Running In Place: Did You Do “The Running Man”?


More importantly, have done it recently?  Like, last week?

I’m not above admitting I did it in my living room on the weekend.

Of the three major dance disciplines I’ve spent the most time training in – eleven years of Jazz, 8 1/2 years of Ballet (counting the three combination classes I took as a youngster, and the half year is for the college Ballet class I took my second semester of freshman year), and 7 1/2 years of Hip Hop – the discipline that gave me the most confidence as a dancer was (by far) Hip Hop.  It was the dance I was probably destined to do, even if I didn’t know it, or believe I could ever do.  When I was a kid, it wasn’t something dance studios offered (and I went to competition-focused dance studios in the 90s, so they were up on all trends), mostly because it wasn’t mainstream.  The closest you ever came to dancing like Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, and The Fly Girls was Jazz.  Wanted to be like that?  Take a Jazz class.

I left dance for a long time (well, if you call six years a lifetime) after I graduated high school in 2001.  By the time I returned in 2007, Hip Hop had been added to the offerings of dance studios, and it was offered at the one I joined as a 24-year-old.  I saw it in a recital, and felt my lily-white self could never do anything like what I saw kids doing in my first recital at my new studio.  Heck, Jazz no longer looked like Jazz in the late 90s and early 2000s.  I mean, they weren’t even doing The Running Man in dance recitals anymore!  What the heck?!

Oh, you’ve never done The Running Man, and you didn’t do it in class or a recital (or at a school dance)?  I mean, it’s not like The Running Man is a fad…

Oh.  That’s the theme this month, and Wikipedia classifies it as a “novelty and fad dance,” so I guess it is.

But still, why not know it…after a little history lesson!

The History of The Running Man

The Running Man, which also goes by the name “The Hungry Caterpillar,” originated between late 1986 and early 1987.  It was pushed to the forefront when Janet Jackson performed the step in her “Rhythm Nation” music video, as well as the subsequent world tour.  However, the step dates back to 1978, when it was performed in Nigerian musician Fela Kuti’s concert in Berlin, the work of one of his backup dancers (also his ex-wife).

MC Hammer, Bobby Brown, and Vanilla Ice all performed the step in performances, and pretty much fell into fad territory by the early 1990s.  However, because everything that is old is new again, the step came back into the mainstream in the 2000s, with Britney Spears performing it in 2007, and its use showed up in the 2008 release of Utah Saints’ “Something Good.”  The video, set in 1989, comically suggests that the dance step originated in Cardiff, Wales (it actually is an African dance), but white boys be trying to dance that way for a long time.

And even though I had no clue it had become mainstream again (or didn’t really care), I did The Running Man at several weddings and social events I went to in my mid-20s.  Usually while wearing a dress or a skirt.  I never cared (nor do I care now) – if I could do a particular dance move, nothing stopped me (still doesn’t).

(And no, I didn’t do The Running Man at my own wedding, though it would have been interesting!)

Case in point, I took Hip Hop for 7 1/2 years.  ‘Nuff said!

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Two Ways To Do The Running Man

So, when I learned how to do The Running Man in the 1990s, I learned the traditional arm pumping way…



But apparently, there is a variant with a different arm movement that is less common…



Guess whose uncoordinated “can’t figure out left from right” self couldn’t master this version?  I tried it at home last night and it was a no go, I can’t even figure out how to get my arms to do that at the same time.  I do have my own variant with the arms, but it is a hybrid of both styles.

Learn The Running Man!



Dancer/Actress/Instructor Charlene “Chi-Chi” Smith created this video for Howcast, which teaches both the common version of The Running Man, as well as the less common (read: the one I can’t do, and had never seen before yesterday) version.

And she does it in awesome 80s spandex and WigWam socks!  What is not to love?

Screenshot (361)

Watch her, and perhaps you’ll feel like giving it a try!

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And Now, You!

Have you ever done this incredibly-dated (but oh so fun) aspect of Street Style Hip Hop Dance, or witnessed it at an activity, school dance, or social gathering?  Have you done it/witnessed it in the last 20 years?  Is it really so terrible and dated looking?  Sound off in the comments, or be social on social media.


And please, don’t make me feel old that I still love doing The Running Man so many years after it was trendy!

Next week, another fad dance, as this month’s ongoing theme continues!

Have a great day!


  1. I don’t dance in public because I look like every middle aged white guy trying to dance, but worse. I remember there used to be a black comedian that did an imitation of white people dancing and I remember thinking “hey that’s how I dance”.

    Liked by 1 person

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