When Biggie infamously rapped, “I never thought that hip-hop would take it this far,” today, that same culture we all know and love, has easily surpassed even his wildest hopes and dreams. In the decades since Biggie’s untimely demise, hip-hop has exploded into a full-fledged global phenomenon that has infiltrated everything from presidential campaigns to Geico commercials. And while rap music is easily its most popular element, it’s impossible to deny the impact of graffiti, deejaying, beatboxing, and breakdancing on the cultural zeitgeist.
To that end, Red Bull’s Dance Your Style competition has been scouring the country for the best dancers and entertainers, pitting them against each other in impromptu one-on-one battles in cities like Boston, Memphis, Atlanta, and Miami. And as the competition draws to a close, with its national final scheduled to go down this weekend, Red Bull dancer and host Outrage chopped it up with The Root to discuss the importance of Red Bull Dance Your Style and its role in helping to push the art form of dance forward.
“Red Bull Dance Your Style is an open-style competition that features some heavy, respected dancers and their surrounding cities coming together to compete,” he explained. “It’s a chance for dancers to get down in a battle and experience either some crazy music or some non-crazy music and get down.”
He ain’t lying. While the battles remain true to their hip-hop roots, participants can expect to bust out their best moves to anything from Estelle’s “American Boy” to Alien Ant Farm’s nu-metal take on “Smooth Criminal”—which is exactly what happened during the Los Angeles stop of the competition.
“I think what makes Dance Your Style different is the experiences that come with it,” Outrage said. “I think it’s the professionalism and [the opportunity] for dancers to take pictures and do interviews and all those types of things. To be in front of the camera without physically dancing [all of the time], so the surrounding audience and whoever’s watching gets a chance to really see and understand dancers from a different perspective, not just from a battle perspective. So I think that’s something that I really, truly enjoy when it comes to Dance Your Style.”
Part of that experience is a recap show on the Caffeine app that’s co-hosted by Outrage, in which he has the opportunity to interview competitors and dissect the battles themselves with a delicate balance of nuance and affability.
“It kind of feels like a 106 & Park/Total Request Live type of vibe,” he said. “People who are in different countries and who aren’t able to watch the battles live are able to tune in every Tuesday and catch a recap. They can catch us talking about the competitors, what they did leading up to the battle or after the battle, what their mindset was. [...] It just gives people a chance to really dig more deeply into the mindset of the dancers, rather than just seeing them battle.”
In being a part of the dance community, Outrage is also acutely aware that its demographic has only become increasingly more diverse as the art form becomes more and more popular. And while he does acknowledge that evolution is inevitable, he makes it abundantly clear that this culture is founded on Black and Brown creativity and should be respected as such.
“Some people fail to realize, or have a hard time understanding, that most of dance is from Black culture,” he said. “We have a lot of people out here who are doing these styles and don’t understand that. [There are also] a lot of companies that don’t want to [acknowledge] that’s really what it is and there’s no way around it. [...] [On our recap show] we do a little quick history lesson and tell our audience where these styles come from, depending on what city they’re [performing in], if a city has a [signature] style.”
He also addressed the importance of having Black and Brown participation at each of these events.
“It’s important, man,” Outrage said. “In the battle world, having Black and Brown [people] who are able to be at the forefront, it’s beautiful, man.”
And as someone who’s been putting on for the dance community since 2006, he’s also grateful that Red Bull has helped to push the art form of dance forward.
“I think they’ve helped,” he began. “By bringing people together and [giving them a bigger platform] to be seen. Of course, there are still things we can work on. But I think being able to give this platform to dancers and letting them feel like they’re more than just a machine at work all day. Make them feel like somebody. That’s really, really important. And I think that’s something that the culture really needed.”
The national finals for Red Bull’s Dance Your Style begin this Friday at 7:30 pm ET in Washington D.C. For tickets and information, hit up Red Bull’s website.