On Saturday, 16 break dancers from across the country will converge on Chicago to face off in the Red Bull BC One U.S. qualifier at the Aragon Entertainment Center.
B-boy EVOL, born Ernesto Castelo, will represent Chicago in the competition. He was eliminated during the first round last year, but the 27-year-old Chicago-area native has been preparing for a better showing this time around.
"This year I'm definitely not holding back," Evol, of Cicero, told RedEye. "I've been training really hard, picking up on a lot of jumping roping, a lot of push-ups. In order to win an event like this, you really have to be at the peak of your physical prime and I know that nothing is going to come easy and it's going to take a lot of hard work so I'm just going to try to do my best out there this time around."
EVOL discovered break dancing at 14 and taught himself the acrobatic moves by watching and recording videos on MTV in an era when YouTube didn't exist.
Today, he is a part of the Brick Headz dance crew and regularly participates in competitions locally, regionally and--sometimes--internationally. He will travel to Mexico to compete in an unrelated event later this year.
He admits there is a lot of pressure to do well, considering the event is taking place in his hometown.
"I try not to look at it like that, and instead look at it as an honor," he said. "I don't want to let the city down. I want to do good for myself and my city so I'm just going to try to have fun and do the best that I can do.
The winner of the event will represent North America and compete in the Red Bull One World Finals in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in December.
Event organizers said Chicago was selected to host the event for a consecutive second year because unlike other cities across the country that might be known for break dancing, there is a large underground scene centered around all four elements of hip hop: break dancing, MCing, DJing and graffiti.
EVOL said he encourages anyone who is interested in break dancing to get involved, but warns that it's hard work.
"It's physically enduring and not much of it will come easy, but there is a smart way of doing it," he said. "I would suggest that you help your body by putting a lot of mental work into it so that your physical doesn't get beat up.
"Work hard and always stay true to the hip hop culture that gave birth to the movement."
The competition kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets for the event are $10 and can be purchased online or through the Aragon box office
For information, visit www.redbullbcone.com or win.gs/rbbc1chitix.