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Dab (dance)

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A group of teenagers dabbing

Dab, or the dabbing, is a gesture in which a person leans forward into the bent crook of a slanted, upward angled arm, while raising the opposite arm out straight in a parallel direction. It appears to be similar to someone sneezing into an elbow.[1][2] Since 2015, dabbing has been used as a gesture of triumph or playfulness, becoming a youthful fad and Internet meme.[1]


Before the term "dab" was coined, the move had been a feature of Japanese popular culture for decades. A popular example is the 1990s anime series Dragon Ball Z, where the character Gohan (as The Great Saiyaman) occasionally performs the dab.[3] It is known as a "Sentai move" in Japan, from its popular use in the 1970s' Super Sentai and Kamen Rider tokusatsu superhero series (localised as Power Rangers and Masked Rider in the 1990s). During the show Detective Conan's (2000) opening theme "Koi wa Thrill, Shock, Suspense", the main character was shown dancing while occasionally dabbing; twenty years later, this opening was remade again in Opening 51, with the same character doing a few dabs when the theme music starts. Other anime series where the dab move appears include the early 2010s show Love Live!, among others.[4] The English language audio dub of the Japanese anime series Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS (2017) adds a joke referring to a Sentai move as "the dab".[5]

The move has been seen in mainstream music videos and utilized in pop performers' dance routines, such as in singer Janet Jackson's music videos for "The Pleasure Principle" (1987), "Escapade" (1990), and "If" (1993). On her MDNA World Tour (2012), singer Madonna and her backup dancers incorporated a quick dab move into the opening dance routine to her song "Girl Gone Wild".[6]

Some Quality Control artists had claimed the dab was invented by rapper Skippa Da Flippa, and that its origins were within the Atlanta hip-hop scene of the 2010s. However, the Migos—who subsequently released a single entitled "Look at My Dab" (2015)—claimed to have invented the move,[7] but later stated that Jani Venter was the true creator (after criticism from another member of that label, OG Maco).[8]

American rapper Bow Wow attempted to explain the origin of the dab, saying it derived from the cannabis dabbers community, which started in and around 2012, before the dance move was created, a statement which earned the artist opposition from other rappers who immediately took to Twitter to insult Bow Wow and disprove his claims.[9] The rappers Peewee Longway, Jose Guapo and Rich the Kid also contributed to popularizing the dab dance.[10]

An Indian dance includes a wingtip-hand version of dabbing; Bollywood dancers can be seen performing the move in the song "Tamma Tamma Loge".[11]


As XXL magazine reported in August 2015, "What started as a regional down South adlib is quickly becoming a masterful maneuver in clubs and on street corners. It’s called dabbin’."[12] Jason Derulo and Ella Honey taught James Corden how to dab during the November 4, 2015 edition of "Carpool Karaoke" on The Late Late Show with James Corden.[13]

The dab gained popularity in American sports following an eight-second celebratory dab by Cam Newton, football quarterback for the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League, during a game against the Tennessee Titans on November 15, 2015.[14][15] According to a Sports Illustrated account of the incident, "[w]hen two Titans players confronted [Newton] about the celebration, he continued to dance in their faces, even as he backed away."[1] Newton explained the incident by crediting a 16-year-old for instructing him to "Dab on them folks":

I'm a firm believer that if you don't like me to do it then don't let me in ... I just like doing it, man. It's not to be boastful, and from the crowd's response they like seeing it. ... Tell me what to do "Dab on them folks," so I tried "Dab on them folks," in that tone too. "Dab on them folks." He's only like 16, but he's got an Adam's apple out of this world.[16]

It was later confirmed that the 16-year-old was Newton's younger brother Caylin.[17] On June 9, 2016, Cam Newton announced that he would no longer perform the celebration. However, he dabbed again on November 13, 2016 after a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs, nearly a year after his initial dab against the Titans.[18]

Andrew Scheer, former leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, dabbing with a university student

Dabbing has made its appearance in politics, as well. In January 2016, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton dabbed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. In October 2016, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez dabbed at the end of a Senate debate against Attorney General Kamala Harris.[19][20][21] On January 3, 2017, Cal Marshall, 17-year-old son of Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kan), dabbed at his father's swearing in as a Congressman, confusing House Speaker Paul Ryan.[22] On February 22, 2017, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Tom Watson dabbed in the UK's House of Commons.[23] French presidential candidates Emmanuel Macron,[24] Benoît Hamon and François Fillon dabbed on TV in March 2017. In May 2017, Prince Sverre Magnus of Norway dabbed at the Royal Palace in Oslo during his grandparents' King Harald V and Queen Sonja's official appearance for their 80th birthday.[25] In October 2017, Australian Labor Party leader Bill Shorten dabbed as part of a "diss track" criticising members of the Liberal Party.[26] He later alluded to the dab's infamy, stating that his children had been "humiliated" by it.[27]

In July 2016, Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton dabbed in celebration of his win at the Hungarian Grand Prix. [28]

In January 2017, an Australian cricketer Usman Khawaja dabbed in celebration of his half-century score in a Test match against Pakistan in Sydney. His move received mixed reactions, with some praising it and others accusing him of disrespecting his opponents.[29]

In February 2017, the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, invited a dance group to State House to perform the dab dance move with him.[30] The president was doing the dab dance in a bid to appeal to the youthful population of Kenya to come out and register as voters. Some critics found this move to be in bad taste since there were other pressing issues like the doctors and lecturers strike that the president should have been dealing with rather than dancing.[31]

Today, the dab is both a dance move and a statement. The culture behind it has been propagated by celebrity use and memes. Many dancers incorporate the move in their repertoire as a minor addition to a set; a dab is usually used to mark a drop. In addition, the dance move has become notorious around the world and has gained the significant attraction and attention from media in many countries.

