Kennedi Carter

Kennedi Carter captures dance and culture in Memphis, Tennessee

In town for a contest, the photographer documented the Southern city's unique energy and style.

by Marcella Camara
05 November 2021, 8:00am

Kennedi Carter

On a hot weekend in early October, photographers, journalists, content creators and influencers attended the Memphis leg of the Red Bull Dance Your Style freestyle dance regional qualifier. There was praise and reverence at the holy sights of Memphis’ legendary Soulsville neighbourhood, the ancestral home of many soul music pioneers, and the Lorraine Motel, the unwilling monument where Martin Luther King Jr. took his last breath. Those of us in attendance floated through the city, listening to blues classics performed like gospel on any given corner of historic Beale Street, and fellowshipping over cold beer and catfish in the back corners of dimly lit sugar shacks.

The benediction: a Sunday evening dance competition hosted at Memphis hangout, Railgarten. As the sun set, we gathered to watch Black and brown dancers with varying styles tell stories with their bodies, through movements and freestyle choreography that honoured the cities and communities they were from. With hopes to take home the trophy and head to Washington, D.C., for the final, dancers from Tennessee, Louisiana, Georgia and other neighbouring states put both their expertise and vulnerability front and centre, displaying the true spirit of dance as art and cultural memory.

Kennedi Carter, a photographer from North Carolina by way of Texas, took the following photos at the event.

A young boy’s side profile, wearing a cap upside down and back to front
Kaidyn, 7 year old jook dancer. When asked if he would like his picture taken, he said: “Yes! But let me go get my hat!”
A side portrait of a man wearing a bucket hat with his eyes obscured.
“When I dance it’s like an out of body experience. makes you do moves you don’t even know you can do.” – A god, freestyle hip hop dancer from Memphis, TN.
Four women wearing white hooded sweatshirts posing on the floor.
“We’re a group of mutual friends who wanted to connect dancers across Louisiana and bridge the gap” – The women of L.A Mix, a Louisiana based dance troupe featuring dancers ages 16 to 30, after their dance qualifiers intermission permission.
A side portrait of a man wearing a backwards cap while playing a guitar
A front portrait of a man with curly hair wearing a cap.
Wild Bills Juke Joint. Memphis, TN. 2021.
A portrait of a man sitting in a car, wearing a white hat and a diamond chain.
Two men pictured standing by an open car door with a sign in the background.
Flexin’ on Beale Street. Memphis, TN. 2021
A portrait of two men, the man on the right resting his arm on the man on the left's shoulder.
Raymond Turner and Tobias Griffin of Louisiana's L.A Mix
A portrait of a man wearing a flat cap playing a harmonica
Vince Johnson plays his harmonica on Beale St. after an afternoon set at BB King’s Blues Club. Memphis, TN. 2021
A CD case on a table covered in graffiti.
BB Kings Blues Club. Beale St, Memphis, TN. 2021.
A blurry picture of a crowd of people dancing.
Background dancers and excited audience members join the stage during New Orlean’s legend HaSizzle’s intermission performance.
A poster on wall advertising a concert from 1969.
Stax Museum of American Soul. 2021
A neon sign for a motel.
Lorraine Motel and Civil Rights Museum. Memphis, TN. 2021.
A close up of a car bonnet with a logo.
"All gold everything" – Isaac Hayes’ gold plated 1972 Cadillac El Dorado. Stax Museum. 2021.


All images courtesy of Kennedi Carter