We had the pleasure of being invited to the Red Bull Dance UK finals of #RedBullDanceYourStyle, an all-styles, one to one dance competition where dancers battle to a random selection of songs cutting across all genres from Afro-swing to Funk. Each track is played at random and whilst some dancers are lucky enough to get songs they know and love, other dancers are completely forced out of their comfort zone having to adapt their movement styles.
Over the last few months battles have been taking place across the country with finals featuring the following amazing finalists: Michele Zan, Robia Miller, Quake, Mash, J Gadget, Myss Tru, Jevan, and Elise; and an additional selection of ‘Wild Card’ dancers including: Unkle TC, Duran Deedee, Jordan J Funk, Silk Boogie, Motherfunk, Turbo, Kofi Mingo, and Chantelle Dawe. If you take the time to look through any of the battler’s profiles you’ll understand why this battle was extreeeemmeeelllyyy spicy to behold. Over a series of nine rounds each of the dancers battled it out to a vast selection of tunes cued by DJs Steph Be and Chantz Dee. We heard everything from Amy Winehouse to Rema – shout all my sing-a-long crew, the vibes were truly high!
Whilst watching the battles I began to take note of the key elements that I thought gave certain dancers an edge over their components. The first one being, musicality, which is the ability of a dancer to hear, interpret and translate music through movement. It’s about connection, and how well you can embody every part of the music, from the instrumentals to the lyrics, and being able to move through the sounds, catching onto the various cadences and dynamics.
Secondly, we have SAUCE, an almost indescribable element of movement that has no defining factor, other than a palpable, oozing sense of confidence and commitment to your individuality. Sauce is found in how seamlessly you flow, the intensity of your eyes, and your willingness to really surrender every part of your body to the sounds. Some of the sauciest dancers don’t need to do any wild tricks or flicks to make your really feel their dance.
A right-hand partner to ‘sauce’ is character! Almost impossible to ignore, Character is expressed in a dancer’s willingness to tell a story on stage. Loosely interchangeable with ‘sauce’, ‘character’ is able to add an extra 20% of performance finesse which can, in most cases, push a dancer over the winner’s mark. It’s a dancer’s willingness to have fun and play with their performance despite the assumed pressure of battling in front of large crowds. There are few characters who are able to truly add drama to their dance performance, but when they do, it makes the world of difference.
Finally, we can’t ignore the factor of range. A dance artist with the ability to command a range of styles, techniques and combos is usually always at an advantage. However, range isn’t only about the dance moves themselves, but also about how you extend and explore every part of your body, from your eyes to toes. Do you explore heights as well as lows? A dancer with range truly defines what it means to move without any bounds.
The whole event was a real joy to behold and reminded me so much of what I love about the dance industry. Dancers are a unique breed of beings, recognizable by an overflowing love of music expressed through movement and rich emotion.
We had the opportunity to catch up with the #RedBullDanceYourStyle winner, Jordan J Funk and talk about his own personal dance journey.
How did your dance journey begin and what draws you to dance as an art form?
“My dance journey began towards the end of primary school, I was mainly playing football, but otherwise not doing much else with my time. My brother was a dancer and the studio was right next to my house. One day he came home and said “Yo, get up, you’re following me studio” and from that day, it was game over – there was no turning back. I started going every week and then later ended up in Boy Blue by about the age of 11 or 12 – I’m 25 now.”
What is it that draws you to dance?
“There are many things. Firstly, the feeling – something that’s very difficult to find anywhere else or replicate. Secondly, the people. My closest friends have come through dance, and so I can’t imagine what life would be like without them. They challenge and inspire me every day, even including the youngers that I teach – they challenge me and make me want to be better. Dance is a language in itself that brings genuine connection between people. I’ve been to so many countries where we don’t even speak the same language, but when we start teaching the dance, they understand what I’m saying. ”
In your opinion, what makes a “good dancer”
“It’s so subjective and people have different opinions on what it means to become a good dancer. I think it’s about understanding your body, how you function and how you move. Our bodies are our tools, in the way that fine artists have paintbrushes or canvas’ – we just have our bodies. I think understanding that and understanding how you connect with your feeling too is important. You can watch an amazing dancer and agree that they’re aesthetically pleasing, but do they make you feel? I think that’s the difference for me. You can teach people technicality and how to make nice shapes, but to teach feeling? That’s hard to do – you have to find that for yourself.”
Speaking of technical ability, you’re such a diverse dancer and have a lot of styles under belt – which styles would you say you resonate with most?
“Lol, there’s a few, and I think nowadays I try to draw various elements from each of the styles into my dance expression. That being said there are four main styles that I’d say are like my pillars. Firstly, Hip Hop, then House, Krump and finally Afro. Hip hop is where it started for me, so there’s an element of nostalgia – it feels natural to me, like home. Then with House, first of all I had an amazing teacher in Turbo, coupled with the undeniable richness of the music. With Krump, it’s about both the feeling and the family element. Similarly, with Afro it’s about the feeling and how organic it is.
What are your goals/dreams as a dancer, teacher and choreographer
I always say, some of the things I’ve experienced I would have never put down as a goal, because I haven’t been programmed to even think they were possible. So yeah, I’ve kind of stopped setting as many goals as I used to and now focus more inwards. My inward focus is currently set on the word ‘legacy’ – what am I leaving behind. I’ve been training a collective now for approximately one year and I look at them as the legacy. When you put that kind of work into yourself and those around you, I think great things just get attracted to you. So yeah, the goal is to build legacy, it’s to help people. All the other additional achievements and opportunities will come, you can’t predict those things – they just come out of nowhere and so I don’t put too much pressure on it. For example, if you asked me about this Red Bull #DanceYourStyle competition six months ago I wouldn’t have even thought it could be a goal of mine.
How did it feel competing against so many legends?
“It took a while for me to grasp the reality and magnitude of what was going on. I knew nearly all of the contestants, many of whom are my peers and so I just thought it’d be fun – which it was. However, as we got further into the competition, people started looking at me like ‘yeah you could actually do this. I’ve had a lot of battles where I got really close but never won and so in my mind, I still wasn’t even really thinking about it. Then when I got to the semi-finals, I realised that with just one last push I could actually do this.
More than anything I just enjoyed it, it was really fun. I’m the type of person who also really feeds off the crowd and so the fact that it was a crowd vote was pure vibes. Also, going back to the other competitors, it was a great opportunity to challenge ourselves. Every exchange felt really heavy to me – no one was easy, which made it more interesting and challenging.”
If you’re an upcoming dancer, make sure you apply for the next season of Red Bull’s ‘Dance Your Style, 2022’. For all upcoming information make sure you visit RedBull.com.