Some of the most impressive dancers from all over the world will come together in Paris on October 12 for a huge dance competition that’s been months in the making.
No, this isn’t some supercharged international version of So You Think You Can Dance, Strictly Come Dancing, or even Dancing With the Stars: It’s the Red Bull Dance Your Style competition, which debuted this year in the US and has seen nearly 100 dancers facing off in freestyle performances in cities including Honolulu, DC, Miami, Boston, New Orleans, and Los Angeles.
And that’s just in the US. After the national finals in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 28, the winner will go on to showcase his or her best stuff against the top competitors from countries including Japan, Belgium, Italy, South Africa, India, and more.
While the Dance Your Style competition took place in some other countries last year, this is the first year that the US joined the mix.
In each participating American city, 16 carefully-selected dancers faced off in brackets with a series of freestyle dances in front of a crowd.
Everything was improvised. The dancers didn’t know what music they’d get or even who would go first in each round, as the DJ blasted surprise beats for the competitors to bust a move to.
After a heated back and forth in each round, the winner of each bracket was selected by votes from the crowd.
‘Red Bull Dance Your Style is all about giving freedom to dancers, but also challenges them to use it,’ the brand explains. ‘They can express their skills and personality in one-on-one battles, without music restrictions and style limitations. Everything about this contest is fun, relaxed and unpredictable.
‘There’s no pressure through judging panels because audience votes determine the winner. There’s no planned choreography — dancers will have to thrill and rock the audience by quickly adapting their performance to surprising tunes, from recent global hits to all-time classics.
‘Whoever shows off the coolest moves in interaction with rhythm, lyrics, and instruments, and manages to WOW the crowd will win their vote, and ultimately become the first world champion of Red Bull Dance Your Style.’
The dancers all have different backgrounds and styles. Some specialize in hip-hop, others favor locking, popping, breaking, and house. But when the music starts pumping, it’s up to them to show off their best moves, energize the crowd, and one-up their opponents.
All of those different styles were on display at the most recent US semifinal in Los Angeles on August 11 — and the talent was through the roof.
Samo Soto, a competitor originally from New York who compete in LA, told DailyMail.com that he’s been dancing since he was a kid, having picked it up at school dances.
‘It was my first time being at a party that no parents were at. Sixth grade. It was like, free. And I was always super shy so it was a time for me to be able to break out of my shell,’ he explained.
As he got older and learned more — mostly through exchanging with friends — he eventually went on to enter freestyle competitions like the one hosted by Red Bull.
‘When I had less knowledge of what dancing and freedom were supposed to be, I’d make up moves for battles. But after a certain age, I figured out. It’s just about being free. and who can maneuver under that freedom and be able to master it,’ he said.
He’s gone on to do more commercial work with the likes of Chris Brown, Daddy Yankee, and Mariah Carey — whom he had to carry across the stage during part of her Las Vegas show.
‘That’s another level of pressure. It’s almost like you’re walking across a long hallway with a teacup full of tea all the way to the top,’ he said.
Marie Poppins, a dancer from France who specializes in popping and also competed in LA, has done the Hollywood thing, too. She was in a music video for Celine Dion and Ne Yo, and even provided choreography for one of Brandy’s tours and a Kelly Rowland music video.
But freestyle dance battles are something else.
‘The battle side gives you this company vibe that gets you hyped to excel and try to get the best out of yourself,’ she told DailyMail.com.
And unlike music videos and concerts, which take excessive preparation, battles are much more go-with-the-flow.
‘I don’t think you can really prepare. Because you prepare your whole life. You can train for it, but until the day, you don’t know how it’s gonna come out. You don’t know what music you’re gonna get. It’s an improvisation, how good you are at improvising,’ she said.
Ultimately, she added, ‘the wow moves come with adrenaline. You get so hyped that you don’t even know how you did a move. I think those are the power moves.’
Audrey Gibson, who hails from Denver, also specializes in popping and put her freestyle chops on display in LA.
‘Popping is a funk style dance and essentially, the basics of a pop is you’re just flexing your muscles really quickly in a small instance. It’s got a lot of robotic movement to it,’ she explained.
Audrey, who has experience dancing with Miley Cyrus and Will.i.am and appeared on the ABC Family show Bunheads, said she also didn’t think about preparing too much for the battle.
‘I’ve just been training a lot, freestyling a lot… for any hip-hop style, there are certain moves that you learn when you’re coming up. And those always get incorporated and you kind of put your own freak on it,’ she said.
‘But honestly, this is a completely unique kind of thing, so the more that you do stuff like this, the better prepared you are for it.’
Samo, Marie, and Audrey all battled it out at Red Bull’s LA competition at Avalon in Hollywood, but Zuce Morales took home the win.
Her triumph was even more impressive given that it was Zuce’s first time locking at a dance battle.
‘I’m just grateful that I got a space to be myself and learn from other amazing and talented artists,’ said the Mexican-born dancer.
Next up, she’ll head to Las Vegas on September 28 to dance against the finalists from battles across the country, including Spider Alexander (the winner of the New Orleans competition), Alain ‘Hurrikane’ Lauture (Boston), Amaleke Shakur Bradley (Miami), Virgil Lil O Gadson (DC), and Headache HiJac (Honolulu).
The winner from that show will then fly to Paris on October 12 and battle it out against national champions from all over the world.
The final competition will feature France’s Aurélien Vaudey Marginalz, Portugal’s Vitor Fontes, Austria’s Steffi Olga, Turkey’s Aydan Uysal, Ukraine’s Armo and Hmel MadState, Kazakhstan’s Berlov Bogdan, South Africa’s B-Boy Lee-Shane, Switzerland’s Christian Triventi, Greece’s Erotokritos Rekoz Pantazis, Taiwan’s Maya Chou, Canada’s Lady C, Russia’s Egor EGO Sokolov, and more.