I didn’t think about the crowd, I didn’t think about who is watching. I just felt like all those times alone in my room were speaking out.
In middle school, whenever the teachers called me or even when my parents talked to me, I was very calm. I am known as the mute. That was how great my anxiety was. In high school, I told myself that I had to come out of my shell otherwise I risked ending up on the street. My mother wouldn’t like that! I needed to do something, so I started watching random tutorials on YouTube: “Waving looks cool, let me learn that. I’d like to learn how to turn my head, but my room is really small, so I’m not going to do that. For the whole first year, I didn’t show anyone. I used that time to express myself. It was very raw.
One day, I was walking home from school and there was a child a little older than me. I had my headphones on and gave a little wave, and he was like, “Do it again!” I was shaking, I said to myself: “I didn’t do anything!” He was like, “You’re gonna come see the dance team and you’re gonna do it again.” I was like, “What did I just get into?” Then I went over there, and I waved, and they said, “Cool, you’re going to play the cheer fest.” Pep party! I was shaken! I was like no average. But even though I was very depressed, I am naturally very good at pushing myself. I thought of it as a do or die situation.
It was in front of the whole school. Most people didn’t think I could say “Hi”. It was probably the worst pain I had ever felt at that age. I had this knot in my stomach, like something was hurting me physically. I was rolled into a ball. I do not know what to do. I’m about to cry. One of the teachers said, “It’s time for you to come upstairs. And when the music started, for some reason, the pain disappeared. I didn’t think about the crowd, I didn’t think about who is watching. I just felt like all those times alone in my room were speaking out.
After this performance, people started saying hello to me. People started saying, “That was awesome! “It was drugs!” “You killed him!” Over time I started gaining confidence to talk and say hello and talk to teachers and try to make friends.
Whenever I dance, I strive to be honest with how I feel in the moment. When I started dancing, it wasn’t to impress anyone. Red Bull emphasizes that it’s not about who is the most technical, it’s about having fun and being creative with your musicality. We can celebrate dance and battle at the same time, it can be affectionate.
In my dance journey, I want to spread as much light as possible. You are not alone – it will be ok – have faith – keep moving forward with love.
Meet some of this year’s Red Bull Dance Your Style talent and find out how movement has impacted their lives:
Josh “KingJayDot” Dotson
I’m a footworker from Chicago. I have been dancing since the age of four, thirty years now. I started by watching my cousin and his friend. I looked at them and thought, “I’m going to do this.” The next day I started, no one ever taught me anything! I just went back to my grandmother’s with my cousin. They saw me dancing and they put me in the circle. I’ve been going to parties ever since.
A lot of people wouldn’t think I would be here right now. I lost my mother, my father, I lost everything. The only thing that really helped me was dancing. Footworking is a Chicago gem. It saves people – it gives you a place where you can rise up, open your mind.
I got second place last year in the Red Bull Dance Your Style Chicago qualifier. I do freestyle hip hop, popping, house, lock and breaking. I come from Da Nang in central Vietnam, but hip hop comes from the United States and I was fascinated by this culture. Kanye West talks a lot about Chicago in his music. I was wondering what it would look like, I wanted to know more! I moved to Chicago seven years ago.
It was a difficult first two years. I had never lived anywhere other than Vietnam. I went through the culture shock, the language barrier. I didn’t speak much English, but dance
put me in contact with the people here and they took me to sessions with them. Dancing made me go out and talk to people. I understand the culture better, I understand better why people are doing this movement – there is always a story behind it, an intention, a feeling, a meaning.
As an Asian man from Asia, I am a guest in this culture but I am a practitioner. This community, this culture, opens our hand to experiment, to experience it. Hip hop gives me a lot of courage. It gives me a safe space, a welcome to express myself and connect. It’s such a rich culture, it’s the land of opportunity. Get over there! Start expressing yourself!
I specialize in footwork, Chicago hip roll, Chicago hip hop. I started dancing at ten at house parties, fighting at thirteen and fourteen doing footwork – I’ve been dancing all my life.
Red Bull Dance Your Style is hip hop, footwork, ballet, popping, flexing, juking, to the music they choose for you. You don’t know what this DJ is going to play, so when they play it, you have to do your best. It’s mixed. I like this. I was the only woman who managed to go further for the national championships in Chicago last year. If I don’t go any further, I pray it’s one female or many females or all females—no shadow to the males.
I dance for therapy. I dance to be free. I dance for myself and for people who go through the same struggles as me. I dance for my daughter, so she can see that you can make your dreams come true. My daughter dances – she is eight years old, a small power. Always listen to yourself about what you want to do, keep going, don’t give up. It will all be worth it in the end if you don’t give up!
Tavares “KDizzle” Marshall
I do a lot of styles – the main three are krumping, light footed and freestyle hip hop. I was jerking off in 2009. It was a movement in Chicago. That’s how we got into street dancing – it was a crowd of us, thirty or forty people in one place, dancing and having fun. Some of us took it to new heights but kept it low key; we weren’t focused on making it bigger, we just wanted to bring it with us and what it meant to bring it with us. As a hip hop dancer, living the style is about living your life, doing the right thing, and helping people along the way.
I’ve been watching Red Bull Dance Your Style since it came out, but this is my first time auditioning. It feels good to see people from different backgrounds come together and work together to create something worthwhile. You could never not be grateful for that! I pray that everyone can experience life with each other in a positive light.
It is a goal that I have in dance. Not to be famous, not to make money – that’s all good – but to be with the people I inspire and the people who inspire me. I am grateful.
By André “Néron The Professor” Rivera
I do abstract hip hop. I was five when I started and have been dancing professionally since middle school.
I love Red Bull, they were very intuitive to the Chicago dance. I am building the Kastle, formerly known as KangzKastle [which partnered with Red Bull to host the Chicago Red Bull Dance Your Style auditions]. The Kastle started as a session, now we are event coordinators. We have a lot to do for the city and put it in its respectful and rightful place in the dance. Chicago has so much to offer. I’m glad Red Bull brought us that.
There are so many great dancers who go through Red Bull Dance Your Style. Nine times out of ten they don’t get a W or you don’t see pictures of what they did. It doesn’t define who you are. Keep training and be on the lookout for the next battle!