sessions to spread Locking culture, Don embarked on founding his inaugural crew of Locking dancers, known as the “Campbellock Dancers.” The first crews

Comprising individual soloists, each dancer would take turns stepping forward to showcase their solo performances, while the rest maintained rhythm and support in the background.

However, it wasn’t until Don crossed paths with another dancer named Toni Basil that he envisioned a more unified approach to their act. In 1972, they teamed up to compete in contests across the US, only to find themselves overshadowed by the dominance of traditional dance styles prevalent in small-town dance halls.

Recognizing the need for a larger, more coordinated ensemble to deliver flashy and choreographed performances, Toni and Don decided to establish “The Lockers.”

These crews played a pivotal role in Locking’s rise within the street battle scene, solidifying its presence and influence in the dance community.

Key foundation elements/moves

In the early stages of developing what we now recognize as Locking, Don Campbellock introduced several key moves, although they weren’t officially named at the time. These moves encompassed an upward lock (often likened to a muscleman pose), a downward lock, wrist rolls, points, and the signature “5s” move.

As Locking gained momentum, members of The Lockers and affiliated dancers contributed additional movements to the repertoire. These included Leo walks, pioneered by Leo “Flukey Luke” Williamson, as well as the Scooby Doo, Scoobot, Stop and Go, and Scooby walk, all innovated by Jimmy “Scooby Doo” Foster. Another notable contribution was the Skeeter Rabbit move, credited to Tony “GoGo” Lewis. These collective contributions enriched the dance style, adding depth and diversity to its expressive range.

Key foundation elements/moves
Key foundation elements/moves

8 Foundation elements of Locking

Locking, the energetic dance style, comprises several foundational moves that form its core. These essential elements, known as the building blocks of Locking, include:

  • Muscleman (Up Lock): A dynamic move where dancers flex their muscles, often performed with gusto to showcase strength and confidence.
  • Points: Sharp and precise movements where dancers extend their limbs, pointing fingers or toes in various directions, adding emphasis to their performance.
  • Locks: Distinctive poses where dancers freeze momentarily, creating visual impact and highlighting moments of tension within the dance.
  • Double Locks: Similar to locks but executed with both arms or legs simultaneously, intensifying the dramatic effect.
  • Wrist Rolls: Fluid movements where dancers rotate their wrists, adding flair and fluidity to their performance.
  • 5s: Intricate footwork involving quick and precise steps, typically executed in groups of five, contributing to the rhythmic complexity of the dance.
  • Pacing: The overall tempo and rhythm of the dance, which dancers manipulate to create dynamics and enhance the storytelling aspect of their performance.
  • Backclap: A celebratory move where dancers clap behind their backs, adding a playful and interactive element to the performance.
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These foundational elements provide the framework for Locking, allowing dancers to express themselves creatively while maintaining the distinct style and energy characteristic of the dance form.

The technique of Locking dancers

Locking dancers master a variety of specific movements and elements that define the unique style of locking. The technique of Locking dancers

  • Stops and Freezes: Locking incorporates sudden stops and freezes, where dancers hold striking poses to make a visual impact.
  • Struts and Pointing: Dancers execute confident walks with exaggerated arm and leg movements, accompanied by precise pointing of body parts to emphasize beats and rhythms.
  • Hitting: Sharp and punctuated movements involve striking different body parts, such as the arms or chest, with precision and intensity.
  • Locks and Releases: Dancers briefly freeze a joint or body part in a specific position (lock) before swiftly releasing it with a sudden movement, adding dynamic contrast to their performance.
  • Funky Groove and Musicality: Locking is intricately linked with funk music, requiring dancers to groove with the music, capturing its rhythm and energy in their movements.
  • Energy and Transitions: Locking is characterized by bursts of high energy and seamless transitions between moves, creating a dynamic and captivating performance that keeps audiences engaged throughout
The technique of locking dancers
The technique of locking dancers

Summary

In conclusion, Locking stands as a testament to the power of creativity, community, and cultural expression. From its inception as an accidental discovery on the streets of Los Angeles to its elevation onto global stages, Locking has thrived as a symbol of joy, resilience, and artistic innovation.

Through the dedication and passion of pioneers like Don “Campbellock” Campbell and the collective efforts of dance crews such as “The Lockers,” Locking has transcended boundaries, bringing people together and inspiring generations of dancers worldwide.

As we reflect on the journey of Locking, we are reminded of its enduring impact on popular culture and its ability to unite individuals from diverse backgrounds through the universal language of dance. With each step, each groove, and each lock, Locking continues to leave an indelible mark on the world of dance, reminding us of the power of movement to connect, inspire, and uplift us all.

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