Skank Dance: Origin, Characteristics, Moves & More

If you love ska, punk, or reggae music and culture in general, you may have already heard of the Skank dance. This dance emerged in the 50s, but it remains popular to this day.

If you go to any ska, punk, or reggae concert, you will definitely see someone skanking. After all, it’s such a simple dance, consisting of only two steps.

This article will tell you everything that you need to know about Skank dance and skanking. You’ll be able to master it in no time!

Skanking Definition

Over time, there have been many variations of skanking.

But the original form, which emerged from Jamaican dance halls in the 50s and 60s, involved a “running man” motion with the legs to the music’s rhythm.

Meanwhile, the arms of the performer will bend at the elbow, fist punching out, alternating left and right.

Skank Dance

Skanking Dance Origin

Skanking’s roots can be traced back to Jamaica in the 50s and 60s. There are very few records of exactly where and when people began to skank.

What we do know, though, is that skanking was created within dance halls that played ska music.

If you’ve never heard of ska music, then it’s a genre of music that was also developed during this period (in the 50s). It is the predecessor to rocksteady and reggae music.

It combines music from the Caribbean (mento and calypso) and America (jazz, rhythm, and blues).

Skanking was developed because ska music has a danceable backbeat, typically played on the electric guitar. The beat is usually on the second and fourth beat of a standard 4/4 music bar.

In the 60s, ska music spread to the United Kingdom. Eventually, it became hugely popular among subcultures like mods and skinheads.

Skanking underwent many modifications during this period when British youths took up these dances and altered them.

In the late 60s, skanking’s popularity lowered. But it went through a revival during the 70s and the 80s, with the arrival of 2-Tone music.

It’s a type of music that combines Jamaican ska music and popular punk rock and new wave music.

Today, you can still find the Skank dance performed in hardcore punk groups and concerts.

Skank Dance Characteristics

At the beginning of the article, we already touched on the “classic” skanking move. It involves a running-in-place motion with your feet to the beat of the music while swinging your arms and elbows back and forth.

However, this is not the only style of skanking out there.

Punk Skanking (Two-Stepping)

In punk, the skank dance meaning is different. It goes by another name, which is two-stepping.

Instead of having the bent-elbow and fist-punching look of the original dance, the arms have a distinct striking look in punk.

It’s almost as if the dancers are trying to punch whoever is in front of them. And that’s precisely the point!

People can use this dance in a mosh pit to knock out people around them.

punk skank dance

Don’t worry, though. Rarely does anybody in a moshing will take that as actual aggression or violence. Instead, people will only look at it as a form of stress and emotional release.

And if you enter the pit, it’s basically a form of consent that someone else may rough you up. So, be prepared if you try to enter.

Although moshing and skanking at a punk concert sounds and looks violent, in actuality, it’s anything but. Nobody is actually trying to seriously hurt anybody here.

True violence is never accepted by anyone, from the venues to the bands, and even the other audience members. Anyone who “plays” too rough in the pit is going to get kicked out quickly.

Moshers will generally try to not hit other people at critical points like the kidney or the face.

And if someone were to fall, people would make a conscious effort not to trample on them. More often than not, they will even try to pick the fallen up!

Reggae Skanking

While punk skanking is all about maximum energy and furious release of emotions, skanking in reggae is more laid-back.

If you go to a reggae concert, you will find some people “strolling”. It’s a simple, more relaxed form of skanking that’s done at a slower pace.

People will stroll in a concentric circle around a “pit”. While they do so, their arms and elbows will sway from one side to another to the beat of the music.

This form of skanking was popularized by ska-punk bands, like Big D and the Kids Table.

Drum and Bass Skanking

In drum and bass music, skanking is known as “x-stepping’, “x-outing,” or ”DNB stepping.”

While traditional skanking is known for its wild and free movements, x-stepping leans toward being fast and technical.

You’ll find many people dancing at raves and parties, typically after the beat drop portion, where the music kicks into high gear.

