Red Bull dance your style

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The dance world is bouncing back from an unwanted global hiatus. In the aftermath of unexpected hibernation, many dancers and their teams seek to build and strengthen community while advancing the art form. Not necessarily to make up for lost time, but making sure to use and savor the present. One of these crews is The castle formerly known as Kangz Kastle – a rising outfit from Chicago who want to function not only as a skilled dance team, but also as a foundation for their community by serving people where they are.

Nero the Professor

© Tori Howard

To understand the history of The Kastle and its vision, first get to know its founder, D’andre Dixon, known in the field as Nero the Professor. The name is a tribute to two different points in his career: Nero for a root Greek word for “water” after a friend told him he moved like water, and The Professor for a nickname for him at from a comment on a video on social networks. . After his name, the first thing to know about the self-taught abstract hip hop dancer is that he loves his city. Moments after speaking with him and asking about a good place in Chicago, he immediately speaks poetically of Harold’s Chicken Shack – a staple on the south side of Chicago – and gives what he claims is the perfect order: a six pieces or a wing of catfish, sweet sauce as an accompaniment, drizzle with a Mistic strawberry kiwi or strawberry grape. “Fire,” he said. “I love hood food and this is the only way to eat good chicken in town.” But rest assured, Nero’s taste for quality goes beyond takeout and goes deep into its craft.

Unlike some people who work in the realm of expression, Nero’s journey into dance seems quite simple. He had the right combination of factors: parents who nurtured his curiosity, exposure to street dancing in the media, natural talent, unwavering faith, and friends who reflected his tastes. Nero started dancing as a young child, in the second year, with a friend. He met another dancer in college – they’re still good friends to this day – then in 2013, “I started thinking ‘Okay, I’m going to dance for real now. I know that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. I think I was a junior in high school,” he says. It’s not often that a 16-year-old’s personal credo sticks, but time showed that dancing was the right choice for him.

Nero the Professor

© Tori Howard

Make dance a reality and make The Kastle

Now, at 25, Nero is still living the vision of his younger self. He dances, he strives to improve himself, and he is still very much in love with dancing. This certainty helps engender a confidence that has served him well throughout the development of his career. “It’s funny,” he says, “I don’t really trust anything except my dancing and who I am as a person. [It is a part of] my integrity and the intent of why I do the things I do.

With that confidence comes a clear and strong work ethic. Nero is, above all, disciplined. A few years ago he did a “365 Challenge” and danced every day for a year and recorded it. This act was reminiscent of an über famous fellow Chicagoan who did “three beats a day for five summers”. According to Nero, “I was dancing every day and documenting that. I was working on 30 different things – things I knew but wanted to practice. It started to elevate my dancing and elevate my control and the way I approached the music. While it helped hone his craft, learning to give himself direction was a skill that lends itself well to beginning to lead others. It also ushered in a degree of confidence in his body and his instincts that also applies to The Kastle.

So what is the castle? It started out as a low-key session among friends, with Nero bringing in a few select dancers from other Midwestern towns. It grew naturally and soon these sessions were happening every two months, with people always asking for the next one. “Eventually, I thought we were able to start a battle and make some changes to the scene,” Nero says, “because every dancer that’s in The Kastle is awesome. Not a weak link. So we held our first real event in August 2021,” and it has only grown since then. Today, The Kastle team numbers around 20 people, four of whom work hard to plan events and the others dance and help bring ideas to fruition. But, as the team and scope grew, so did the responsibility. This is where this crew stands out from many others. It’s a team with a mission much bigger than the dance.

The Kastle is set up as a non-profit organization. Why? “I wanted to find a way to give back to the city, to young people, to our friends in the community and to our peers,” he says, “allowing people to be in a space where they feel at home. easy. We make sure to protect each other and the young people.

The non-profit structure is key to helping Nero and the team stay true to this vision. These organizations are truly accountable to their mission and what they seek to accomplish, they make a promise to their community. For Nero, this helps The Kastle stay true to its people. “I want to make sure the agenda stays the same no matter who is on it. The Kastle is for the community, by the community,” he says emphatically. “I want those we interact with to feel safe. Some environments make people feel like they don’t have a sense of freedom. I want to make sure that we are able to exploit this freedom at all times.

There are all kinds of dance styles represented at The Kastle. Krump, hip hop, popping and locking, animation, Chicago footwork and juke. You name it, it’s there – with a hip hop base. This diversity of skills helps all the dancers on the team. This makes The Kastle the place where all members can distill all the different styles they have observed and assimilated, and it is a workshop for people to forge their own style while being exposed to others. “It’s a lot, but it’s so dope,” says Nero. “In competitive settings, you go into your battles with an agenda. You know what you want to use in your time, but it’s usually something that’s perfected. At The Kastle, we naturally give ourselves tasks to accomplish. »

Nero the Professor

© Tori Howard

As The Kastle builds its position in the city, Nero and the other dancers look forward to using the space and each other to keep improving. He mentions the hip hop artists of Chi-town – Ye, Chance the Rapper, Common – who inspire him and talk about a deep and intentional artistry that he and the other members want to emulate. Nero specifically wants to push the boundaries of his dancing. He plans to do this with other dancers on bigger stages, more countries, more challenges. Eager for new opportunities to show what he is capable of and to bring part of The Kastle family with him, it is obvious that Nero’s idea of ​​fun lies in self-improvement.

Maybe that’s why Red Bull dance your style means something special to him. “These events, I love that they literally give people the opportunity to dance their style,” he laughs. “It sounds like a clichéd answer, but they bring together this mix of people with different, rarer styles. A lot of people don’t see these styles or maybe they’re not really into dancing like that. I love that they put us all in one space and let us show off what we do every day.

This sense of individuality and willingness to take on a challenge is the fuel that makes Nero and The Kastle shine. Nero is excited that he hasn’t yet reached a ceiling or a plateau in his dancing career, and that he and his team don’t feel complacent. They think about what their legacy might be, the lasting impression of a unique ensemble of fascinatingly talented dancers from a legendary American city. “I want my faction and my friends to be a stamp in time,” Nero says. “That’s why I push them to be bigger. Everything we do is identified, thought out, executed and planned in the right way. I know that with The Kastle and what we do, we only move forward with integrity and intention. Keep it pure at all times.

The 2022 Red Bull Dance Your Style USA National Finals will take place May 21-22 in New Orleans, LA. Get your tickets here!

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