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It’s no secret that Colorado is a hub for world-class athletes—and this weekend, some of the region’s finest will have a new opportunity to prove their talent on the world stage.
Red Bull, the energy drink brand responsible for marketing itself through extreme sports (we’re looking at you, cliff diving world series), is bringing its international dance competition to the Mile High City for the first time on Saturday, April 22. The Red Bull Dance Your Style event series is a monthslong, bracket-style tournament with more than 160 competitions in 46 countries, where the best dancers from around the globe face off in all-styles dance battles across genres like hip-hop, house, and waack.
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This year, Denver is one of eight cities across the U.S. hosting a regional qualifier event to decide which 16 dancers will move on to the National Finals in Chicago on May 20. There, competitors will battle it out to determine who gets to represent the West at this year’s World Final on November 4 in Frankfurt, Germany.
Competing for one such spot is Mahayla Rose of Boulder, one of two winners at last week’s preliminary auditions. There, Rose competed alongside roughly 70 other dancers at Collabratory Complex, an arts center and event space that opened in Overland last spring. She rose to the top in a one-to-one battle format, where each dancer is given a minute to freestyle a dance routine. Rose joins Hemi Haraki of Salt Lake City, the other winner, and Denverite Lisa Engelken, a professional dancer who was automatically invited to the National Finals as a wildcard.
“There hasn’t been a melting pot for creatives or adult dancers in Colorado for a really long time,” says Jasmine Lairsmith, a judge at the preliminary audition last week and co-owner of Collabratory Complex. “It’s been cool working with Red Bull on this to see the dance scene really be revived.”
Rose agrees. The now-professional dancer and DJ grew up in Boulder, where she started dancing at the age of 10. “When I first started dancing, there were only a few main styles of street dance, mainly breaking and popping,” she says. “I’ve slowly started to learn house, locking, and have most recently studied krump. It’s become a lot more than it once was.”
For Rose and the dance community, the Red Bull competition—and the bragging rights that come with it—is a pretty big deal. When COVID-19 hit, Rose says the dance scene in the state grinded to a halt, and last week’s audition was the first time she was able to compete in-state in three years. “You could just feel the energy and positivity in the room,” she says.
Harnessing that energy will be important in the regionals because at Red Bull’s competitions, it’s up to the crowd to determine who takes the crown. But, for the most part, Rose is unable to prepare: In freestyle dance battles, dancers don’t know what music they’ll be dancing to until the DJ begins to play, when they’re expected to improv. Rose is practicing by dancing all week with her friends and resting when possible.
“People always ask me, ‘Do you still get nervous?’ Absolutely I still get nervous,” Rose says. “But I’m definitely just going to try and be present and have as much fun as I can.”
If you go: The Red Bull Dance Your Style Regional Qualifier takes place on April 22 at 5 p.m. at Summit Music Hall. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased here.