When it comes to understanding how to stand out from the crowd, US street dancers know the cheat codes. This weekend the finalists of Red Bull Dance Your Style USA (Dassy, Kid Nimbus, Taylor, Beasty, Jaydn Smooth and Prince Wayne) will prove it. Each of these dancers has become masters of their own styles with otherworldly skill sets to swerve onto a multitude of others. They’ve racked up underground clout from their local scenes, torn apart battles across the country, and honed their skills from the OGs who pioneered genres like Memphis Jookin, Chicago Footwork, hip-hop, waacking and krump in the birthplace they were created. They’ve flexed their talents by jumping on stage with hip-hop heavyweights and performing with top tier artists for the mainstream masses. Now in 2021, they’re ready to take the world by storm.
This weekend, the Red Bull Dance Your Style USA qualifiers will go head-to-head in Washington DC at the national finals to win over the crowd vote and secure a spot repping their country at the world final in South Africa. High off the hype of their last win, battle-ready, and on a meteoric trajectory that shows no signs of slowing down, Red Bull caught up with Dassy, Kid Nimbus, Taylor, Beasty, Jaydn Smooth and Prince Wayne. Find out what it took for the top six Red Bull Dance Your Style national finalists to get their names on the map below, what the future holds and why fans worldwide need to get to know.
Derrick Judkins (aka Kid Nimbus) came from a military background. Although he moved from Ohio to Germany and to the suburbs as a kid, in 2021 he's the golden child of Chicago. Kid Nimbus started dancing in 2016 while he was in med school. By 2018, he put his degree on hold after discovering he was a better dancer than he thought and became the 1 vs 1 All Styles winner at World of Dance. He became a member of a dance collective started by fellow dancer D'andre Dixon (aka D'andre Nero) called Kangz Kastle, which features more than a dozen members and hosts battles across the city. Kid Nimbus created his dance name after he became enamoured by Red Bull competitions and the Step Up films in high school.
How important is it for you to rep Chicago?
I feel like there’s still work to be done by me for my community here in Chicago, I don’t feel like it’s my time to go elsewhere yet. They’ve been huge inspirations and because of that I want to make the most out of the opportunities that are here, and repping my city right now still means a lot to me.
What are your passions outside of dance?
Man, I love to create. Just create, period. I’m a bit of a sneaker head and I like to collect them and make them my own. For instance I got a pair of Chicago dunks recently and immediately I thought “Alright, these look cool, but how can I make them look even more unique.” This is all an adventure for me, and I want to keep dance that way for me and not ever lose that feeling and I want to be able to do this for as long as possible. To be able to do what you love, there’s nothing better than that. So right now all I’m focused on is, let me make sure to feed my talent, feed my aspirations, because who knows where it's gonna take me?
Tomoe 'Beasty' Carr started dancing at five years old in Okayama, Japan, at NXGN Studios, owned and operated by her father. She started out with hip-hop but wasn't vibing with the battle scene due to the number of competitors. In 2013, she made the jump to New York to flex the flavor she had from overseas as well as cut her chops in the freestyle battle scene back in the city she was born. In the US, Beasty hit the studio as much as possible in between teaching herself. She racked up a string of battles to be proud of, including becoming the winner of Ladies of Hip Hop in 2019, and then competed that same year in her first European street dance 2 on 2 battle, 'Flavourama' in Salzburg. In 2021, at 20-years old, Beasty might be fresh to the US scene still, but she’s on a blazing rise. She locked down the title of champ at Red Bull Dance Your Style Boston, started carving out a name for herself as a model, and joined Alicia Keys and Swae Lee on stage at the VMAs.
What was it like growing up in a family of dancers? What impact do you hope to make on the community?
I started dancing because of my dad. A lot of the OGs in the community are my uncles and aunts. So for me, in a battle a lot of times it’s like ‘I’m just gonna go against my family member’. It’s fun [and] never really stressful for me. Winning Red Bull Dance Your Style in Boston meant even more because it proved that I was levelling up amongst the greatest. No other way to explain that feeling. I had the opportunity to battle against so many dancers including teammates and uncles. To then go from reading my mom’s Alicia Keys piano book in Japan to being on stage with her in New York where I was born, that’s crazy. I feel so blessed. Eventually, I want to have a studio of my own and focus on the youth. Growing up it was hard for me to find someone my age who did what I did. I want to change that and keep giving back
Fearlessly driven, Dassy stepped into street dance from an early age in Seoul, South Korea, and began battling to earn a spot when the scene was at its peak. Constantly elevating herself, she trained in popping for many years, then got to work expanding her skillset to include locking, hip-hop, house, and any other class her studio offered. Leveling up once more, she made the jump to New York to follow her dreams. Not long after, she found herself in LA on the globally hyped television dance contest “So You Think You Can Dance.” Her competitive streak saw her rack up numerous battle titles, while her multi-hyphenated dance abilities saw her gain 40 million views with her trio Femme Fatale and a high-profile gig performing in Monaco with Cirque du Soleil. Not to mention, becoming a Red Bull dancer.
Outside of dance, Dassy is a talented visual artist, creative, model and choreographer.
What’s your proudest achievement from dance?
My proudest achievement so far is moving to America. When I moved here I didn’t have money, I didn’t speak any English, I didn’t have any friends. My mom was worried about me then because she knew how competitive it was to make it in the industry. But now she has total trust in me and my passion and is a big supporter and she as well is my biggest inspiration.
