What the Heck Is Waacking? The Popular TikTok Trend Dates Back to the ‘70s

Abi Travis - Author

Aug. 31 2020, Updated 5:15 p.m. ET

waacking tiktok
Source: TikTok

Depending on how much time you spend on TikTok (we certainly spend more than we’d like to admit), you’re probably at least vaguely familiar with the concept of TikTok dances. Most of them involve moving (primarily) the top half of the body — arms, shoulders, maybe a hip shake or two. On TikTok (as often happens in real life), dances tend to go viral in conjunction with a specific song. The result is a bunch of people doing the same dance to the same song — and a bunch more people watching it happen.

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Recently, a new dance trend has been gaining popularity on the video-sharing app — although as it turns out, it’s actually not a new trend at all! It’s called waacking and it’s honestly kind of amazing. Here’s what you need to know about it.

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Waacking has officially come to TikTok – but what is it?

Once you watch a few TikTok videos using the #waacking tag, you’ll quickly start to see what makes it such a perfect match for TikTok. As we mentioned, most TikTok dances focus primarily on arm and upper-body movement. That’s true of waacking, too. Most waacking movements involve quick, rotational arm movements that look truly impressive.

Although waacking’s introduction to TikTok has only happened recently, waacking itself has been around for decades. It originated as a form of street dance created in Los Angeles’ underground LGBT clubs during the 1970s. You can even see early examples of waacking on old episodes Soul Train. In fact, many credit Soul Train with introducing the dance to a national audience. Its appearance on the show also influenced the creation of LA-based dance group Outrageous Waack Dancers.

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According to The New York Times, many of the originators of waacking — some of whom referred to the dance as “punking” or “whacking” — died of AIDS in the decades following the dance’s rise in popularity. However, waacking never completely disappeared, and it’s now enjoying a huge resurgence thanks to social media apps like TikTok. (Waacking is also big on Instagram these days.)

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You may also recognize waacking if you’re a fan of Steven Universe. The character of Garnet uses waacking dance moves to summon her magical weapons and fuse with other characters. (If you’re not a fan of Steven Universe, we realize that is probably a very confusing sentence to read — but it’s definitely worth checking out!)

Finally, you may have seen waacking on So You Think You Can Dance. In 2011, modern waacker Kumari Suraj choreographed a dance for the show. Another waacker known as Princess Lockerooo competed on the show that same year (though she didn’t make it past the second round).

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If you want to learn waacking, you’re in luck! There’s probably never been an easier time to pick it up, thanks to the dance’s online popularity. There are tons of waacking tutorials on TikTok where dancers slow down their movements to make it easier for you to learn — otherwise, you’d probably be pretty lost given how a lot of waacking is dependent on very fast movements. Happy waacking!

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