IN CONVERSATION WITH GIL AND PRECIOUS, THE RED BULL ‘DANCE YOUR STYLE’ DANCERS
photography DANIEL SARS
interview REBECCA KAPENGA
Last December, the Red Bull ‘Dance Your Style’ took place in the beautiful capital city of South Africa: Johannesburg. Dancers Gil and Precious both represented The Netherlands in this competition and competed against dancers from all over the world. Numero had the opportunity to join the Red Bull team and capture the incredibly talented dancers. In this interview, we’ll dive into their experiences and insights from the competition, as well as their journeys as dancers and what inspires them to create.
You just competed in the Red Bull ‘Dance Your Style’ dance battles. How was it for you to get invited to attend the Red Bull ‘Dance Your Style’ dance battles?
G: Participating in the Red Bull ‘Dance Your Style’ was a great experience, especially since I was supposed to participate in the 2022 edition. It was also a fantastic experience to exchange with the South African dancers and its dance scene.
P: I obviously feel honored to share my talents with the Netherlands. The invitation came at the right time. I needed some new challenges and inspiration. Red bull gave me a new platform to represent modern African street styles and put them on the map, and to win in the Netherlands was super unexpected.
And how was it for you to travel to South Africa and what feeling did you have going into this battle?
G: Travelling to South Africa felt crazy, especially due to the year’s delay. Honestly, I had almost already written it off, but I’m so grateful to still have visited South Africa. I haven’t visited the African continent too much and had never been there before. Entering this battle, I felt excitement, but I also realized that I had been out of battle mode for over a year, so I needed some time to get back into that space.
P: My trip to South Africa was mind-blowing! A dream coming true. South Africa had been on my travel list for a long time. I have been interested in the African dance and music culture for so long, but actually going there felt unthinkable. To be allowed to explore South Africa and to battle there were two bonuses for me. My participation in the battle felt like something unreal and went by too quickly for my liking.
Can you maybe tell me more about how you started dancing and what was the moment you knew that this was something you wanted to do for the rest of your life?
G: I was always dancing when I was little, but I took my first serious dance class at the age of 15. The first class I took was with Lloyd Marengo, and I immediately knew that this was something that I needed to do.
P: I have actually been dancing since I could walk. In all 25 years, I stopped dancing for 1 year, and it didn’t last longer than this. It made me realize that dance was more than a hobby for me. I danced hip-hop for years, but when I met with modern African street styles for the first time in 2015, I was sold. I found out that this is what I wanted to do all my life and pass it on to the new generations.
What has been your favorite moment in South Africa and why?
G: My favorite moment in South Africa was one of the after-parties and really experiencing the raw energy of Amapiano and Gqon beats in a club setting. Dancing, exchanging, and seeing how alive dance is in South African culture, and that it’s not just for a small group of people.
P: My favorite moment in South Africa is the Build Your Team battle. During this battle, I was able to let go of myself completely, which of course had to do with several factors. The rounds during the finals will stay with me forever. The energy in the room and on the dance floor was indescribable.
While dancing in a battle with everyone from all over the world. How is the overall vibe? Is it very competitive or do you also lift each other up during the contest?
G: The vibe was pretty chill, especially after covid because everybody was happy to see new people and old friends. I’m wired differently, I stay close to myself and often I stay with the few people I resonate with.
P: What I liked to see was how all the dancers came together and supported each other. I didn’t feel any negativity. What I liked and noticed was that as the battle days arrived everyone started to withdraw more and more to themselves and there appeared a positive and tense battle atmosphere.
Gill, I read that you had some difficulties in your life, but you got over it, by expressing your feelings through dance. Is there a specific message you want to convey with your movement?
G: Actually, I got over the difficulties in my life not only by expressing my feelings through dance but also by developing my own somatic movement method, which draws inspiration from Jungian psychology, Dance, and Black spirituality. The message I convey through my movement is to inspire other people to be aware of the power of action. And that it can be a tool for self-development.
What about you Precious?
P: In addition to venting my heart and sharing my stories through my dance, I love to take people into my world. I stand for the power of women and love spontaneity. This expresses itself in my dance, you can describe it as a bomb of energy and nothing is crazy enough. Sometimes I am able to surrender myself 200% to the music and often let my ancestors guide me. I am often told that I give people goosebumps and touch their emotions. The moment I reach this point is the moment I know I’ve done what I needed to do.
Gil, you have your own dance company ‘Amenti Theatre Company’, and Precious you have your own platform ‘World Of Afro’. Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind these projects?
G: Amenti Theatre Company (ATC) creates neo-mythical theatre where old myths and stories are transformed into new material. Those old tales hold enormous power in their archetypical way of expressing themselves and how people can recognize themselves in ancient people. ATC questions the status quo and is bold in searching for ways to address complex topics.
P: World of Afro is a platform/community which I started in 2016. Within this platform, the focus is on the different modern African street styles: Afro House, Azonto, Coupé Décalé, etc. It is a family where connection and equality are priorities. With the platform, we put these dance styles on the map in both the Netherlands and internationally. We do this through various projects such as a dance college, performances, theater shows, etc. The reason I started this was that my mission was to offer people in the Netherlands what I didn’t have at that time. I had to travel to Africa and other countries to get into this, and having an ‘Afro’ Category in a Red bull Battle was not imaginable at that time. I wanted these styles and dance cultures to have a place in the Netherlands, in different ways.
What are in your opinion the most important elements to be a dancer? And what do you often tell your students, while dancing, that is important to focus on?
P: I found out that no matter how good you can be if your mindstate is not strong enough, it is very difficult to achieve anything. This is because the dance industry can be a very difficult and unfair world. Being a dancer means an endless road of learning and growing. No matter how much talent you have, staying a student can often take you the furthest. In addition, you will find that the better you know yourself and know what you stand for, the stronger you will be as a dancer/dancer. Above all, stay close to yourself and dare to take risks. Everything I am saying now is still a big learning process for me, I have come quite a long way but also I still have plenty to learn and achieve in this world!
G: The most important element for a dancer is to be authentic and original – and to move like themselves, to be honest within the movement. Like I tell my students, “There is no better you than you”
You both traveled a lot and attended a lot of contests and events. What would you say is your biggest accomplishment so far and why?
G: To be honest, it has been several in different fields. There is not one field I venture into, but in this context, of Red Bull Dance Your Style, becoming World Champion Experimental at Juste Debout.
P: I don’t have 1 specific event. The fact that I have been able to do all these things is an accomplishment in itself. As I said, years ago almost nobody knew the different modern African street styles (music and dance), worse many were ashamed and or not proud of the black culture. It was still new in Europe (although it has been around for years) I have had a great influence in making this big and that to me is an accomplishment. The fact that many organizations now want to include us within their platform has been partly due to my commitment, work, passion, and love for dance and music. I know this goes beyond me and that is what it is all about for me in the end.
Is there a specific person that is your inspiration in life?
G: I Draw inspiration from the people I gather around me. And, of course… Michael Jackson. Without him, I would probably not be dancing.
P: My father and mother inspire me daily. They have both been in this world and because of this they understand me better and through this way I learn from their good and bad moments during their time!
If you dream big. Is there anything else that you would like to achieve in life?
G: Yes. There are many things I would love to achieve! On a somatic level, I would like my movement method to be scientifically proven to have beneficial healing components.
Theatre-wise, I would love to make a production that would travel internationally on the big theatre stages. Individually wise I would still like to perform in a production of Sidi Larbi, so hey!
P: I am hoping to get an even bigger reach so I can continue to inspire people with my art, through different big projects.