How have you influenced new-gen poppers?
I’ve had a lot of female dancers reach out to say that because of me they got more accepted in the genre and are dancing it without doubting themselves because popping is a very masculine style of dance.
How do your Korean roots influence your US dance style and vice versa?
I’m actually really glad that I was able to train in the technical side of my popping in Korea. Initially, I actually learned locking. But once I saw popping and the way people's bodies connected with the music I knew I wanted to do that. Korean instructors are focused on the foundations of each individual style and the dancers love to break down all the small elements so that they understand each move in their own way and we are crazy about learning. But when I moved to America I realized that dance is also about having fun and not just the technical side. I discovered that dancing with people at events and parties is a really important part of it.
NYC born, Miami bred, LA-based dancer Tyler had carved out a name for himself across the country in a little over half a decade. He started dancing in Florida in 2014 when he was 15 years old. Back then, he was studying business in a school designed to give black youth and Florida minorities a straight shot into business. But at the end of the school one day, his focus and passion shifted after he heard a noise coming from the auditorium and witnessed dancers grooving and moving. He saved up some coins to travel back to New York City and take classes from hip-hop pioneers. Battle wins followed, teaching opportunities came, he was in high demand, and the west coast called.
How would you describe your style?
I like to think of my hip-hop freestyle like rap in a way. In the ’90s, you had boom-bap rap (and it’s still alive today in trap, it’s just sped up.) With boom-bap, you have this cadence, and the cool thing about that was so many different ways by artists like Erykah, Rakim, Latifah etc. interpreted it their own way. Their music came out so vastly different, but the beat remained the same. With freestyle hip-hop, it works like that for me. The foundations are rooted like the beats, but you can experiment over the top and morph that into your own. The sense of freedom I get from hip-hop style is what I love and makes me happy.
What does your dance future hold?
Dance is not something that will ever leave me. I know it will be something that I will do forever, but I guess the challenge now is finding that gracefulness to evolve with it as I get older. As humans, we’re naturally multi-faceted. We’re not one-trick ponies, we can dance wherever we want to. We can all get so enamoured with the dance world and I think that would change a lot of things for the industry if people were gaining outside perspectives.
De'Wayne "Prince Wayne" Martin Jr. has been dancing all his life. When he was really young, Prince Wayne started out with breaking after his dad bought him a DVD. This led to hip-hop, street styles and a whole lot of battle wins and attention. One person who noticed was a DJ and Prince Wayne's second mentor. He invited him to be part of his group and flew him out one time to Guadalajara to perform on the condition that if Prince Wayne really wanted to be a dancer, he would pay for all of his own flights after that. He loved it, got a job and started travelling to battle everywhere. "A lot of people think they have to get to a certain level to be able to battle and travel, but the truth is, you can't be ready to battle. You just have to jump in and do it. Experience it and do your best." This was Prince Wayne's first time competing in Red Bull Dance Your Style and for his final battle, his footwork, Vogueing, and gravity-defying spins to Michael Jackson's "Dirty Diana" and Pitbull's "Hotel Room Service" carried him to victory.
What was the biggest turning point for you as a dancer when you realized you could make this a career?
I was going to this place called Y8 where everyone used to battle, but I was losing a lot. We all got back into the car after I got defeated, and my little sister broke the silence and said “Look we're not gonna keep wasting gas money and coming up here if you're going to lose.” Everybody has their own journey and my biggest challenge was second-guessing ‘where I should be,’ but without putting the actions behind to get it.
How important are foundations like ballet?
Ballet has helped me so much with my balance, finding my centre of gravity and learning how to pull up. That's the style that I feel helped me understand every other style. Then modern and contemporary showed me a different way to express my feelings. You learn how to use the ground and your whole body in a different way.
Jaydn Smooth started dancing at age three in Memphis. He jumped on tour with fellow Memphis Jook icon, and his biggest inspiration Lil Buck from the time he was 12 years old and kicked off a professional career performing with high-calibre artists. When it comes to battling Jadyn is a fearless competitor with a track record for winning and having mad confidence. His dance style is unorthodox, packed with swag, complex technique and unapologetic rawness no matter what genre he's doing. When pressed to sum up his own style, Jadyn says "I'm not a master at Jookin, I feel like I'm a master at my own style of dance, and I'll keep fine-tuning that style as I evolve."
His proudest achievement so far is winning the Red Bull Dance Your Style qualifier in Memphis. Not only was it a big moment, because it was in front of all of his mentors, with a style born there, and met by wild applause. But Jadyn also had to defeat one of his mentors to take the win. Outside of dance, he dreams of getting into fashion, making music, and turning his hand to photography.
What are your passions off of the dance floor?
I make music. I started playing the drums in 9th grade and developed an ear for them really quick. I've put a few of my vocals on tracks I produce now and also mix beats. When I'm dancing to my own music, it makes everything fall into place. When it comes to battling, it's all about the feeling. When that Aaliyah song came on at Dance Your Style in Memphis, I went ballistic! I was so hyped!
What advice would you give to a Memphis dancer who wants to get into the scene?
I would say start early. Be persistent. If you put enough energy into something and train hard, it'll come. If you fire 100 shots, one of them is going to land, you know.