Red Bull Dance Your Style, a global street dance event series with a unique format, returned to India for its third edition in June-July, earlier this year. With over 90 events held in 30 countries around the world, Red Bull Dance Your Style is a truly global event with a unique twist — the crowd is the judge. Dancers from various street dance styles compete in one-on-one battles to unpredictable mainstream tracks ranging from recent global hits to classic beats and the crowd decides who will emerge winner through a unique voting mechanism.
The street dance styles permitted in the competition are hip-hop, popping, locking, house, krumping, tutting, waving, dancehall, afro dance, voguing, waacking, lite feet, animation and electro. All dance forms and genders compete against one another in a single category to determine an overall champion and the dancer’s priority is to win the crowd, making showmanship and entertainment key ingredients of the battle and their performance.
We were invited to watch the Red Bull Dance Your Style India Final in Delhi this year and the experience was more than exhilarating. With our favourites changing constantly throughout the event, it was Haldwani-based hip-hop dancer Nepo (Deepak Shahi), who was the absolute crowd-favourite (and ours) from the very beginning. With a style that combines tight choreography peppered with humour, a bit of naughtiness and a je ne sais quoi attitude that could disarm anyone, we weren’t surprised when Nepo won the title for 2023. Nepo will now represent India at the Red Bull Dance Your Style World Final in Germany this weekend and we caught up with him just after his victory for a quick tête-a-tête.
“I’m more excited than I can even express but there’s this burden now on my head that I cannot ignore. Of course, don’t get me wrong, I am super happy, but the anxiety of now having to represent India on an international platform has surely got me a bit scared. That said, I have already decided that I will do even better in Germany and give it my all. I will practice double, heck, even triple and quadruple the times I did for this leg. I will enjoy this win for a few days, but its back to practice after that,” begins Nepo as we catch up with him, right after his win.
We are intrigued by the name Nepo and so ask him about the origin of this unique name. “I used to be called ‘Nepali’ in school thanks to my oriental features. I know it’s kind of racist, but the name stuck and after a while, I just accepted it. I am quite comfortable with the shortened form, Nepo and I remember being called this name from the time I was in 11th Grade or so. Now I feel like it defines who I am,” he explains.
But does he differentiate Nepo from Deepak, we ask. “When I dance I feel like my dance avatar Nepo takes over. When I am not dancing I am just Deepak Shahi, but the moment the beat takes over I give into Nepo. Nepo is a full character in his own right and I feel the dancer in me is all him, just him and nobody else but him. He’s a chilled guy who is defined by freedom and is unafraid to express what he feels in the moment. Quite different from me, I think. He’s also very confident,” adds Deepak and bursts into laughter.
He’s in a hurry to go change and let the moment settle in and so we ask him our last question — where
does he see himself in five years? “I hope in five years, I will be the best dancer in this style, all across
the world. That was what I aimed for when I first became a dancer — that if I am going to give this art and discipline my effort and so much of my time, then I better be the best in the world. So, that’s the journey I am on right now and I hope to take it to the very end. The end, where everyone in the world knows Nepo and loves him,” the dancer concludes.
The Red Bull Dance Your Style World Final 2023 will take place on November 4 in Frankfurt, Germany. One can watch it LIVE on YouTube @redbulldance from 1.30 am IST on November 5.