From NYC to Honolulu, “Red Bull Dance Your Style” Shows Street Dancing as an American Art Form
The premiere street dance competition hits every corner of the country to preserve and herald hip-hop and all its pillars.
The premiere one-on-one street dance competition, Red Bull Dance Your Style wrapped the first event of their US summer tour this past weekend in Honolulu, Hawaii. Set against Honolulu’s iconic backdrop, the city’s hometown hero, Jack”Hijack” Rabanal reigned supreme, taking home the title as champion.
“Hawaii is number one!” Rabanal proclaimed upon being crowned. That night, a face was given to the often overshadowed people and practices of culture— the dancers. Considering the original staple elements of hip-hop, breakdancing remains a relic of sorts. As culture spreads and diffuses, New York no longer needs to be the epicenter of its historic creation. When hip-hop transfuses from its place of origin and across the world, tradition often goes on to be preserved, practiced, and heralded where the modernized, more popular iterations either are dismissed or have yet to reach. What remains a constant, though, is the impact.
Rabanal says the cultural influence of hip-hop in Hawaii transcends music and dance. Born and raised in Honolulu, where he still resides, the breakdancer and instructor says these types of events have become a medium through which community is fostered. “Hip-hop culture in Hawaii has such a positive impact inspiring people to express themselves,” he told Okayplayer. “However the community here is still relatively small and in need of more support and resources who believe in the positive change, it can make. We are growing stronger and closer— supporting one another through throwing events like these, educating and involving our youth about hip-hop culture.”
For Rabanal, the most important resource is dance as a means of communication— whether that’s communication as self-expression, or as a means of putting culture and history on display in a way that appeals to the bearers of history and culture: the youth. “Breaking has become more and more involved in our communities,” he says. “Teaching students the importance of individualism, working hard for goals, respecting and uniting with one another, and most importantly, having fun.”
At Dance Your Style, the dance floor was a canvas for the dancers and the DJ alike. From contemporary global hits to old-time classic soul, disco, and throwback hip-hop beats, and from breaking, locking, tutting, krumping, to the Blueface bust down, both old and new sounds and styles were on display. Alongside the familiar and modern, was the traditional— at the start of the competition, Samoan fire dancing made a stirring appearance. A natural fit which Rabanal says underscores the paramount cultural significance of dance in Hawaii, no matter the style.
“The cultural significance of dance here in Hawaii to me, whether it’s street dance or traditional dances, is beyond just movements,” he says. “It becomes a language in which people can understand and communicate, telling stories within these movements. I believe all movements should be equally appreciated whether traditional or street because of the love and hard work being put into it.”
For Las Vegas dancer, Kim “Toshi” Davidson, it feels as if older forms of dance in hip-hop— like breaking and locking— are less valued in this new age of music and dance.
“I feel that some older forms of dance aren’t appreciated like they use to be. We live in a world of viral popularity, so talent isn’t needed to create a lot of the new music. It’s very unfortunate that these foundational styles are being overlooked. It’s up to the vets and OGs to spread our knowledge to the youth and set an example to create a better space for our foundational styles.”
Self-proclaimed movement artist Christti “Sheopatra” Doyle says the role of dance plays a paramount role in the scope of hip-hop culture, but the role has changed significantly over time. “The past three to four years dancing has been placed on the forefront of social media and television,” she says. “I think that dance has always and continues to play a vital role in hip-hop culture. Like many [cultures], hip-hop follows the template of storytelling, song, and dance. They’re like a ‘trinity’ effect; you need them all! Over time, in my opinion, the past three to four years dancing has been placed on the forefront of social media and television.”
“Social media has become a staple for dance,” Davidson says. “Artists and record labels reach out to dancers to create challenges for promotion. Dance isn’t as underground as it use to be. It’s right in front of everyone’s face every day. Dance is at a very high point— maybe the highest it’s ever been. The value of dance has gone up extremely. Now, artists create music for dancers to make it viral. A lot of hip-hop music wouldn’t be as popular if dancers didn’t create a trending dance to the music.”
Having worked with Kanye West as a part of his Sunday Service sessions, Doyle says the relationship between current hip-hop artists and dance varies. Some value dance as an integral part of their art. Others don’t.
“Not in response to my Kanye gig specifically, but in my experience in general, I think that hip-hop artists current relationship with dance is complicated,” she says. “I believe we love and support each other to a limit. Movement artists can sometimes only be seen as an attachment to the artist and their personal goals. We can be used as an assistant to the art instead of being treated as art and artists ourselves.
Dance is without a doubt an integral part of any artist’s career and their ability to give a show. I do believe that most artists (musicians) understand this. I will say, however, that the future has never been brighter than it is right now for dance and the artists that continue to push the craft forward. With more opportunities and light being shined on the hard work the community has done and is doing… this is creating the opportunity to knock down barriers between movement artists, musical artists, and everyday people.”
For Rabanal, winning Red Bull Dance Your Style 2019 felt less like a prize and more like a fulfillment of his purpose.“Winning was just a small piece of the pie,” he says. “The real win was being given the opportunity to build and connect with old and new friends who love and appreciate the dance and music as much as I do in such a beautiful place such as Hawaii. I thank the organizers and team who helped make an amazing crowd involved event like this happen for the community.”
The next event in the Red Bull Dance Your Style US tour goes down July 20th in Washington D.C., when a national qualifier will be held at the Howard Theatre in the nation’s capital. The best dancers will have a chance to compete in the USA National Final in Vegas, and ultimately advance to compete at the final in Paris, France in October. Until then, keep up with Dance Your Style events here and relive all the action from Red Bull Dance Your Style Honolulu below.