With the expansion of dance styles from city to city, women are taking their talents and finding creative ways to move their bodies. One way is through street dance.

A Brief History of Street Dance

Street dance is a form of urban movement that originated in streets, clubs, and community centers. It’s often tied to hip-hop culture. Street dance is rooted in Black and Latino communities in America and was popular in New York City during the 1970s. Many street dancers at the time didn’t have access to traditional dance training or facilities. As an alternative, they would dance in public spaces to genres like funk, R&B, and hip-hop.

Over the years it has evolved to include several styles of dance from all over the world. Some styles of street dance are breaking, popping and locking, krumping, and house. Although this style started off as something underground, it has risen in popularity. It is now highlighted in music videos, commercials, and movie franchises like “Step Up.” Street dance has also turned into a competitive dance form, with several international competitions held throughout the year.

Many look forward to The Red Bull Dance Your Style every year.

Red Bull Dance Your Style

Daniel Zuliani | Red Bull Content Pool

The Dance Your Style is a mixed-style dance battle where the crowd decides the winner. Just kicking off its fourth year, the traveling competition has started its national qualifiers in cities all around the country including Memphis, Detroit, and Baltimore. Its most recent qualifier was held event in Tampa.

The Tampa qualifier spotlighted the area’s diverse community and top dancers from Central Florida. Competitors showed up and showed out freestyling to surprise musical selections. The winner of the qualifier will go on to the Chicago National Final in May.

Central Florida’s street dance culture is full of colorful individuals. Its culture has become a large part of Central Florida’s artistic landscape. It brings together a diverse community of dancers who share a passion for creativity, self-expression, and rhythm. 21Ninety got a chance to catch up with Black women dancers Marlee Hightower, Shirlz, and YungBBQ on how dance is their own form of self care.

Dance As Expression For Black Women

Many black women use dance as a means of expression and resistance. Dance is more than just a physical activity for Black women. It is a powerful and liberating art form. Through dance, Black women are able to reclaim their bodies and create new narratives that celebrate their beauty, resilience, and creativity. For Hightower, dance allows her to be her true self.

“[Dance is] the way that I express myself in every aspect of life, whether that be where I’m at emotionally, whether that be where I want to go as an artist or what I want to communicate or convey as an artist,” Hightower said. “I feel like there is a lot of stigma around Black women expressing themselves, Black women being bold, being loud, taking up space. So dance is such a liberating way of taking up space and of saying exactly what I feel.”

For Shirlz, dance was something unorthodox for her family’s military background, but she still found it to be a form of healing.

“When I found dance in 2009 it was almost like a break away from the normal, from the stigmatism that I need to be in the military as well. It’s another way to express myself and I feel like it really helps my confidence and feeling empowered to do something that’s out of the ordinary,” Shirlz said.

Aligning Self Care With Dancing

Shirlz’s is a krump dancer and although it is a dance that many find to be aggressive and confrontational, she sees it as a way for her to lock in spiritually.

“It is a spiritual dance. It originated from the churches, it originated from being this spirit movement. So I personally stay true to that and then when I met my fiancé, she really helped me with the meditating and zening out,” Shirlz recalls. “In krump we have spirit realms, so when you’re truly tapped into something like that, you’re ministering to yourself, as well as people who may be watching you.”

YungBBQ, also known as Alexis Feacher says dance is a love of hers but because of her social media presence being connected to dance, sometimes she needs to take time away from it in order to recharge and give 100% of herself.

“I’m still trying to understand certain aspects and different meanings of what is self care and trying to focus on my mental,” she explained.

Using Art To Free Yourself

There is power in creative expression. One thing clear throughout the Tampa qualifier, was dance is one of the few ways performers feel comfortable in their skin. It is how they communicate their feelings. Hightower says she checks in with herself through the art.

“I could be going through different things in my life and if there is a song I’m dancing to or something that I need to get across or get off my chest, I will visit it within dance. I will free myself of those feelings through dance,” she explained. “Dance is how I make space for my feelings.”