While most of us spent the past weekend picking out our Halloween costumes or catching up with friends, dancer Angela “Angyil” McNeal spent hers devastating every dancer in her path during the Red Bull “Dance Your Style” National Finals United States. In front of an electrifying crowd at the famed Howard Theater in Washington, D.C., over two nights, the popping extraordinaire faced off against an intimidating 16-strong cast from across the country, including Oakland’s Know the God, the footwork master dapper Lil O, and the self-proclaimed “Queen of Waacking”, Princess Lockeroo.
After emerging victorious, Angyil will now move on to the Red Bull Dance Your Style World Final, which kicks off on December 4 in Johannesburg, South Africa. But before she put on for the United States and Black excellence on the Red Bull world stage, the Kansas City, Mo. native hashed it with The root to discuss the importance of a black woman winning the competition, the impact of the pandemic on the dance community, and her journey from ballet to street dancing.
“It was so good to get out during this pandemic and see everyone,” she began. “We haven’t danced or fought together in years, so it feels good to see everyone again. It was a bit emotional. Each of the contestants is super talented. It felt good to be able to share the floor again and share the space with the dancers.
Before taking part in Dance Your Style this year, the prolific popper had already established herself as a force of nature within the dance industry. With appearances on dance world, the prestigious Notorious IBE and Radikal Force Jam competition under her belt, plus a string of wins that would amaze even Tom Brady, the three-time freestyle world champion is no joke on the dance floor. But like many of us, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic ended his rising career, giving him the opportunity to catch up on some well-deserved rest and prioritize his mental health.
“Before the pandemic, I had no days off. So I feel like it gave me some rest,” she said. “It helped my mental stability. I’m a workaholic, so it’s hard for me to say ‘no’. It definitely helped me recharge. The physical part [of dance] is a big part, but a big part is also mental. So I was able to get the rest I needed.
Considering Angyil has been performing for the dance community for so long, his exhaustion is fully understood. As a child, ballet was not only her first love, but it offered her refuge from the chaos that engulfed her neighborhood. However, as she grew older and moved to the Bronx in order to attend the historic Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for a ballet internship, she realized that hip-hop was her true calling. By incorporating a fusion of styles and influences, it gave her a distinct edge over her competition that helped her become a world-class dancer capable of moving on to anything from Big Daddy Kane to Beethoven.
“My ears might be different,” she said. “I’m used to listening to different music, but that has nothing to do with my ability to do different styles, I feel like it has to do with my ability to listen to different sounds. kinda helps because I hear parts of the music that people might not hear. I can play some things.
Angyil also opened up about how she was able to dominate back-to-back days of battling some of the best hip-hop dancers on the planet at the Dance Your Style National Finals and why succumbing to the looming threat of fatigue was never an option. .
“I had to draw and remember why I started [doing this],” she said. “I started thinking about the people who inspired me. I started thinking about what I’ve been through. I started thinking about my family, my nieces and nephews and everything they did to get me [to this point]. I thought: ‘Yes, I’m tired, but I’ll be fine’. I had to dig deeper.
Ahead of the Red Bull Dance Your Style National Finals in the USA, The root spoke to fellow hip-hop dancer Outragewho stressed the importance of maintaining the authenticity of the art form – despite its ever-increasing popularity – and ensuring that hip-hop’s roots as a black and brown creation are recognized.
“Some people don’t realize, or have a hard time understanding, that most of the dance comes from black culture,” he said. The root. “We have a lot of people here who do these styles and don’t understand that. [There are also] many companies that do not want [acknowledge] it really is and there is no getting around it.
Keeping that same energy, Angyil echoed the sentiments of Outrage and underscored the importance of black and brown representation in competitions of this magnitude.
“It’s very important,” she began. “If we are not careful, it will be misinterpreted and miscommunicated. It probably is the most important thing to me. There has been oppression in so many other areas of life, as well as oppression in spaces where we should feel most comfortable. So that’s something that I definitely advocate being a black woman because ultimately it’s ours.
She continued, “I always feel like there’s this narrative to us that when we affirm something that’s true, that’s a problem. There is this kind of aggression. But I feel like the bolder and more shameless we are about this, you don’t have to start a war over this. In the end, these are facts. It is our culture.
To that end, Angyil also knows how important it is for a black woman to be crowned the winner of a national competition that honors hip-hop culture.
“I saw a YouTube video of some twerkers. They were Russian,” she began. “As black women, we are always demonized for doing [these types of] things. If we put color in our hair, it’s ‘ghetto’. If you shake your buttocks, it’s “dirty”. Any type of expression in which we express ourselves is despised. And the moment they or they do it, it’s rented. This is [reflective of] a deeper problem that is rooted in racism. These things are ‘dirty’ or ‘ghetto’ when done, but something completely different when copied. […] So [this win is] really important. And even if you take me out of the equation, I don’t care as long as [the winner is] someone from our culture. It means more to me than anything.
For those wanting to keep an eye on Angyil as she heads into the Red Bull Dance Your Style World Final, which kicks off in Johannesburg, South Africa on December 4, head over to Caffeine.tv to broadcast the festivities live.