A New 'Forbidden Dance' at L.A. Schools

June 14, 2002 -- The tango, the Lambada, and now the "Crip Walk."

Crip Walking — or "C-Walking" — is the latest dance trend to achieve outlaw status, after several Los Angeles high schools banned it for its gang connotations.

"We have a talent show tonight; obviously there's no Crip Walking at our talent show," said Debora Schneider, assistant principal at Manual Arts High School, which has banned the dance on campus and at school events.

"It's all in the name of safety," she said. "The Crip Walk does have gang signs affiliated with it."

No one disputes that the dance originated with the Crips, a violent street gang that appeared in Los Angeles in the early 1970s. The C-Walk's jittery stutter-step combination of foot pivots and shuffles were on display at gang celebrations more than 20 years ago, experts say.

But in recent years, the Crip Walk has exploded in popularity, worrying school officials in gang-ridden areas.

Manual Arts High School, in South-Central Los Angeles, has long had to contend with gang problems. For years, the school has forbidden gang colors — blue for the Crips and red for the Bloods.

"If you go to a spot where the Bloods are and you do the Crip walk, you are going to get shot," said Abdul Rahman, a student at Crenshaw High School, which also banned the dance.

‘No Gang Clothes, No Gang Moves’

Officials feel it is crucial to keep the school free of gang symbols — whether on a T-shirt or on the dance floor.

"We don't allow any kind of gang stuff," said Manual Arts' principal, Ed Robillard. "In terms of dress codes at school, we don't allow red or blue shoelaces … We ban ball caps."

Several other area schools, including Crenshaw and Washington Prep, have taken similar measures.

Not everyone is convinced the Crip Walk is a serious threat.

"It is like a clown thing that they do nowadays so I don't see what's wrong with doing the C-Walk or whatever you all want to call it," said Deandre Turner, a Crenshaw student.

"It's a little bit of hysteria, it's a little bit of paranoia," said Alejandro Alonso, a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California who studies gangs.

"If it was called the boogie-woogie walk, nobody would care."

He compares it to other gang customs, like wearing low-riding baggy pants, that became mainstream teen fashions.

Alonso believes someone performing the Crip Walk would be in little danger from gang members — despite dire anonymous warnings circulating on the Internet.

"If he's not a member, people in today's climate will understand it," he said.

Warnings and Complaints About Rising Popularity

On some message boards, readers are warned "u don't do [it] unless u bang or represent the crips," or "if your doin tha cwalk or bwalk on tha streets and some reaaal crips or blooodz sees you doin it you eitha gonna get clowned on or get shot."

Most messages about the Crip Walk complain about its growing popularity.

"Guys are C-walkin it up in Seattle catholic schools now. its losin its purpose," one message board user laments.

"The C-walk is a trendy dance for college kids and posers," another chimes in.

The dance's growth in popularity came after a rapper named WC performed it in a music video several years ago. Recently it has appeared in other popular videos and in the lyrics of rap songs by Snoop Dogg, a former Crips member, and Xzibit.

C-Walking competitions have sprung up in hip-hop dance clubs scattered around the country.

Besides the dance's lurid origins, the difficulty of the Crip Walk and the potential to add original moves to it may have added to its broad appeal.

"I think it's also kind of a challenge — it looks cool whether you're part of a gang or not," admitted Schneider, the assistant principal at Manual Arts High. "It's a complicated dance."

The dance's basic move is simple, however. It alternates between touching heels, with your toes apart, and touching your toes together, with your heels spread apart. From there, dancers add a series of spins and pivots on the balls of their feet.

Related dances, such as the Harlem Shake and heel-to-toe, have sprung up in other parts of the country.

The Crip Walk is hardly the first controversial dance to confront school officials and parents. The tango first appeared in the seedy underworld of late-1800s Argentina before becoming a popular mainstream dance. Some historians say the polka and the waltz were originally considered scandalous because couples danced too close together.

In the 1980s, "dirty dancing" and the Lambada — a Brazilian dance — were deemed too risqué for many. And today many schools are banning "freaking" or "grinding" — dance moves with overt sexual connotations.

Crenshaw High School's principal, Isaac Hammond, said the Crip Walk is ultimately too dangerous to permit at the school.

"We will let them know that if they are caught doing that then they are going to be suspended from school, because it is for their own safety."