Street dancing means different things to different people. Red Bull Dance Your Style pushes the boundaries of what it means to be a dancer by asking one simple question: can you adapt to what is thrown at you?.
“It was all the rage when I started dancing in the neighborhood. Everyone wanted to be a pantsula; it was the only form of entertainment [we had] in addition to football,” South African pantsula dancer Teboho “Tebza” Diphehlo recalled in a 2019 interview with Red Bull.
Diphehlo is the archetypal pantsula – a loose-limbed, fast-moving cat with a bucket hat permanently glued to its head and a pair of Dickies cargo pants over its wiry body.
He was crowned on Red Bull dance your style national champion in 2018 and went on to represent South Africa in the national final in Paris, France the following year.
The competition is a one-on-one street dance battle in which dancers perform a street dance style of their choice to unpredictable musical hits. All street dance disciplines – sbujwa, amapiano, pantsula, hip-hop, popping, locking and more – can participate.
Our country has a rich and diverse heritage in dance, [which] is often used as a form of everyday expression and to celebrate the past and present.
Teboho “Tebza” Diphehlo
What makes the competition unique is that the audience is the judge and they decide who wins the crown in each battle. Unlike most dance competitions, the DJ and the audience play a crucial role.
The deejay is tasked with challenging the dancers with unpredictable hits to see how versatile they are in adapting to the beat. The audience is the only jury and decides the outcome of the battles by simply raising voting cards to indicate their favorite dancer.
This year, the competition returns to South Africa, first for the national stage and then the world final in December, which will bring together street dancers from all over the world.
Diphehlo is feeling optimistic ahead of the World Finals.
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“It makes sense for South Africa to host the second Red Bull Dance Your Style World Final. Our country has a rich and diverse heritage in dance, [which] is often used as a form of everyday expression and to celebrate the past and present. I am delighted that South Africa will be at the center of the world in 2021 hosting the Red Bull Dance Your Style World Final,” he said.
Depending on who you ask, street dancing means different things to different people. The genre has no specific pattern; it is basically any style of vernacular dance developed in a specific place. In the Bronx in the United States, this can mean bursting and locking; in Soweto, he would be represented by isipantsula and isbhujwa; and elsewhere, it could be breakdancing.
I didn’t really think about it; I just did it because I wanted to dance as much as possible and hang out with people.
The Red Bull Dance Your Style format pushes the boundaries of what it means to be a dancer by asking one simple question: can you adapt to what is thrown at you?
At the 2019 World Finals, Diphehlo performed a skhanda routine on Busta Rhymes’ Break Ya Neck.
Each of its mechanical movements was fluid, piercing and rhythmic. And if it weren’t for the nature of the competition, you wouldn’t be blamed to think he’d been choreographing his hip-hop routines his entire life.
While in Paris, he befriended Angyil McNeal, who was no stranger to the international dance circuit.
Aiming for perfection: Angyil McNeal says dancing has helped her identify problems and overcome them. Photo: Dominick Williams/Red Bull Content Pool
McNeal, originally from Kansas in the United States, has starred in commercials for Adidas and participated in dance battles in the United States, the Netherlands, Singapore and Korea. For her, dancing is more than a pastime, it is a path to much deeper existential conclusions.
“Dancing has helped me explore many layers of issues – I can understand life if I can understand dance. Also, dancing has brought me physical pain due to muscle growth and stretching, so my tolerance has increased and made me calmer. It’s my way of seeing a therapist… but cheaper,” she mentioned in a 2018 interview.
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She started participating in dance battles because it helped her perfect her craft.
“I didn’t really think about it; I just did it because I wanted to dance as much as possible and hang out with people. I like to do things that I like, but after [I started battling]it has become my way of life and I consider it a way to sharpen my sword and keep me on my toes.
Watching her performance at the 2019 Red Bull Dance Your Style Finals, one can’t help but notice the universality of the dance.
McNeal’s dance style jumps and locks, but there are times in her performance where you can spot elements of skhanda and a bit of kwasa as she danced to Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You.
It may sound cheesy, but these little moments remind us that dance truly is a universal language, that its various dialects are available for anyone to learn and integrate into their favorite “dance language”.
South Africa’s road to the World Finals will begin this month with the Red Bull Dance Your Style nationwide tour looking for the best dancers to represent the country at the World Finals. The tour’s audition workshops will take place in Johannesburg, Polokwane, Durban, Gqeberha, Cape Town and Pretoria, culminating in the national finals taking place in October.
The tour features top dance talent from South Africa including Diphehlo, Bontle Modiselle, Sne Mbatha, Rudi Smit, Lee-Shane, Limpopo Boy, 250Machine.
Dancers can audition during these workshops, while those from outside of the cities hosting the workshops can enter the contest by submitting an audition video to redbulldanceyourstyle.com.
1. Red Bull Dance Your Style is a one-on-one street dance battle where dancers move to unpredictable music hits and perform any style of street dance.
2. Any street dance style discipline, such as sbujwa, amapiano, pantsula, hip-hop, popping and locking can enter.
3. In this distinctive competition format, the DJ and the audience play a crucial role.
4. The deejay is tasked with challenging dancers of different styles, who face off on a red and blue side of the dance floor, with unpredictable music playing to see how versatile they are in adapting to the beat.
5. The audience is the only jury and decides the outcome of the battles by simply raising red or blue voting cards depending on their favorite dancer.