Photo: Red Bull Dance

Fancy Footwork & Fundraising: Local Jookers Rally for Red Bull “Dance Your Style” Competition to Raise Hurricane Relief Funds

We’ve got the perfect opportunity to pop, lock, crump, and jook your way into the weekend right here in the 901.

The Red Bull Dance Your Style competition is making its debut at Railgarten this Sunday, October 10 from 4:30PM-8:30PM. With a dance legacy as rich as ours, this is one Memphis event you don’t want to miss (especially considering that tickets are only $5, and all proceeds support New Orleans artists impacted by Hurricane Ida). 

There’s nothing quite like a global event making a local appearance. And that’s exactly what’s happening with the Red Bull Dance Your Style national qualifier.

Bringing in top dancers from all across the region, the competition is sure to be both fierce and thrilling.

What else would you expect when there is no panel of judges (excluding the audience, of course!), no pre-selected songs or soundtracks, and—wait for it—no pre-choreographed routines. What, what? Yep, you heard that right—literally every aspect of this competition is improvisational! 

Instead of relying on pre-planned choreography and favorite soundtracks known by heart, street dancers will instead tap into their intuition, feeling the grooves and edges of every beat, syncing their bodies with the curves and syncopations of each song thrown their way. 

That’s part of what makes this competition so unique, and so irresistible: the dancers have to check their inhibitions at the door and truly inhabit each soundwave flowing through the speakers.

Three local competitors that are sure to cause a stir are Jadyn Smooth (a Memphis jooker), Myles Yachts (co-host of the competition), and LaShonté Pop (also a Memphis jooker). 

LaShonté, with whom we had the privilege of speaking earlier this week, is not only an internationally-recognized dancer (having worked with the likes of Justin Timberlake, T-Pain, Taylor Swift, Craig Brewer, Yo Gotti, Three Six Mafia, Chris Brown, and more), she is also a successful recording artist and film-maker. She self-released her debut album, Popish, in 2015. Officially crowned the Memphis “Princess of Pop,” seeing LaShonté dance, jook, and enthrall the crowd this Sunday evening will be—pardon the pun—a royal treat.

As a native Memphian, LaShonté shared that her personal dance style can’t be separated from the Memphis dance scene. 

Take jookin’, for example. Typically a male-only style, at an early age, LaShonté set out to change that.

Photo: Lashonté Pop via @thejookinworld

“Seeing a female doing gangsta walkin’ was like seeing a unicorn,” she said. “It was super uncomfortable, but I started jookin’ because there were no girls in jook.”

Given jook’s more aggressive, masculine style, one of the major challenges she faced was that of joining the jook scene without losing or sacrificing her femininity. But to navigate this dilemma, she didn’t abandon her womanhood or check her femininity at the door; instead, she infused her technical training (ranging from tap to ballet to jazz and African dance) into jookin’, which is much more “street” than it is technical. What emerged was nothing short of hypnotic and has taken the world by storm. 

As courageous and creative as LaShonté has shown herself to be, it’s no surprise that she is known as one of the pioneers of Memphis Jookin’, the style that has spread across the globe and sparked the interest (and imitation) of many outside Memphis city limits. When asked how she feels that this Memphis staple is getting recognized more and more for its artistry, she said: 

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A post shared by Myles Yachts (@mylesyachts)

“It’s amazing to see it grow. We didn’t have that when we were younger. A lot of opportunities we had to work super hard for are now more readily available for the new dancers. All I want is for people to know where it comes from and continue to learn the foundations.” 

As inspiring as she is talented, Memphis’s own “Princess of Pop” is sure to wow the crowds this weekend. 

Cost of Entry: A Really Good Cause! 

If the improv style, local-reppin, and star-studded crew of competitors hasn’t convinced you to join the crowd just yet, surely the cause supported by every ticket sold will do the trick.

Hint: it has to do with New Orleans. 

Like Memphis, New Orleans has its own incomparable cultural history; street dancing being a beloved, mainstage staple. After all—how could dance be anything but central in the birthplace of jazz? 

Unsurprisingly, no small number of the region’s top street dancers hail from NOLA and will be making the trek to Memphis this weekend to compete on Sunday (including New Orleans legend and bounce king, HaSizzle).

Among these New Orleans greats is artist, entrepreneur, and producer Pell, who happens to be a co-host of this weekend’s competition. 

We spoke earlier with Pell’s manager, Nate Cameron, who also serves as the board president of the Music and Cultural Coalition of New Orleans, or MaCCNO, for short. Nate shared with us that MaCCNO came to fruition after a group of musicians, managers, executives, and artist advocates “waited for the cavalry to come before realizing we are the cavalry.” 

The Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MaCCNO) collaborates with, organizes, and empowers the New Orleans music and cultural community to preserve and nurtures the city’s culture, to translate community vision into policy change, and to create positive economic impact.

Specifically, MaCCNO was birthed out of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. Since then, the non-profit has risen to the forefront of artist advocacy. MaCCNO prides itself on being a safe space artists and “cultural bearers” of all types can come for the resources they need to continue making a living off of preserving, creating, and advancing arts and culture in their city.

During the pandemic, they went into artist relief mode, surprising themselves by raising more than $500,000 to help artists and cultural bears keep their lights on, their tanks filled, and their creative juices flowing. Through their Covid relief fund, MaCCNO gained the attention (and trust) of donors and organizations who began directing funds towards their mission, recognizing their love for their city and its cultural bearers—as well as their grassroots, on-the-ground style of artist support and resourcing.  

As the gut-wrenching photos and video footage have made us all aware, New Orleans endured yet another disaster at the end of August, this time named “Ida.” 

And here’s where the Dance Your Style ticket sales come in!

Photo: Red Bull Dance Your Style France

Reactionary in many ways (and in the best of ways), the decision to pivot and begin fundraising for Ida relief wasn’t exactly a new concept for MaCCNO. Though Ida is a tragedy and a setback (to say the least), as of about a week ago, MaCCNO had already fundraised $20,000 worth of Ida relief grants, serving 84 different artists and cultural bearers in New Orleans.

And every ticket sold to this Sunday’s competition will grow that fund, advancing MaCCNO’s mission to resource local artists so that they can continue doing what they love, what they’re best at, and what their city so deeply needs: preserving, creating, and promoting beauty, hope, and community through the arts. If you’d like to donate to their cause, check out their website here.

So don’t wait—get your tickets here, and we’ll see you there!

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