Taking the ‘Street’ Mainstream

The Power of Krump Dancing to Transform Youth Violence


  • Sharmaine Jackson Stetson University


This article explores how ‘street’ and ‘decent’ practices of inner-city youth intertwine to alter the social structure of their communities. Using the case of ‘krump’ dancing, I examine how this practice transforms aggression and violence to improve the life chances for at-risk youth. Drawing upon data from semi-structured interviews, participant observation and qualitative documentary analysis of krump dancing videos and social media in Los Angeles, CA and Melbourne, VIC, Australia, I analyse how leadership in krump dancing groups effect their communities. I find that the leadership styles of big homies, or figureheads of these groups, are influenced greatly by their upbringing, which facilitates the building of trust essential for responding to challenges of authority. However, structural barriers arise regarding dancers that are ‘raw’ or untamed versus those dancers who are exposed to mainstream audiences. Issues of legitimacy arise, as tensions cultivate around those whose embodied experiences are captured and highlighted. These two competing concerns of authority and legitimacy are considered in evaluating the efficacy of krump dancing to resolve conflict, foster resiliency and increase cathartic capacity for collective healing.

Author Biography

Sharmaine Jackson, Stetson University

Sharmaine Jackson is a sociologist whose work investigates collective practices of conflict resolution. As a Junior Fellow of the Yale Urban Ethnography Project, she is interested in the everyday practices that give rise to sense making. At the heart of her work, is storytelling. Using digital modes, she is engaged in multisensory ethnography in connecting the lived experience. She is an Assistant Professor at Stetson University in Deland, Florida.