Drum and Bass Skank Dance

How To Skank (Traditional Style)?

If you’re looking to practice the traditional skanking style, here are all of the steps to take.

Step 1. Get Used to the Skanking Music

This is especially important if you haven’t heard ska music before. It’s important to feel the beat because skanking is all about following the backbeat of the song.

Start with a good song, then tap your feet along until you’re in tune with the music and the rhythm.

A good song that you can start with is Pressure Drop by Toots & The Maytalls. Its slow tempo is excellent for beginners.

You can find songs with faster tempos to practice later, once you’re used to the steps.

Step 2. Stand Up on One Leg, Shift Your Weight Forward

While you’re skanking, one leg will always be on the floor at all times. Stand up on one leg with both of your knees bent (so that you can move your legs quickly).

Then, shift your weight forward. It’s an unnatural position, so it can take some time to get used to.

Mastering his position is important since it can maintain your balance once you start moving.

Step 3. Bend Your Raised Leg Backward

Still standing on one leg, bend your raised leg backward until the back of your foot touches your buttocks. Imagine you’re about to kick a soccer ball.

Step 4. Kick Out

Kick out!

The kick should be timed exactly to the beat of the music. You will want to time it in such a way that when the beat drops, your leg is fully extended outward, as well.

This is one of the more difficult skank dance moves for beginners to master. It’s also the reason why we recommend you to start with a song that has a slow tempo, first.

Timing the kick so it coincides with the beat becomes surprisingly tricky once you up the tempo.

But don’t push yourself too quickly. Start slow, then speed up.

You also don’t have to “get” the beat 100% correctly all of the time. The main thing is to have fun and express yourself.

No one is really scoring your performance here!

Step 5. Hop and Transition Your Feet

But the kicking isn’t the most difficult part just yet. The hopping part is.

Now that you have kicked to the rhythm, hop onto your kicking leg while drawing your other leg backward.

Basically, your legs have to be reversed: the leg that you previously stood on should now be bent backward, while the leg you were kicking early is now supporting your body.

Try to relax as much as possible. If you’re too tense, your switch can look awkward and clumsy.

And as always, practice at a slow pace first until you become used to the transitioning motion. Then, speed up if you want to.

Step 6. Swing Your Arms

Bundle your hands into fists, then bend your elbows. When you kick back your leg, throw the opposite arm forward.

For example, throw your right arm forward if you kick back your left leg. Then, bring your elbow back down to your waist, and repeat the swinging motion with the other arm.

There are many variations to this step. The instruction we gave above is for the traditional style of skanking.

Depending on what you’re in the mood for, you can throw your arms up into the sky or throw your arms but not bend your elbows. It’s up to you to decide!

Check more: Hora Dance – Did you know this type of dance?

Skank Dancing Clothes

skank dance costumes

Skank dancing doesn’t have a definite uniform or costume that you have to wear like formal ballroom dances. You can wear whatever you want and nobody will blink an eye. However, you should still dress functionally.

Tops and Bottoms

Wear something that’s comfortable and won’t impede your arm or leg movements.

Since you’re going to be throwing your arms a lot, a tight-fitting dress or shirt won’t do. Wear something loose.

The same goes for bottoms. If your pants are too tight, you may risk tearing them when you kick out your legs.


As for the shoes, pick something with a lot of traction.

If you go to a concert, there’s a good chance that the floor is wet from beer and beverages. You don’t want to slip up while you’re in the crowd.

Additionally, your shoes should also be tight-fitting. You don’t want to see your shoes go flying when you kick out your legs.

Aesthetic-wise, pick something that suits the occasion. Something that’s hip or chic will do perfectly for a concert that plays ska, punk, or reggae music.

Final Words

Whether you’re a die-hard punk or reggae fan or you’re just someone who wants to practice a fun little dance, as you can see, skanking is the perfect dance to learn.

Its simplicity means anybody can pick it up in an hour or two.

Share with us your experience with skanking in the comment section below! We’d love to hear your stories.

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