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Dance Your Style returns to Chicago in May

Red Bull has revealed that the national final for its third annual Dance Your Style competition will take place in Chicago on May 20, with related programming in the days leading up to the event. The announcement took place at an invitation-only launch party for the 2023 season on February 22 at Smartbar, less than two months after the 2022 finals in South Africa.

For the past two years, Red Bull Dance Your Style has brought street dancers from a wide range of styles together in an international competition. Events start with regional auditions evaluated by guest judges and then advance to qualifiers decided by the audience. Qualifier victors come together for a national final, the winner of which advances to an international final. Red Bull has previously held qualifiers for the competition in Chicago, but this will be its first time hosting a national final.

Red Bull Dance Your Style
Chicago finals Sun 5/20 7:30 PM (doors 6 PM),  the Salt Shed, 1357 N. Elston, saltshedchicago.com, $10

Dance Your Style plays a unique role in a city whose dance styles are generally balkanized. The launch party brought guests from all over Chicago and beyond. They formed dance circles on a hardwood floor decorated with Red Bull logos, showcasing a wide range of styles to the backdrop of music DJed by Chicago greats Derrick Carter and RP Boo.

Diamond Hardiman, a footworker who competed in Dance Your Style last year, was one of those guests.

“It was so breathtaking seeing other people do all styles,” Hardiman says of her first encounter with the competition. “It felt really wonderful that there were so many different styles in Chicago so close together.”

Red Bull has built close relationships with prominent figures in Chicago’s street dance community to make sure that Dance Your Style represents as many local scenes as possible. The divides they face are about geography as well as aesthetic preferences.

“A lot of people who do Chicago footwork [live] in ‘the toughest neighborhood,’ people proclaim,” says Hardiman. “I would like for them to feel safe and know that Chicago footwork is not based on violence, and wherever you go, you will be safe.”

Hardiman thinks Dance Your Style helps create that sense of safety by bringing dancers from different styles into a shared space, where they can network and connect with each other.

Dancer TJ Dale-Dawson (aka Murky) at Red Bull Dance Your Style launch party Credit: Dora Segall

This year’s Dance Your Style final will take place at the Salt Shed. The group that oversees the space, 16 on Center, has a long-standing relationship with Red Bull and hosted the Chicago qualifiers for Dance Your Style at Thalia Hall last year.

“I think [the Salt Shed] has a great opportunity to create an in-the-round experience with the audience circling it both on the floor, in the balcony, and at the back in the grandstand seats,” says Brent Heyl, one of 16 on Center’s directors of music. “I think it’ll create the same kind of vibe you’d have with a circle on a dance floor.”

Demetrious D’andre Dixon, known in the Chicago dance scene as “Nero The Professor,” will DJ the national final. Dixon coruns multistate dance project the Kastle, which is hosting an ongoing audition for the Denver qualifiers. He emphasizes the importance of creating a welcoming environment for Dance Your Style participants. 

“My role is to make people feel comfortable in their dance and own skin,” he says.

At the final, Dixon plans to play music that he and his friends hear in their everyday lives.

“I don’t think Redbull is really ready for the type of energy that I’m bringing,” Dixon says. “I want people to go there and lose their mind. Yeah, we’re there for, you know, the competition, but it’s a party too.”

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