This past Saturday night, people from around the world packed Chicago’s Morton Salt Shed to help decide who would take home the title of Red Bull Dance Your Style USA Champion. After months of qualifiers in eight cities across the country, 16 regional champions came together to go head-to-head in a single-elimination bracket for the win. This culminating event brought the nation’s best dancers to Chicago, offering local creators an opportunity to celebrate and uplift the Midwest and its dance community through a full weekend of programming and unforgettable performances.
Before the show kicked off, The MRKT, a pop-up shop curated by dancer and videographer Andrew Phan, sprawled across the lot outside of the venue. As you walked through the maze of more than 50 local vendors, music blasted as the DJ spun hit records from the Red Bull event car/DJ booth. The vendors sold a variety of goods, ranging from clothing and accessories to home décor and art, skin care, food and more. The sun glimmered on vibrant art installations that filled the space, presenting the perfect opportunities for a quick photo opp.
As you made your way into the venue, a staff member handed you a wristband that was lit either red or blue. This wrist band would be critical to the competition, as audience members would use them to decide which dancer should advance in each round. Before the show began, Chicago’s NeroTheProfessor DJ’d the dance cyphers to get the energy flowing. When they hit the stage, hosts Bravemonk and Melisa Valdez explained that the audience should judge each battle based on rhythm, movement, creativity, and charisma. After each round, audience members were to change the color of their wristband to vote for their favorite dancer.
Chicago’s own footworking crews Goon Squad and Creation Global, as well as Detroit’s House of Jit opened the show with electrifying performances in a “Midwest Rollcall.” The crews gave the audience a chance to see firsthand the similarities and differences between Chicago footworking and Detroit jitting. Along with the speedy footwork of each style was a lot of agile floor work and explosive full body movements. The crews performed separate routines before coming together, hyping each other up, exchanging moves and sharing laughs. They got the crowd hype and ready for a night full of high energy.
The first round of battles flew by as DJ Shash’U flawlessly mixed new school hits with old school classics. The audience barely had a chance to catch their breath as the 16 contestants showcased a rich collection of dance styles from around the country including popping, krumping, bone breaking, Memphis Jookin’, Baltimore Bounce, turfin’, tutting, and more. Each battle was hard fought, and in some cases the crowd was split on who had won. Luffy, who specializes in bone breaking and experimental dance, found himself in a tie breaker against Chicago’s popping Katana Pop. Memphis native, Superstar, also found himself fighting for a spot in a tie breaker against Baltimore’s Queen Stylz. The crowd watched in amazement, cheering on their favorites as Beks, iLLmani, Luffy, Daisy VMZ, Superstar, Sean Lew, JDunn and Frankie Freeman defeated their opponents to advance to the next round.
As the competitors who won the first set of battles got ready for the next, the audience got to enjoy a powerful guest performance from Chicago native Monyett Crump and REVEAL Chicago. Crump, who discovered his passion for dance at the age of 15, has performed at Lollapalooza, in a number of music videos and even in this year’s Super Bowl Halftime with Rihanna. He commanded the stage, captivating the audience with his fervent choreography.
The battles got more intense as the number of dancers dwindled from 16 to 4. Beks faced off against Daisy VMZ before Sean Lew and JDunn took the stage. Both battles had awesome exchanges, and Daisy and Sean came out victorious. Before the final round, the viral dance collective Syncopated Ladies and Chicago-based group M.A.D.D. Rhythms put on a lively display of their unique fusions of tap dance and hip hop. Their fun performance helped to ease some of the anticipation that had been building all night. The crowd was full of smiles as they cheered the talented performers on.
The moment everyone had been waiting for had finally come. A disco ball chandelier sparkled above the dance floor as Oakland’s Daisy VMZ, who specializes in all styles, and Los Angeles-based hip hop dancer Sean Lew had a thrilling showdown. The audience stood to their feet as the two made their best efforts to break out their best moves and woo the crowd. Daisy was on the red side, while Sean was on the blue side.
As their electric battle concluded, Bravemonk and Melisa counted down from 10 for the audience to make their decision. By the time they got to 1, the Salt Shed was illuminated with a bright blue hue. Sean Lew had been voted the winner of the Red Bull Dance Your Style National Championship! Daisy gave him a big hug as blue streamers fell from the sky. Holding his trophy, Sean shared a special moment with his entire family on stage. He is on his way to Frankfurt, Germany in November to represent the USA at the Red Bull Dance Your Style World Final.