Kid Nimbus with the trophy from the Chicago qualifiers for the Red Bull Dance Your Style street dance competition. Credit: Courtesy Red Bull Dance Your Style

Dance moves such as the percolator, the footwork, and even the 40s originated in Chicago and have had a huge impact on the street dance scene in America for decades. Even though Chicago’s presence has been felt over many years, our street dance culture can feel overlooked. The scene in places such as New York have their styles plastered throughout pop culture for everyone to see, but Chicago’s underground dance is a culture that is rarely acknowledged.

Red Bull Dance Your Style, a global all-styles street dance event series, hosted their Chicago qualifier on Friday, September 24. Taking place at the historic Thalia Hall in the Pilsen neighborhood, the competition celebrated the city’s local dance scene with contestants competing for a chance at the national finals in Washington, D.C.  

The competition featured 16 dancers from places such as Chicago, Detroit, New York, and more. Even with the presence of other cities, the Chicagoland area dominated the night—the four competitors advancing to D.C. are all from Chicago or surrounding suburbs.

“They wanted to make sure that Chicago styles were represented, you know, so they had a lot of Chicago footwork,” says dancer Derrick Judkins, who goes by the stage name of Kid Nimbus. Nimbus took home the trophy from the Chicago qualifier, using his quick thinking and charismatic moves to win over the crowd.

Coming from a military background, Nimbus has a history of moving back and forth as a kid. “We went from Ohio to Germany, from Germany to Chicago, Chicago to the suburbs, and we kind of just kicked up in the suburbs up until I graduated high school.” 

Before winning the World of Dance All Styles Chicago competition in 2018, Nimbus had only been dancing professionally for two years, something that made him rethink his path. “I was like, wow, maybe it’s time for me to take a step back, maybe I’m better than I think I am. Let me make sure to feed my talent, feed my aspirations, because who knows where it’s gonna take me?” Nimbus says. 

Nimbus is a member of a dance collaborative started by fellow dancer D’andre Dixon, who also competed during the Chicago qualifier. Dixon, who goes by the stage name of D’Andre Nero, created Kangz Kastle, a dance initiative that features more than a dozen members and hosts dance battles across the city. 

“Nimbus, he’s like the Golden Child of Chicago and everybody tried to deny him so much,” says Nero, who will also be competing in the national finals in D.C. “We brought him through and you know the rest is history. We got really close and Nimbus has always been phenomenal. I honestly was doubting his growth at first, [but] he’s definitely that guy.”

D’Andre Nero. Courtesy Red Bull Dance Your Style

Nero has been dancing since the age of five. As a self-taught dancer Nero has made his way through the dance scene rubbing shoulders with tastemakers, eventually becoming part of the group The Future Kingz, or TFK. As a part of the group, Nero has worked with artists such as Da Baby, Chance The Rapper, and Jeremih. Nero recently left TFK focusing on different goals in the world of battle dance. 

Nimbus and Nero went head-to-head at one point during the Chicago qualifier. Though things looked very competitive and serious between the two, Nero was sure to stand behind his friend as he moved on to the final battle of the night.

“It’s a win for the culture. Regardless, it’s a win for Chicago and it’s a win for Kangz Kastle,” says Nero of Nimbus’s victory. 

Runner-up Lam Sedechu, who made it to Chicago by way of Vietnam, says that he is excited to be going to D.C. with the other Chicago contestants. After being a competitor in an international competition in Sacramento, Sedechu was invited here by a Chicago dance company in 2015. 

With 15 years of dance experience, Sedechu says that his style is curated from studying styles from various cities and combining them all into his signature hip-hop freestyle technique.

“Different cities have different music and the way people socialize with dancing is just different, you know, so I pretty much had to learn it’s not just only one style. For example, [there’s] the C-walk in LA, lite feet in New York, Baltimore club, or even like in Chicago, we have juking,” explains Sedechu.

The audience selected the winner at Thalia Hall, and between Sedechu and Nimbus it was nearly a split vote. Nimbus was ultimately victorious, but the two are happy to be traveling to D.C. together as part of the national finals. 

Lam Sedechu Courtesy: Red Bull Dance Your Style

Sedechu is the founder of the dance initiative entitled Rhythm Kidz, founded to establish a hip-hop freestyle community in the city of Chicago.

“When I came to Chicago, there was no hip-hop freestyle that was based out of the Chicago scene. I got to fly out a couple of friends. They’re from different parts of the country, different parts of the world, we just got together trying to build that community here,” says Sedechu.

Of the four finalists, Diamond Hardiman is the only woman who will be advancing. Hardiman battled against Sedechu for the spot of going against Nimbus in the final round. Hailing from the city’s Austin neighborhood, Hardiman gives all the praise to the west side for making her the dancer she is today.

“I started dancing out west and then when I got a little older, I went to the south side to start dancing, but I always pay homage to the people who taught me first from out west,” says Hardiman.

Hardiman says she began dancing with a group on the west side at just ten years old, experiencing her first street battle at 13. Hardiman is a member of Delta Phi Delta, a Chicago-based dance fraternity that accepts both male and female members. The Red Bull Dance Your Style competition is the first mainstream dance setting that Hardiman says she’s been a part of; she has more experience in battling in street competitions such as Da War Zone for Wala Cam TV

Diamond Hardiman Courtesy Red Bull Dance Your Style

Hardiman was a crowd favorite during the Chicago qualifier, winning attendees over with her facial expressions and her moves that pay homage to the Chicago scene such as foot working and hip rolling. 

When asked about how she found out about the Red Bull competition, Hardiman says that she doesn’t exactly remember, but thinks that someone inboxed her with the opportunity. When she signed up she thought that she was going to be in a commercial. “I’m thinking OK, we’re gonna do a commercial, but then when I found out that it was a competition, it was just like, ‛It’s no turning back now.’”

The Red Bull Dance Your Style National Finals will take place in Washington, D.C. on October 22 and 23. The final round takes place at 6:30 PM CDT on October 23, and will be streamed via Caffeine. The winner of the national finals will move on to the world finals in South Africa.