Don Campbell & “locking”

Broadway Dance Center is celebrating Black History Month by honoring some of the Black dancers, choreographers, and educators who broke through barriers and transformed the industry.

Next up is Don Campbell.

Who is Don Campbell?

Don “Campbellock” Campbell (1951-2020)was an American dancer and choreographer famous for developing “locking” and performing with his dance troupe, The Lockers.

What is locking?

Locking is a style of hip hop in which a dancer freezes or “locks” for a brief moment before returning to fast-paced, fluid movement.

Discovering dance in La La Land

Similar to Janet Collins, Campbell grew up with an affinity for art—specifically sketching and drawing—and discovered his love for dance after moving to Los Angeles for college. He was a regular in the dance club scene gaining recognition for winning contest after contest and beginning to cultivate his signature dance, “The Campbellock” (what we now refer to as “locking”). Campbell’s reputation and suave style landed him a featured dancer role on the hit television series, “Soul Train,” a nationally-broadcast musical variety show featuring primarily Black performing artists.

A pivot to be proud of

Despite two years on “Soul Train,” Campbell was let go after asking that the dancers get paid. Many other dancers were removed from the show for the same reason, so Campbell banded the group together to form The Lockers” (originally “The Campbellockers”). This new dance troupe consisted of Fred Berry, Toni Basil (co-founder), Adolfo “Shabadoo” Quinones, Bill “Slim The Robot,” Williams Fred “Mr. Penguin,” Berry Leo “Fluky Luke” Williamson, and Greg “Campbellock, Jr.” Once tossed aside by “Soul Train” for standing up for dancers’ rights, Campbell and The Lockers swiftly rose to stardom of their own, performing with top celebrity entertainers and on shows including The Carol Burnett Show, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Carson, The Oscars, The Grammys, and Saturday Night Live.

A lasting legacy

While The Lockers disbanded amicably in the 1980s, Campbell and his signature style of dance grew ever more popular. Many of his original steps can be seen in music videos by Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, N’SYNC, Busta Rhymes, and Michael Jackson, to name just a few. Campbell went on to become an international hip hop educator and ambassador, teaching, lecturing, and inspiring dancers all over the world. 

Campbell’s passion and creative innovation are eternal and will continue to influence the evolution of not only hip hop, but all performing arts. 

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