Art & Culture

Meet the emerging street dancers of the American South

We get to know the next gen poppers, waackers, and Memphis jookers.

“You’ve never seen Memphis Jookin’ before?!” one incredulous spectator asks another over the sound of of a rapid-fire electronic beat in a Colonial building on the fringes of New Orleans’ French Quarter. He’s referring to the hybrid dance style that evolved out of Memphis in the nineties. It’s smooth, slide-step style routines make the performer look like liquid.

The spectators were witnessing the Red Bull Dance Your Style New Orleans heat – a one-night dance off that brought together the finest emerging body-poppers, waackers, house dancers and jookers from across the American South. Over the course of the evening, 16 dancers embraced tracks randomly selected by the house DJ, matching the beat with rhythmic contortions and show-stopping acrobatics. After the event, we caught up with eventual winner Spider Alexander and three of his fellow competitors to get their favourite dance tracks, their inspirations and to find out which sneakers are best to throw down in.

SPIDER ALEXANDER

Describe your dance style in three words?

Original, creative and fun. 

Who’s your dance icon?

My dance icon is my mother. If it wasn’t for me being around her all the time as a kid I wouldn’t have learned what dance was about.

Best dance scene from a movie?

The You Got Served final battle scene is my favourite.

Best shoes to dance in?

It depends on the dance style and how strong your feet are. But I would say Adidas or Vlados.

Best city to dance in? 

Memphis, Tennessee – the home of Memphis Jookin’…

 

 

Best track to dance to?

Troyboi – Grimey.

If you had to pick a celebrity dance partner, who would it be?

Either Ian Eastwood or Dassy Lee. 

Best dance memory?

Making it all the way to the So You Think You Can Dance? Season 10 Vegas Finals auditions. It was a great experience and bonding with amazing dancers.

Where can we see you dance? Online and IRL…

Instagram @SpiderAlexander and just on YouTube by typing in Spider Alexander. 

DASSY LEE

How would you describe your dance style in three words?

I’d say Dassy style with popping technic. Sorry that’s longer than three words!

Who’s your dance icon?

Skeeter Rabbit.

Best dance scene from a movie?

The Jumpin Jive dancing scene by the Nicholas Brothers in Stormy Weather. I haven’t even seen the rest of the movie,  but that scene is a historical moment for dancers!

Style and dance often interact, how would you describe your look?

I guess I have my own look that I like to dance with! I like nice, clean style but at the same time the freedom to move well!

Best shoes to dance in?

Puma Suede.

Best city to dance in?

New York!

Best track to dance to?

Ah.. so many! I cant pick one! But definitely funk, hip-hop and house music!

If you had to pick a celebrity dance partner, who would it be?

Will Smith.

Best dance memory?

There are so many but if I have to pick one it would be when I danced with my crew in Korea and cried while I was dancing. I was just so happy and I felt that I was 200% with the music and the moment and with people that I love. it was best feeling I’ve ever had in my life.

Where can we see you dance? Online and IRL…

You can see me dancing on my social media! @dancerdassy. Or at a battle event, theatre shows, TV, Youtube! so many places!

SHEIK WINN

Describe your dance style in three words?

I would describe my dance style as emotional, expressive, and demanding. 

Who’s your dance icon?

My crew mates and boyfriend are definitely my main inspiration. Birds of feather flock together, and my crew Always (Benji Porter and Vanicia Messick) are incredible fiery wonders.. My boyfriend Josh Burchette is also one of the most passionate house dancers I’ve ever learned from. I’m very proud of my close circle. When they dance people will stop to watch.

Best dance scene from a movie?

My favourite dance scene is definitely the talent show scene in Napoleon Dynamite. I don’t really remember all too much about the movie overall but someone showed me that dance scene at the beginning of this year and it INSPIRED ME. I was like wow, how many of us really can just groove without thinking about what dance moves to do next. Like, that is so pure, and I want that energy! Such bravery, so bold. Wow.

Style and dance often interact, how would you describe your look?

My dance name is Sheik so I feel like I have at least a little bit of an obligation to look chic. Since my arms are always moving, all clothes that I buy have to go through the Whacking Test, where I put on the outfit and flail my arms up, down, and in circles. The dressing room attendants always get a free show out of that. It’s definitely a routine test. As far as shoes go, some of my mentors push me to wear heels and some of my mentors push me to where whatever the heck I want. I understand both, and I think all that matters is that I look and feel GOOD. 

Best shoes to dance in?

My weapon of choice are Puma Suedes. Comfort, support, they’re light, they don’t grip too much, and they come in fun colors… what more do you want? Like I said above, I wear heels on my own terms because I look great in them! They make my legs look THICCCCCC. And I feel dangerous! They also ARE dangerous, and that’s so bad ass. 

Best city to dance in?

Fort Lauderdale has an amazing welcoming dance scene out there, you should check it out!

Best track to dance to?

My mood changes too much to choose one song. Right now I have “The Sweetest Taboo” by Sade on repeat. I got it during my prelims of a recent event and I can’t stop listening to it and getting in touch with my sensual movements. So fun!

If you had to pick a celebrity dance partner, who would it be?

As much as I have been traveling lately, I don’t think I can view anyone as a celebrity dancer anymore. I’ve already become friends with a lot of inspirations I’ve had, and now we’re just buddies! What’s cooler than saying your friends ARE your inspiration? 

Best dance memory?

My favourite dance memory is a video I have of me dancing in the forest deep in New Orleans East. I was just feeling it and the sunlight was peeking through the trees and there was a beautiful rhythmic breeze… I was so in the moment with myself and I felt very solidified in my dance identity. Like I felt like a whimsical goddess and I was perfectly in tune with the music. It doesn’t have a lot of views , but it gives me shivers when I watch it because I know I had found myself. Even my mentor took a moment to tell me that what I was doing was Art.

Where can we see you dance? Online/IRL…

Instagram: @Sheikwinn  Follow me! I’m not well known yet, but I just wanna make friends and listen to your art too! 

VALKARY

Best movie dance scene? 

The 1984 movie Breakin’ Turbo has a legendary broom scene! 

How would you describe your style?

If I had to describe it, I would say my style is a mix of Missy Elliott and MJ. 

Best Shoes to Dance In?

Definitely Air Force 1s – very smooth. Also Adidas Gazelle! 

The best city to dance in?

That depends because each city brings a different style! Anywhere in the South for sure! 

And the best track to dance to?

This is very hard but if I had to choose I would say something by Bruno Mars. He always makes the party go crazy! 

Who would be your celebrity dance partner?

It would for sure be Bruno – he feels the funk! 

 

What’s your best dance memory? 

It comes from a High School summer jam in Dallas. K104 was having a dance battle live on stage I was in the audience and I jumped up and down because I knew this was my time to shine I got picked and won the entire battle! I won Mary J Blige tickets and got a chance to stay back stage and meet sooooo many celebrities; Omarion, Ice Cube, Ludacris and so much more it was a true night to remember and my first taste in the big leagues. 

Where can we see you dance? Online and IRL…

Check me out on my instagram @Valkary88. I’m always creating something different,  I’m not your average dancer but I believe dance is the new outlet to really express one’s true self and it needs to be at the forefront of culture!  

13 September 2019