These LGBTQ+ Dancers Slayed the Red Bull Dance Your Style Competition
Meet the LGBTQ+ Dancers of Red Bull Dance Your Style Oakland
On Friday May 6, the Bay Area’s top street dancers arrived at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in Oakland, California, ready to take on the premiere dance competition, Red Bull Dance Your Style. With palpable energy filling the arena, competitors left their nerves behind them and stepped out onto the dance floor.
Each unveiled their unique style– from hip-hop to house, waacking, popping, krumping, and so many more– in one-on-one battles, hoping to wow the crowd enough to make it to the next round. Following 16 exhilarating dance-offs, popping expert SonLam was crowned the regional champion. But he wasn’t the only one that made a name for themself.
PRIDE sat down with some of the queer performers that shut down downtown Oakland with their extraordinary moves.
Photos: Red Bull Media House
A Vietnam native, Ah Moonz joined the waacking scene in 2010 after watching a performance of the street dance for the first time.
A middle schooler at the time, they quickly became enthralled with it, rushing home to “YouTube” exactly what waacking was and how to dance it.
Slowly but surely, Ah Moonz had “learned everything from the internet,” waacking regularly for fun and using it as “my own meditation.”
“When you waack, you’re becoming your own superhero,” they tell PRIDE. “Waacking is very empowering for me.”
Initially created within the LGBTQ+ clubs of Los Angeles in the 1970s, waacking was a form of empowerment before empowerment was mainstream. “It wasn’t okay to be gay in that era, but waacking was an escape. When gay people would waack, they were kind of like coming out of the closet.”
The nonbinary dancer holds that truth close to themself, understanding that “without the history, there’s no future.”
Exuding nothing but confidence on the dance floor, Ah Moonz says they’re just “trying to show off my inner self” and hopes others feel permission to do the same. “I hope that other members of the lgbtq+ community can get inspired by the way I move. And hopefully, in the future, there will be more queer people coming out and doing the dance and repping the culture.”
Born in the Philippines, Hybrd first caught a glimpse of dance culture after moving to the US at 10 years old.
“Moving out here was just like a culture shock– a lot of styles, a lot of diversity,” she tells PRIDE. “I became like a sponge to just soak up all that culture.”
Through watching her cousins and relatives dance, she soon followed suit, first delving into popping, and eventually, pursuing krump.
“To me, it’s all self expression; it’s therapy; it’s release. I hold a lot in, and it allows me to release,” she shares, calling it a “journey, for sure.”
The “journey” goes beyond the politics of dance, Hybrd says, staying true to its essence. “It’s just about releasing and connecting with other people. It’s deeper than competition.”
Finding her own place in the krump community, Hybrd felt compelled to help others do the same. Thus, she started The Get Off, an organization she founded with Trnxty, to “help build up the youth” through dance.
“We started off with street sessions first, so that people in our scene would have somewhere to be, [a place] where they could just let it out.” Hybrd hopes to encourage others to live in a way that’s true to themselves. “Be yourself. Don’t worry about what they think. Just do you.”
“I always tell people– I feel like krump found me.”
After meeting a group of krumpers by chance at the beach, Trnxty was instantly drawn to the street dance. Born in the early 2000s, krump marries a variety of harsh movements, showcasing aggression in forms like stomps and arms swings.
With such raw emotion and physical intensity, it seems almost obvious to the viewer that the performance isn’t just for show, and Trnxty confirms that almost instantly.
“Krump is essence,” she tells PRIDE. “It’s such a strong feeling, and it’s something that’s from deep within. It can’t be faked.”
Seven years deep into the world of movement, for Trnxty, the impact of dance goes beyond the physical. “Krump helps you get intune with who you are and with your body,” she says. “It sharpens up all aspects of who you are as a person.”
With a style that’s so blatantly rooted in authenticity, the mantra seems to be manifesting for dancers off the dance floor, too. “There are so many beautiful ladies and men who are finally starting to come out now,” Trnxty says, acknowledging that the community wasn’t always so accepting of queer members. “Recently, I feel like a lot of guys are like- ‘Hey this is who I am,’ and it’s really nice to see that no one is judging. We’re seeing how open people are now versus back in the day.”
At just 8 years old, Jin became a dancer. It was a byproduct of “family dinners” that would result in dance battles outside. There was no music, Jin says. Just dancing.
“There’s so little control I have over the external,” the nonbinary street dancer shares. “I think the world of battling is a really great arena to practice deepening within myself.”
For Jin, that “practice” includes setting an “intention” prior to taking the stage– One of their favorites being, “Let me be as myself as I possibly can.”
“I’m going to go out there for me,” they say, of their drive to perform. “I’m going to go dance out there for the sake of honesty and for the sake of being here,” noting that simply being “here” is a luxury.
“For my ancestors, there were a lot of times when they were not able to show up for their dreams or to even dream at all. I really do it for those moments of recognizing that it is a privilege to be an artist in this lifetime.”
Though well-versed in Chinese folk, contemporary, vogue, hip-hop, and experimental freestyle, the dancer’s philosophy transcends styles.
It’s all about “coming from a place of love, showing up wherever I’m at, even if it’s not the greatest feeling ever. It’s about being honest. And that’s also what queerness is, too.”
A survivor of sexual trauma, something “a lot of queer people and trans folks endure,” Jin finds healing in dance, releasing that pain and regaining autonomy over not only their body, but themselves.
“[Dance] is honoring the multiplicity of my experience. We’re so colorful and so full of life. It’s about honoring all of those selves.”