New Orleans couldn’t exist without its many talented artists. And InthekNOwla.com was privileged to chat with one of those artists, Darryl “DancingMan 504″ Young.

Darryl is one of the many New Orleanians who made it his priority to return to the city after Hurricane Katrina. But, one of the things that makes him stand out is that he is committed to uplifting the youth of New Orleans. As a result, Darryl started the “Heal 2 Toe” program. The Heal 2 Toe program, in conjucntion with New Orleans’ best brass bands, teaches second line dance and culture to kids, which provides a much needed outlet where can be creative, express themselves, and continue to embrace the New Orleans culture.

“A program like Heal 2 Toe that works with kids is so needed in a time like this, so I created the ‘Dancing Man’ to push my program. I’ve never really been a dancer; I always just played basketball and football. But, I’ve always had a deep interest in our culture, so I would always be at the second lines. You know, they say we’re a city of small people, low class people, but they flood our streets. They come all in our French Quarters. They come to all our parades. They come to all the festivals. People save money all year to come to New Orleans. So I always wondered why they loved my city so much. That made me pay attention to my culture and I found dancing. And through that I decided to help kids in our community. Next year, Silence is Violence, an anti-violence campaign, and I are teaming up to bring my Heal 2 Toe program to theRecovery School District in New Orleans and that’s only the beginning.”

Darryl describes second line dancing as “structured chaos” and is insistent that in order to curb the crime in the city, our city needs many more outlets available to them to expel pent up energy. We’re all very familiar with the well-known Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs in New Orleans, but Darryl considers himself to be a Grand Marshall of the “Social Aid & Pleasure club of New Orleans.” As Darryl explained, “I’m born and raised in the 9th ward and I feel that a Marshall is anyone that can lead and help to share and enhance the culture. That’s what I do!”

After Hurricane Katrina, Darryl noticed that many of the tourists were hesistant to interact with local New Orleanians. Consequently, he started to let dance take over his state of mind and by doing so he was also able to narrow that gap between locals and tourists. “The people gave me my name. As they would come watch, they would, say ‘That’s DancingMan’ and it stuck,” explained Darryl. And thereby, the alter ego DancingMan 504 was created which he uses to raise awareness about the Heal 2 Toe program.

Darryl has been seen all over New Orleans and its surrounding areas. He volunteers at various festivals and events around and outside the city to spread the word about his program and helping kids. DancingMan 504 has performed with some the city’s greats, including Soul Rebels Brass BandKinfolk Brass Band,Shamarr Allen and The Underdawgs, and Treme Brass Band to name a few. He’s also been seen on the corner of Canal and Bourbon and up and down Bourbon St. second lining to the sounds of New Orleans’ talented street performers.

DancingMan has also been a part of many iconic images, such as one of him and Lenny Kravitz at the Aint’s parade. “Lenny Kravitz came up to me at the parade and put his arm around me and said ‘Let’s take a picture.’ That let me know right there that I was an artist!”! “He’s down with the 504!” says Darryl. “When I say that, I’m speaking to all people across the world that have love for the 504.” Darryl also just got back from Brooklyn, New York where he, along with James Demaria, the Jamabalaya Brass Band, and a massive mob of people made their way cross the Brooklyn Bridge New Orleans style for Demaria’s upcoming documentary, Treme Life.

Yet, even with his newly found fame, Darryl insists on taking a humble road and keeping his eyes focused on his goals. “I grew up in the city. I’m from New Orleans! I remember a time when you couldn’t go to Super Sunday because of the violence, but the city talked to me. New Orleans is a female. I know this because I know her and she supports what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to find a way to get the message out that if we just have love for one another, everything is ok from there. People got to stop thinking that it’s so hard out here! Life isn’t hard. The insane thought that life is hard has become a sane thought and that’s what makes it seem so unmanageable,” exclaims Darryl.

In order to achieve his vision for the city’s youth, Darryl gives each of his young students his full attention and also affirms even the most minute accomplishment with positive reinforcement. “I’ve got to get to them before the system does. The way it’s set up down here, our youth have already been profiled by the 2nd grade. It’s a system designed to oppress and belittle in order to control. The youth are our future and we have to take responsibility for their upbringing if we want to create a better world.”

Even though DancingMan has performed with an endless list of talented artists and entertainers, Darryl has been dying to get the opportunity to actually perform with Lenny Kravitz. He insists that the meeting he had with Lenny Kravitz before the Ain’t’s funeral was a sign that they are destined to work together and he’s sure that their paths will cross again one day.

Darryl is determined to have his voice heard and his vision realized. Darryl explains, “We represent the 504! We’re both pushing the positive. We take on the burden of keeping the good in this city visible. They have to know that the good will not be drowned out by a little bit of bad and we have an obligation to make sure that the bad isn’t the only thing that gets the attention which has been the norm for generations. I’m trying to BE the change I want to see.”

Mr. 504 recently got back from an 18 day stretch in Paris, France where he and The Soul Rebels Brass Band performed and taught second line to some very excited elementary school children. “I took my Heal 2 Toe program over and we did workshops with kids there. The Rebels taught instrumentals and I did the dance. I taught’ m how to dance, sing, and throw up the 504. Through dance, we were able to breakdown many cultural barriers.”

With every performance that DancingMan 504 cuts loose at, InthekNOwla knows that a little more joy has been ushered into the world and that there are really good people out there working for more than just themselves. As you can see, Darryl “DancingMan 504″ Young is working tirelessly to make our city a better place to live in. But each and every one of us must do our part. We appreciate you Mr. 504 and we can’t wait to dance along side you towards our common goal.

You can find out more about Dancing Man 504 and his Heal 2 Toe program at:

DancingMan504.com
or on Facebook