Dancers Battle Mental Health Challenges On The Floor During The Red Bull Dance Your Style Competition

Mental health issues in the United States are growing rapidly. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, people are identifying ways to cope and finding creative opportunities simultaneously, this time using dance as an outlet.

For centuries, dance has been a fluid form of expression that has helped many explore possibilities beyond their wildest dreams. It also helped push the narrative of being a safe space for those suffering from mental illness challenges. Recently, the Red Bull Dance Your Style competition opened the doors for professional and amateur dancers to show their moves on a national stage with an all-styles street dance event series.

The crowd voted for the best of the best during three rounds of captivating performances and bracket-tournament style. With so much talent in the room, only one took home the crown—Frankie Freeman of Atlanta. Black Enterprise tapped into the final qualifying round hosted in Charlotte, North Carolina, at Blackbox Theater and had some “in your face” conversations with the dancers and host on how their creative avenues help them battle issues head-on.

“I kind of went through a really dark first part of the year.” —Frankie Freeman


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The first part of the year wasn’t perfect for Freeman. Shortly after losing her father, a dog attacked her and her daughter, landing them in a hospital. With all the stress, she said he really wanted to quit, but the dance veteran knew what would help. “I really just wanted to quit, but the only outlet I had to get me through that PTSD was dance,” Freeman said, smiling. The Atlanta native recognizes that words don’t always help through trauma, so the 10-year dance veteran knew exactly where to turn. “The form of self-expression, the freedom, just getting to fully unleash all the feelings that build up over all these traumas and issues that we face on a day-to-day basis, has really saved me,” Freeman boasted.

“Dance… it’s a love-hate relationship, but overall it brings a lot of peace.” — Frankie Freeman

Frankie advanced to the Red Bull Dance Your Style National Final that will take place on May 20 in Chicago. Hosted by Carolina natives Ohavia Phillips and Xtra the Voice, fans had some help bringing on the cheers for these talented artists, along with the sounds of DJ Micki Blends, Phillips, who is a media personality and host, shared how being on the stage not only set her career on fire but helped her shine a light on some mental. 

“I think about how energy heals, and when you are collaborating with projects that align, you get the vibe that comes with it.” —Ohavia Phillips

Known for busting out a move once she gets the mic in her hand, Phillips has worked tirelessly to make her name known amongst Queen City and beyond. The Brooklyn native says hosting has been a collective of “good vibes and good souls” and brings together two things close to her: art and community. “What the arts are definitely doing, in hosting, is bringing those things together,” Phillips said. “And hosting definitely helps me battle my mental health journey through that.”

By watching the dancers move, someone would never know that the performers face more off the dance floor than on—like motherhood. One of the finalists, Suzie Q, left the bottles for the battle and gave it her all. Appearing in music videos for Rihanna, Jidenna, and Fabulous, Suzie realized dance was the perfect outlet she needed to care for her newborn.

“I didn’t realize how serious postpartum depression was.” —Suzie Q

Performing for 15 years, the new mom has been using dance in a way she didn’t think she had to. Being able to express herself brought her through some extreme motherhood challenges. Experiencing postpartum depression made Suzie realize how important it is to tackle mental health issues, especially will little ones watching. “It’s definitely shifted my mindset,” the Brooklyn native said. “When I started to experience a little insight of it, it really shook me. I feel like I’ve always been strong-minded, so now my son is the biggest inspiration in the world that I have. I would not be here if it wasn’t for him.”

Other noted dancers who participated in the competition were Leo RA Soul, Medusa, and Sweetface.