Locking is a style created by “The Lockers” in 70s Calfornia. The name is based on the concept of locking movements, which basically means freezing from a fast movement and landing in a certain position, holding that position for a short while and then continuing in the same speed as before. These movements create a strong contrast towards the many fast moves that are otherwise performed quite continuously, combined with mime style performance and acting towards the audience and other dancers. Locking includes quite a lot of acrobatics and physically demanding moves, such as landing on ones knees and the split.
Text below is a excerpt from a book “BREAKING AND THE NEW YORK CITY BREAKERS” written by Michael Holman in early 80s.
It was the robots on TV shows in the early ’60s like “Lost in Space” that inspired the black kids in Los Angels to invent the dance the Robot. I don’t think mime was as great an influence, after all, how many live shows has Marcel Marceau done in Watts?
Obviously mime was inspirational in the development and perfecting of the Robot. The sense of animation and futurism is strong in most poor inner-city kids because it’s an escape to a world where everything is perfect, sharp, and in control. The hydraulic movements of the robot danced to music which was becoming more and more mechanically rhythmic, like James Brown’s “Goodfoot” (1969), was a natural development in Los Angeles, a city of major street dance creations.
In 1969, a young black man by the name of Don Campbell was becoming known among street dancers in Los Angeles for inventing a dance called the Campbellock (he put out a record called “Do the Campbellock”). Don Campbell took the hydraulic robotic movements, which were all about total control and mixed it with wild, out of control body movement dances of the tap-flash dance days plus exact stop and start movements and spiced it all with comic facial expressions and clown-like costumes to develop a whole new dance movement which is still going strong called “Locking” (Campbellocking to us old guys. I lived in L.A. when it first came out and was a pretty good Campbellocker myself.)
The best way to describe the movement of locking would be thus: You know those little-figured toys that are like inside-out puppets on small plastic circular platforms or pedestals, and if you press the bottom of the platform the figure collapses real fast, then when you let your finger up it goes back into shape? Well that’s what locking looks like. The body moves out of control then back into control snapping into position, collapsing then snapping back.
By the Early ’70s Don Campbell had put together a whole crew of lockers called “The Lockers.” One of the lockers was Shabadoo, the star of “Breaking,” and Penguin, who was the chubby locker named “Rerun” on the TV show “What’s Happening.” The lockers of the early ’70s wore platform shoes, loud striped socks, pegged pants that stopped at the knees, bright colorful satin shirts with big collars, big colorful bow ties, gigantic Apple Boy hats, and white gloves.
Around that time a known TV choreographer named Toni Basil, who was famous for shows like “Shindig,” and “Hullaballoo,” discovered Don Campbell and his Lockers and helped bring them to international fame. She was an incredible dancer herself and soon learned to lock. She became a member of The Lockers, helped develop their dance act, and got them on TV shows like “Saturday Night Live” and commercials such as Schlitz Malt Liquor Beer (the one with the bull).
I remember seeing her and Don Campbell dance live at a nightclub called Crenshaw Flats in Los Angeles. I was blown away. She was actually better than he was!
Also around the time “Soul Train” hit the air (1972) and it became an instant media hit by featuring street dancers, especially The Lockers, of Los Angeles. The nightclub Crenshaw Flats the apartment on Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angels was where the “Soul Train” gang hung out.