Dancer Emily Flores, also known as Foxxy, says she's waited a long time for an opportunity like the one she'll get Saturday night. The 25-year-old has been studying "popping," a rhythmic dance technique that combines rigid robotic moves with free-flowing movements, for the past five years. This weekend, she'll face off against 15 other local hip-hop dancers in Red Bull's Dance Your Style regional competition for a chance to move on to the national showdown in Las Vegas. She hopes popping will take her all the way to the national finals in Paris this October.
Miami is one of six metro areas to host Red Bull's regional qualifying rounds, along with Boston, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C. Flores, a Miami native, has been dancing in pop-up battles around the city in anticipation of Saturday's competition. She says the city's culture shaped her interest in dance even before she discovered styles like the one she performs today.
"Coming from Miami, there is a lot of dancing," Flores says. "I'm Cuban through and through, and it's part of our culture... to be dancing every day and waking up and going to sleep to music."
But it was a Brazilian jujitsu class in Broward that introduced her to the style of dance she's most passionate about today. At the time, her instructor invited her to attend an underground dance meet dubbed House of Drums. It was her introduction to the underground dance scene.
"After actually seeing different styles of dance like poppers, dancehall, house dancers, choreography, and loving dance because of my Cuban culture, it helped me fall in love with different forms," she recalls. "But I had no idea what I was looking at. It was my first time seeing all these styles and seeing all these people expressing themselves in different ways."
Once she discovered the scene, Flores threw herself into learning all about popping. She researched the style and its '60s and '70s roots in Fresno, California. And she began dancing with a crew.
In 2017, she left that dance crew in an effort to push her style even further. She traveled to California and trained with members of the legendary Electric Boogaloos, the street dance crew that pioneered the popping style of dance.
Red Bull took notice of her skills on Instagram and invited her to participate in the Dance Your Style movement. She was thrilled because she says there are few competitions that present poppers these days.
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"Breakers have so many opportunities globally, and as a popper and as any other style of dance, we don't have as many opportunities because the styles are not really known," Flores says. "I'm trying to fight to keep popping alive. A lot of times, people confuse popping with [similar styles like] botting or animation, but I really want to keep the style to its original core. Popping is a groovy style."
Foxxy says she encourages dancers of all styles and skill levels to support the Dance Your Style competitions, especially at a local level. "The people you're going to see in this competition are the people who haven't given up on their craft and continue to polish and nurture it," she says. By attending, Flores says, dancers and spectators can keep the underground dance scene thriving.
"What people don't realize is that all this stuff that you see on TV are all stolen movements and broken down movements from the underground. Dance styles like popping, locking, house, litefeet, crump — a little piece of these styles was stolen to do these commercial things," Flores says. "We've been screaming for an opportunity like this. Finally, we're getting our chance to shine and show you the real and authentic people behind the dance."