Robot (dance)

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The robot (or mannequin) is an illusionary street dance style – often confused with popping – that attempts to imitate a dancing robot or mannequin. Roboting gained fame after Michael Jackson used the dance when he performed "Dancing Machine" with his brothers, and later performed the dance during his solo career in songs such as "Billie Jean".


The robot is simply the illusion of being a robot. Movements of the robot are normally started and finished with a dimestop (a very abrupt stop), to give the impression of motors starting and stopping, but poppers have also been known to do the robot with a pop to the beat. As long as the illusion of being a robot is maintained, it is considered the robot. The dance was created in 1967.

Robot dancing is often considered a subsection of popping because poppers often include the robot in their routines, sometimes adding pops to the beat while maintaining the illusion of a robot, but the robot also exists as its own dance and is sometimes considered a performance rather than a dance when the performer is imitating a robot without any music. When done without music it is considered to be mime, instead of dance. Street theater often featured mimes who did a mechanical man or puppet style illusion, without music. In the late 1960s, the style was used while social dancing to funk or soul music. Charles "Robot" Washington was not the first to strictly imitate a robot as a mime, however he and his partner "Robot Ann" were the first to socially couple dance the style to music at parties and clubs, and it was at this point it became a party dance and later combined with other illusion styles to form today's popping style. It is commonly known as "Robotics". Roboting has also been likened to the jazz-era folk dance of puppeting (a style also appreciated in some colors of experimental ballet), whereby the dancer would emulate the mechanical movements of a simple musical box doll.this is not to be confused with Robotics. This is not to be confused with robotics dance....


Arrested robot[edit]

A variation on the robot is the "arrested robot" style, where the movement of various parts of the dancer's body are arrested and shaken rapidly, giving the impression that the robot is breaking down. A lock-and-release of joints can also give the appearance of supports breaking down. The dancer may also freeze with an arm straight to the side with lower arm swaying.

The Mannequin[edit]

This movement is simply mimicking the mannerisms of window store mannequins like the ones seen during Christmas time in major department store windows. It involves affecting a blank stare and slow motion movements of all the joints.


As with popping in general, the visual impact of the robot can be boosted by doing it in pace with music. The best effect is achieved with music that has very distinct beats such as electrofunk. It is nonetheless common to use music not particularly suited for the dance, but which has a "robot theme", such as The Jackson 5's "Dancing Machine" Robot done by Michael Jackson and Styx's "Mr. Roboto".

Unlike most other dances, the robot may also be accompanied a cappella by making vocal impressions of beeps and other electro-mechanical sounds.

In popular culture[edit]

  • On September 29, 2009, the Guinness World Record for the Largest Robot Dance was attempted by Robogals at the University of Melbourne, Australia. The previous record of 276 was broken when a Guinness World Record recognised 318 people were recorded as dancing in unison in approved robot style.[1]
  • In 2010, the season 5 winners of America's Best Dance Crew, Poreotix, were known for their use of robot-like movements.
  • LXD member and Step Up 3D cast member Madd Chadd (Chadd Smith) is credited and known[by whom?] for his specialty with using popping in the form of robot style. He performed in the ACDC final battle during the song "Robot Rock". He also appeared in Step Up 3D and the critically acclaimed series The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. Another LXD member, Harry Shum, Jr., briefly performed the dance in Glee: The 3D Concert Movie.
  • In an episode of Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps, some of the mice perform the "Robot Dance".
  • On Chappelle's Show, set designer Karl Lake appears in several skits performing the robot in random places.
  • In Date Night, and Real Steel, both directed by Shawn Levy, the main characters perform the dance.
  • In the brief tag to the "Halloween" episode of NewsRadio, a robot dance is performed.
  • In the year 1970, the popular TV show "Soul Train" featured a female dancer performing The Robot as James Brown performed his hit song "Super Bad."
  • In the MMORPG, Guild Wars 2, the Asura's dance emote (activated by typing /dance) is the Robot.
  • In the Action RPG, Mass Effect 2, the Geth squad member named "Legion" occasionally performs the Robot as part of its idle animations.
  • At the end of Shrek, Pinocchio dances the Robot while singing Mr. Roboto.
  • At the end of the episode "The Fires of Jealousy" in the TV series Monkey (1978), Monkey is seen to be performing the robot.


  1. ^ "Students in robot dancing record attempt". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. September 29, 2009. Retrieved May 20, 2013. 

External links[edit]

  • James Brown Doing the Robot Dance in a '70s video.
  • In the year 1970, the popular TV show Soul Train featured a female dancer, Damita Jo Freeman, performing The Robot as James Brown performed his hit song "Super Bad."