You can classify most types of freestyle popping practice into three categories: Technique improvement, Freestyle improvement, and sessions with other dancers. When most beginners practice, they just put on their Ipod and… dance! This is more commonly called “getting down” and it’s very useful for working on musicality, freestyle concepts, linking moves together, and simply having fun, but if you only do this your technique will improve very slowly. The best kind of practice for beginners is technical practice. This is when you are focusing on a specific more or style, look in the mirror, and practice isolations step-by-step, noticing your mistakes and correcting them. This way you are improving the actual moves. If you only do freestyle practice, you risk ingraining your bad habits and incorrect techniques and make them hard to correct. Technical practice is not as fun and can be very frustrating, but it is important for establishing good foundations. For example, if you wanted to improve your tutting don’t just start throwing tuts while freestyling; it will be very sloppy. You need to slow down and work on angles one at a time in a repetitive manner (technical practice). For beginners, the majority of what you do should be technical practice.
The third type of practice is a session with other dancers. This is important because you shouldn’t only do popping in your bedroom; you need to do it with other people! Sessions provide the opportunity to share what you know with others, watch their foundations as a way to correct yours, and get inspired. It is very important that you not copy what anyone else is doing (known as “biting”). Use these sessions as an opportunity to get motivated, especially if you are a competitive person. Nothing in the popping community is more looked down upon than biting, it is the ultimate insult to a popper (blog post coming later on this topic. I started dancing from YouTube and attending New York City PopShop, a weekly practice session, helped me correct my foundations and kept me motivated. Bottom line is you need to do all three: session, freestyle, and technique practice.