Manchester United footballers Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard also popularised the dab by performing the dance as their goal celebration.[32] Wrestler T. J. Perkins often uses the move as a taunt or a sign of disrespect after a headstand headscissors takedown.[citation needed]

Illegality in Saudi Arabia[edit]

In Saudi Arabia, dabbing was made illegal by the National Committee for Drug Control as it was deemed that it alludes to cannabis and other illegal substances. In August 2017, Saudi singer and actor Abdallah Al Shaharani was arrested for performing the move at a music festival in Ta'if, and afterward apologized in a tweet.[33][34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Ducey, Kenny (November 16, 2015). "'Dab on Them Folks': A Brief History of the Dab Dance in Sports". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
  2. ^ Fumadoh, Ziwe (November 20, 2015). "Your guide to dabbing, a 'new' dance craze that already peaked". Daily Dot. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
  3. ^ Sammut, Mark (January 17, 2019). "25 Fortnite Emotes And Where They Were Stolen From". TheGamer. Valnet Inc. Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  4. ^ "6 Cases of Dabbing in Anime". GoBoiano. February 11, 2017. Archived from the original on February 12, 2017. Retrieved April 29, 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  5. ^ "Hilarious Yu-Gi-Oh VRAINS Dub Has Fans Laughing". ComicBook.com. May 16, 2019. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  6. ^ "Madonna - Girl Gone Wild (Live from France) MDNA Tour pro shot". Daniel Baluch (YouTube channel). February 25, 2016.
  7. ^ Fumadoh, Ziwe (November 20, 2015). "Your guide to dabbing, a 'new' dance craze that already peaked". Daily Dot. Retrieved January 4, 2016. There's a great deal of controversy surrounding the pioneers of the dabbing dance, with the credit going to various members of Quality Control label (including Migos, Skippa Da Flippa, and Peewee Longway). Migos has gotten the bulk of credit for the trend since releasing the song 'Dab' on Sept. 3, 2015.
  8. ^ "Migos and OG Maco Aren't Getting Along Right Now". BET. August 6, 2015.
  9. ^ Robertson, Iyana (December 8, 2015). "Bow Wow Attempts To Explain The Origin Of "The Dab," Gets Clowned By Migos". Vibe. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  10. ^ "Deconstructing the 'Dab'". BET. December 21, 2015. Archived from the original on December 24, 2015. Retrieved November 29, 2016.
  11. ^ Bisht, Himanshu (February 9, 2017). "Bollywood Invented 'Dabbing' Way Before it Became Popular in the West!". Campus Times Pune. Retrieved May 11, 2022.
  12. ^ Madden, Sidney (August 5, 2015). "Atlanta's Dabbin' Dance Craze Is Taking Over Scial Media". XXL Magazine. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
  13. ^ "Jason Derulo Carpool Karaoke". The Late Late Show with James Corden. Retrieved June 7, 2016 – via YouTube.
  14. ^ "2015 Week 10 Schedule". National Football League. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  15. ^ Peters, Micah (November 15, 2015). "Titans linebacker takes offense to Cam Newton's dancing, Newton keeps dancing in his face". USA Today. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
  16. ^ Dator, James (November 16, 2015). "Cam Newton danced like that because a 16-year-old told him to". SBNation. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  17. ^ Sandritter, Mark (February 7, 2016). "Cam Newton is the NFL's king of the Dab". SBNation. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  18. ^ "Cam Newton resurrects the dab after bowling over Chiefs for TD". USA Today. November 13, 2016.
  19. ^ Zaru, Deena (October 6, 2016). "Loretta Sanchez dabs in California Senate debate, Kamala Harris not amused". CNN.
  20. ^ "A U.S. Senate Candidate Just Dabbed At The End Of A Debate". NPR.org. Retrieved December 1, 2017.
  21. ^ "Yes, a U.S. Senate Candidate Dabbed at the California Debate". Time. Retrieved December 1, 2017.
  22. ^ Schmidt, Samantha (January 4, 2017). "The 'dab' makes an awkward comeback and Paul Ryan learns it is not a sneeze". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  23. ^ Nsubuga, Jimmy (February 22, 2017). "Labour's Tom Watson has just done the dab in the House of Commons". Metro. UK.
  24. ^ "Le dab d'Emmanuel Macron". The Huffington Post (in French). March 13, 2017. Archived from the original on May 16, 2017. Retrieved March 14, 2017.
  25. ^ "This Playful Little Prince Just Stole the Royal Show". Time.
  26. ^ Butler, Josh (October 6, 2017). "Bill Shorten Just Had A Radio Rap Battle With Kenyon Puls, And Oh God". Huffington Post. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
  27. ^ Craw, Victoria (February 27, 2018). "Bill Shorten reveals children 'humiliated' by rap battle dab in radio stunt". News.com.au. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
  28. ^ Wood, Will (July 25, 2016). "Hamilton dabs his way to championship lead in Hungary". Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  29. ^ Ferris, Sam. "Khawaja's celebration ignites debate". cricket.com.au. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  30. ^ "Uhuru danced as critical issues in the country went unattended". daily Nation. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  31. ^ "Kenyan President's #DabChallenge Backfires After Critics Create #DabOfShame". Global Voices. February 15, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  32. ^ talkSPORT (February 1, 2017). "WATCH: Manchester United duo Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard unveil new celebration to replace the dab". talksport.com.
  33. ^ McKernan, Bethan (August 10, 2017). "Saudi police arrest singer for on-stage 'dab' dance move". The Independent. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
  34. ^ "Saudi singer arrested for dabbing". BBC News. August 10, 2017.

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