Back in October, I sang the praises of popping queen Angyil after she laid waste to man, woman, and child on her way to emerging victorious in Red Bull’s Dance Your Style National Finals. And now, seven months later, we have a new champion to shower in gratuitous amounts of champagne and confetti: David “The Crown” Stalter.
For you poor, unfortunate souls that are out the loop, Red Bull has positioned itself as one of the premier platforms for all things street dance. To that end, its 16-person bracket tournament—featuring the likes of world-class dancers from throughout the country like Jacksonville’s QJ, New Orleans’ native Nick Fury, and Los Angeles-based Toyin Sogunro—came to its exhilarating end this weekend in New Orleans. And in speaking to The Root, Stalter 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,” Stalter said after his win. “This competition just felt like a celebration of dance. I feel like everybody’s already a winner, and everyone in the competition deserved to be there. It could’ve been anybody [that won], you know.”
But it wasn’t.
While Stalter’s humility is admirable, in speaking to The Root, it’s clear that he’s endured more than his fair share of trials and tribulations—both in and outside of his legendary battles in the ring.
“For me personally, when I was younger, our household was very hard for me,” he said. “My dad was in a lot of street stuff and my mom was in church. And African culture is very strict. So just being raised in that environment, I want to inspire kids that feel like they’re alone. Because I felt like I was alone a lot of the time.”
He continued, “My biggest thing is to inspire as many people as possible, especially kids. I want to inspire the youth. If my art can make their depression or whatever go from like 99 percent to 98 percent that’s all that matters.”
In his efforts to inspire others, Stalter also realized that he needed to lead by example and be the same change that he wanted to see in others. To that end, in drawing from his Liberian heritage (he’s also half-Korean), he explained to The Root how his stage name, The Crown, came to be.
“It was like 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 backstage with me, he was like, ‘Yo, you need to own your royalty. Own your heritage. You are who you are. You already got it. Just go out there and be you.’ And then he went out there and was like, ‘Alright, y’all! Give it up for The Crown.’ And ever since then, everybody’s been calling me that. And that’s when I got the tattoo, because I was like, ‘If that’s what everyone’s calling me then I’ll take it.’”
He continued, “That name means self-love. It just means own your heritage, own your royalty.”
And in being 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 dates way back to Africa, which is the birthplace of everything.”
He also touched on how being so active within his local Minneapolis community after the officer-related murder of George Floyd made him realize his gift of dance was much bigger than just a form of self-expression.
“Rest in peace to George Floyd,” he said. “When that happened, we were really out there and I saw the Black community really show out. And that just [made me take dance] [...] I wouldn’t say more serious, but I would say it became more spiritual. Because before it was more about my own self-expression. But now, I feel like my ancestors [got] my back. I’ve gotta carry that weight.”
After winning Red Bull’s Dance Your Style National Finals, Statler will be taking his crown to the Red Bull Dance Your Style World Finals, which it take place in Johannesburg, South Africa on December 10—and we at The Root will be sure to keep his competitors in our thoughts and prayers.