(AllHipHop Features) “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights,” sports icon Muhammad Ali is quoted saying about preparing for a boxing bout.
Virgil “Lil O” Gadson has been bracing to battle under the bright lights of dance competitions since he was a three-year-old kid displaying his talents at family cook-outs in Philadelphia. During his next twenty-nine rotations around the sun, Lil O’s cultivation of his physical intelligence eventually led to the formally trained performer winning the title at Red Bull Dance Your Style: Washington, DC.
Who Rules The Dance Floor?
Fifteen other dancers were invited to take part in the one-on-one tournament held inside The District's Howard Theatre on Saturday, July 20. The final round came down to Gadson facing off against hometown representative Ryan “OPM” Green with the crowd selecting Lil O as the champion.
A packed gallery comprised of dance enthusiasts of all ages and races was given wristbands with the capability to light up either red or blue. The event’s hosts, Junious Brickhouse and Ryan “Future” Webb of Urban Artistry, polled the congregation by asking them to illuminate the room in the particular color assigned to the contestant they believed did the best job presenting rhythm, movement, creativity, and charisma.
“We Don't Just Shine, We Illuminate The Whole Show.” (Colin Kerrigan / Red Bull Content Pool)
Most of the first-round battles were clear victories as Danzel, Lil O, Floey, King Havoc, Queso, and OPM moved onto the Quarter-Finals. TJ Pye came back to overtake Maryland’s DQ by pulling out a silver rod as a crowd-popping prop. The E. Solo versus Neverless battle ended in a tie, and it took an additional song for Neverless to knock out the Team Rocket crew member.
Round 2 opened with Lil O defeating Danzel. Floey beat TJ Pye in a close contest. OPM came out in a new outfit as he conquered Queso. Once again, Neverless found herself in a draw, this time with King Havoc. The spectators demanded the two contenders show more moves, and flexing master Havoc eventually triumphed.
TJ Pye's Lightning Rod Shocked The Fans (Colin Kerrigan / Red Bull Content Pool)
The semi-finalists returned to the floor to decide which two competitors would clash for the gold medal. Lil O and Floey sparred over tunes by Amy Winehouse and Panjabi MC. Lil O won over the people. Paula Abdul and DJ Snake provided the soundtrack for the Havoc/OPM battle. After blue and red bracelets consumed the Howard Theatre as voters campaigned for both dancers, OPM ultimately advanced to the Finals.
Red Bull also recruited TSU Terry, Queen P, Beat Ya Feet, and Infinite Flow to entertain the attendees during the break between rounds. Plus, audience members showed off their own skills while DJ Trayze spun Hip Hop, R&B, Pop, Funk, and Go-Go records. The space was filled with kids, teens, and adults locking, breaking, krumping, shooting, flossing, doing the Dougie, and showing off their footwork.
Infinite Flow Is Breaking Stereotypes & Pushing Boundaries (Jeremy Gonzalo / Red Bull Content Pool)
Finally, Lil O and OPM dueled for the Red Bull Dance Your Style DC crown. OPM went first by unveiling Michael Jackson-like steps to Chuck Brown’s "Bustin' Loose." Lil O flashed moments of Old School dance styles during his turn showing off to the late DMV icon’s 1979 hit.
The energy level in Howard Theatre peaked again when DJ Trayze played “Poison” by Bell Biv DeVoe. OPM demonstrated some slick maneuvers while on his knees. Lil O pulled off a modified Running Man straight from BBD’s music video then went into a 2019 version of the Roger Rabbit.
Bow Down To The Czar Of The Dancefloor Lil O (Jeremy Gonzalo / Red Bull Content Pool)
Since it was the final round, the last two challengers had to battle over three songs instead of two. OPM threw off his jacket before flexing and mutating his way through “Like I Love You” by Justin Timberlake. Lil O drew upon his Freedom Theater and University of the Arts instruction to combine Hip Hop with Modern, Jazz, and Ballet for his closing presentation to The Neptunes-produced single off Justified.
After Lil O and OPM hugged it out on the dance floor, Brickhouse and Future counted down the more than 500 onlookers in attendance to declare the winner of the DC edition of Red Bull Dance Your Style. The venue was soaked in a sea of crimson indicating Virgil “Lil O” Gadson earn the night’s trophy. As finalists, both Lil O and OPM will progress to the National Final.
OPM Takes His Shot At The Throne (Jeremy Gonzalo / Red Bull Content Pool)
“It’s hard to explain. It happened so fast,” said Lil O when asked for his thoughts after being named the champ. “I appreciate everything that’s happening with me being here with everyone that I know. The Top 16 - I know everybody. They’re all like family to me. I just appreciate the love and support we all have for each other. I just feel appreciative and blessed.”
Dance Your Style: Washington, DC was the second event of the Red Bull DYS American summer tour following the regional qualifier in Honolulu last month. Upcoming events are scheduled for Miami, Boston, and New Orleans. The top two dancers from each qualifying tournament and four “wildcard” dancers will compete in the Las Vegas-set US National Final in September. The winner of the National Final will advance to the Red Bull Dance Your Style World Final in Paris, France on October 12.