Dance is deeply embedded in all cultures and for the black diaspora, that rings doubly true. The genesis of hip hop music and related dances modernized and amplified our dance culture to epic proportions. From pop-locking and break dancing to turfin and crumping, these movements serve as a central point of connection and community.
With the accessibility of a potentially massive audience given to individuals through the internet and social media, dance has the power to be consumed more than ever and truly change lives in the process.
On Friday, May 6, the Bay Area’s top street dancers arrived at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in Oakland, Calif., ready to show off their moves in a bid to be crowned the winner of Red Bull’s Dance your style. The Red Bull Dance Your Style initiative hosts 65 events in over 29 countries throughout the year, with the aim of showcasing and raising the profiles of street dancers who have achieved local fame.
With palpable energy filling the arena, the contestants left their nerves behind and took to the dance floor.
Before the competition, BET sat down with Turfer Girl and Krow The God (KTG), two Bay Area natives who shut down downtown Oakland with their awesome moves. See the full interview below.
BET: How did you start Freestyle dancing?
Turfer Girl: WWhen I was younger, I was trying to break down ’cause you know, when To go up came out, that was the thing. But then, I wasn’t really doing it like I should have done back then. So I just took up the grass dance again. And I saw everyone playing and you know, that’s what they call it here. Everyone turfin and that’s how I started.
Krow The God (KTG): My sister introduced me Break and beat the street. When I first saw these films, I fell in love with street dancing. So when I discovered the street dance here called turfing, originally from West Oakland, I fell in love with it. What made me a little different from all the other Turfers was that I wanted to expand my style. I ended up coming across a style in New York called flexing. And so when I saw this style, I said you know what, “I’m going to find a way to merge the two”. So when I did that, it made me say to people, ultimate dancer or elite dancer.
BET: How do you feel seeing the Turfin dance style on the main stage?
Turfer Girl: It’s honestly a wonderful feeling. Because knowing where the style comes from and how big the underground turfin once was, it’s a very amazing feeling to see it right there. Everyone has worked very hard all these years, and we finally see it at the front.
KTG: Finally, this is how I feel, FINALLY. Because I feel like it’s been a long time. We know the history of the Bay Area. We don’t get the credit we deserve, and a lot of stuff gets taken out of here. A lot of people are stealing the swag, the style and the essence from us so I’m glad to see that.
BET: How does the preparation for Dance Your Style differ from other street fights you’ve been involved in?
Turfer Girl: Honestly, in this battle, I had to seriously prepare myself mentally. Because I feel like I’ve done all the labbing, all the dancing that I really needed. But just seeing how much of a platform it is. I really had to mentally put myself in that zone to do my best. I watch a lot of my old battles, I meditate a lot and I really have thoughts in my head where it’s like, do your best and don’t hold anything back.
KTG: It’s the second time I’ve been part of Red Bull. So the first time, I kind of got into a street dance style battle, and I see how it went. So this time it’s completely different. You have to completely read the crowd. I think that’s what I’m going to do differently. This time, I actually prepared for other genres of music. I always dance to other music but I would never really care about it since I do street dance style and it’s normally raw and less commercial. I also meditate normally. I work hard and do lab for a few weeks before the event, then a few days before resting. It gives me mental clarity. I like to come in with a fresh mind so my moves are fresh and I can dance freely without thinking too much about it.
BET: What are you most looking forward to with Dance Your Style?
Turfer Girl: I’m ready for this crowd to feel me. I’m ready to come let it all out.
KTG: I’m just trying to wow the crowd. I come with a different energy. Before I had dark energy and now I want to be light. I’m in a different headspace. I walk in with a peaceful headspace. I want to show the crowd this light.
BET: Hip hop dance culture and street dance culture are male dominated. So what’s it like to be a black woman competing with guys?
Turfer Girl: I feel like I’m in a very powerful position. I’m happy to be here. And I’m just ready to hold it down. He feels very good. I’m not the only one now. But when I was younger, I was really the only girl around. It made me dance harder because it’s so male dominated. But I love it. I like the position I’m in.
BET: What advice do you have for the next generation of young black creatives who might want to dance and get into this scene but don’t necessarily know how?
Turfer Girl: Always be yourself, be confident and believe in yourself. Because if you don’t believe, no one else will. It can be difficult sometimes. But you always have to know that you are doing your best.
KTG: There are dance styles in Oakland, LA, Memphis and even Brooklyn. You just have to find your people. Look on social media or talk to other kids in your neighborhood. Go out and dance alone. All I can say is be free. Be free with him. Don’t let anything hold you back. Nothing.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.