In October I have sang the praises of pop queen Angyil after devastating man, woman and child on their way to victory in Red Bull Dance Your Style National Final. And now, seven months later, we have a new champion to shower with free champagne and confetti: David “The Crown” Stalter.
For you poor unfortunate souls who aren’t in the know, Red Bull has positioned itself as one of the leading platforms for all things street dancing. To that end, its 16-person tournament, featuring world-class dancers from across the country, like Jacksonville’s QJnew orleans native Nick Furyand based in Los Angeles Toyin Sogunro— came to an exhilarating end this weekend in New Orleans. And talking to The rootStalter reflected on his hard-fought victory, his journey as a self-taught dancer, and dance as a form of black expression.
“It’s truly an honor,” said Stalter after his victory. “This competition felt like a celebration of dance. I feel like everyone is already a winner and everyone in the competition deserved to be there. It could have been anyone [that won]You know.”
But that was not the case.
If Stalter’s humility is admirable, in addressing The rootit’s clear he’s endured more than his fair share of trials and tribulations, both in and out of his legendary in-ring battles.
“For me personally, when I was younger, our household was very difficult for me,” he said. “My dad was into a lot of street stuff and my mum was in church. And African culture is very strict. So being raised in that environment, I want to inspire kids who feel lonely. Because I had feeling alone most of the time.
He continued, “My biggest thing is to inspire as many people as possible, especially children. I want to inspire young people. If my art can lift their depression or anything from 99% to 98%, It’s all that matters.
In his efforts to inspire others, Stalter also realized he had to lead by example and be the same change he wanted to see in others. For this, drawing on his Liberian heritage (he is also half-Korean), he explained to The root how his stage name, The Crown, was born.
“That was five, six years ago,” he explained. “I was doing one of my first performances at the Cowles Center in Minneapolis. I was about to do a very personal piece that was dedicated to my dad and I was so nervous. I was very anxious. Then the emcee with me backstage, he said, ‘Yo, you gotta own your royalty. Own your heritage. You are who you are. You already have it. Go ahead and be yourself. And then he went out there and was like, ‘Okay, y’all! Give it up for the Crown. And ever since then everyone’s been calling me that. And that’s when I got a tattoo, because I was like, ‘If that’s what everyone calls me, then I’m going to take it.’ »
He continued, “This name means self-love. It just means owning your inheritance, owning your royalty.
And as a member of black royalty, Stalter also shared his thoughts on the importance of dance as a form of cultural expression within our community.
“I feel like dance is one of the most important black art forms,” he said. “It goes back to Africa, which is the cradle of everything.”
He also spoke about being so active in his local Minneapolis community after the murder linked to George Floyd officer made her realize that her gift for dancing was more than just a form of self-expression.
“Rest in peace to George Floyd,” he said. “When that happened, we were really there and I saw the black community really show up. And that just [made me take dance] […] I wouldn’t say more serious, but I would say it’s become more spiritual. Because before, it was more about my own personal expression. But now I feel like my ancestors [got] my back. I have to carry this weight.
After winning the Red Bull Dance Your Style National Final, Statler will claim her crown at the Red Bull Dance Your Style World Final, taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa. December 10— and we at The root will be sure to keep its competitors in our thoughts and prayers.