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Hip Hop Dance

A Brief History of Locking: The Lock and Short of it

The History of Locking (Dance)

Years ago, Don “Campbellock” Campbell made a mistake. The result was one of the most popular hip hop and funk dance styles in the world today: here is the history of locking dance.

The Mocking that Created Locking

One fateful day in the early 1970s, Don Campbell was performing the Funky Chicken (some say it was the Robot Shuffle1) in front of an audience when he suddenly realized that he couldn’t remember his next move. He had reached a particularly intricate point in the dance when he realized that he had forgotten his next step.

He furrowed his brow and scratched his head, but his brain would have none of it – it simply gave him the middle finger and refused to co-operate.

So, he froze.

Then a woman from the audience did what a lot of slightly inebriated folks would do – she laughed.

Campbell quickly regained his composure and there it came to him – a flash of genius. Annoyed by his own failure, he simply showed her the finger – not the middle finger of course – he just pointed at her and that in turn caused everyone to look in her direction, giving them the impression that the pointing was actually a dance move.

Don "Campbellock" Campbell performing one of his signature moves. Who said it's bad manners to point fingers?
Don “Campbellock” Campbell performing one of his signature moves. Who said it’s bad manners to point fingers?

So Campbell converted his failure into a success – and the audience’s mocking created Locking – one of the most popular funk and hip hop dance forms in the world today.

What began as just a simple mistake in a fad dance became a whole phenomenon that swept the streets of LA and the world. Don Campbell became the don of the funky dance style and created an almost other-worldly sequence of moves and patterns that ensured his place in the history books. I guess we know who had the last laugh that night! What a way to set the pace for the history of locking.

Campbelling the Cat

For many hip hop and funk dance enthusiasts, the name Don Campbell certainly does rings a bell. But that’s where the familiarity ends, especially for the young ‘virgin’ dancers. They’ve heard of him somewhere, but they’re not sure exactly where. They clasp their fists and clench their teeth,  “Just give me a sec, I’ve got it…..

Everyone sees dancers simply pointing or locking movements with their hands, but not many know how it all started. Campbell was the original dancer who used to “lock up” the fluidity of the moves and “freeze” his arms in place. He then went on to create a pattern of such moves and institutionalized Locking. It was his clumsy signature freezing move that is the precursor to the lockings, freezings and pointings that we see today.

In 1972, Campbell released his song “The Campbellock” to accompany his high-flying dancing style. Campbell was one of the original dancing high-flyers, unlike many dancing experts today, who are really low flyers supported by occasional strong winds.

This campaign of ‘Campbellocking’, as it was originally called, gave rise to a number of dance groups specializing in the style, with the most notable among them being The Lockers, Campbell’s own dance group that he formed with the legendary Toni Basil, Greg “Campbellock Jr” Pope and others.

They are considered the single most important group that “changed the face of dance”. If Campbell’s group The Lockers didn’t exist, it would have been necessary to invent them. Which is exactly what Campbell did.

They then went on to tour with Frank Sinatra, including being featured with him at Carnegie Hall, and made a humongous number of television appearances, including the second ever Saturday Night Live show, Soul Train, Carol Burnett, and The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. All shows that were very popular during their time, but now alas – forgotten. Except Saturday Night Live of course, which is the only one we really wish was forgotten.


Created by Jimmy “Scooby Doo “Foster, the fundamental Scooby Doo, is a two-handed up lock announcement followed by a kick, step, and unity pose.

The Scooby Walk is walking forward, lifting leg up and bending your back towards the knee.

The Scoobot is having one arm and leg out then switching to the other leg. Leg out and arms crossed then wrist twirl and clap behind

The True Lesson of Locking

Campbell and his mates have left behind a legacy that has made him something of a legend.  The entire world has now been locked in to the phenomenon of Locking

But there is something else about what Locking teaches us (apart from the fact that it is a sure shot way of impressing girls, or as the more florid among us like to put it – “a chick magnet”) – how a simple mistake can be converted into something that leaves the whole world captivated. After all, everyone makes mistakes. But what have we ever done about it3?

I hope you enjoyed our view into the history of locking. If you liked it, share and subscribe to our blog!


  • What is the difference between popping and locking dance?

    Popping and locking are both popular Hip Hop moves, but popping forces parts of your body outwards, similar to an explosion within your body. In contrast, locking is similar to contracting or tightening your body parts into certain positions.

  • What is locking points?

    Later known as Uncle Sam points, according to the story, while Don was dancing, a lady at a table was laughing at his unique style, so Don did what everyone else did and pointed at her to let her know he noticed her. This was the very first and most fundamental Locking point.

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