By Dennis K. Chen
Having finished her baked-potato soup, she sets down the silver spoon and clears her throat. It is Friday of “hell week,” the long and challenging week before Vibe Dance Competition just two days away, and she has caught the cold.
Natalia Garcia, 19, is a second-year dance major at UC Irvine and a member of Common Ground Dance Team. Having had practice in Mesa Parking Structure from 8 p.m. until sunrise every night for the past five days, it is no wonder that Garcia is fatigued. But for as long as she can remember, this has been her life.
“I think it’s been almost 13 years now?” a wide-eyed Garcia said.
Although she has only been on Common Ground for a little over a year, Garcia has been dancing her whole life. Coming from a ballet background, she has always wanted to dance collegiate hip-hop in order to disprove the stereotypical “white-girl hip-hop” for which many studios are known. Being a NorCal native, Garcia was unfamiliar with the Orange County teams before attending UCI.
“I had to ask my friend about all the teams,” Garcia said. “Then I YouTube’d a bunch of dance videos. A bunch of them were videos from Vibe, actually. But it wasn’t until I stumbled across Common Ground’s Fight Club set did I really know which team was for me. A lot of their sets have themes, which I like a lot since it reminds me of musical theatre.”
Garcia can still vividly recall her audition process during her first year, since she was unable to find a group for the group presentation segment of the auditions. In order to make up for it, Garcia knew she had to do something to catch the directors’ eyes.
“So during my solo audition, I did an aerial to the splits,” said Garcia with a chuckle. “I thought it was pretty funny and it clearly worked, since I made the team.”
With Vibe right around the corner, Common Ground has been pushing hard to perfect their set, which is based on the film “V for Vendetta.” Though Garcia is no stranger to the sleepless nights, the practices this time around have been a little different due to the fact that she is playing the main character, Evey. In the film, Evey is portrayed by Natalie Portman, a role which required Portman to shave her head.
“I’ve never had to act so much before,” Garcia explained. “You really have to throw yourself into the character … but there’s no way I’m shaving my head!”
Though Common Ground has placed twice at Vibe, each year brings new competitors and new standards of excellence. As she checks her phone to make sure she is on time for practice, Garcia explains one last thing.
“Vibe is at the Bren Center, just a few hundred steps away from our practice spot,” she said. “This is our turf. We don’t care about placing. We just want to put on a good show and rep Irvine, our home.”
By Taylor Weik
It’s 3 a.m. when Marc Dizon comes home. His back is hurting, he can’t feel his feet and he’s starving from a long night of rehearsal. It’s hard to believe that someone could exhaust their body and put so much effort into something that’s represented by just one word; that is, unless that word happens to be “Vibe.”
“Vibe has become one of the most prestigious hip-hop dance competitions in our community,” Dizon said. “The best teams from SoCal and even NorCal come down to compete and showcase their talent. Last year Vibe even had some international teams coming to compete.”
This year is the 18th annual Vibe Dance Competition, presented every year by Lambda Delta Theta and held at the Bren Events Center. Over 15 teams are included in the lineup; over 15 teams have spent hundreds of hours perfecting their sets and cleaning their pieces meticulously, all for just a few minutes on stage. Yet it’s those few minutes that the dancers live for; to show everyone what they’ve worked on and why they deserve to be here. Dizon is one of those dancers.
Dizon is a UCI alumus who graduated in 2010 with a degree in biological sciences. He developed a passion for dance after spending three years on UCI’s MCIA Dance Team as an undergraduate, and his love has only grown stronger since graduating. In addition to being a private tutor for high school and college students, Dizon is a member of GRV Dance Team, where he serves as one of the Seargant-at-Arms by taking team attendance and ensuring that rehearsals run efficiently. It’s his second year on the competitive team and Dizon gives credit to Vibe for sparking his interest in the team.
“I saw GRV perform at Vibe for the first time in 2009 and ever since then, I always liked their style of choreography. What was most impressive about GRV is that with each competition they did, their level of dance and choreography was improving significantly, and by the time I graduated in 2010, they had quickly become one of the elite hip-hop teams in the community.”
Even though Dizon is still fairly new to the competitive arena, he’s proven to be a Vibe veteran: this will be his fifth Vibe performance, but that doesn’t mean the preparations leading up to it have gotten any easier. GRV holds practice three days a week and extends their rehearsals to five days a week as competition day approaches, rehearsing until three or four in the morning.
“We definitely try to go into every competition with our best foot forward so we spend a significant amount of time rehearsing the routines, cleaning the details and making sure everything looks as good as it possibly can before the big day,” Dizon said.
Even though the long night practices that accompany “hell week” are straining on the mind and body, Dizon insists it’s worth it in the end to be dancing with his teammates and friends.
“I can’t help but ask myself if it’s really worth it, but when you’re on that stage everything just makes sense,” he said. “You get to dance with the people you’ve grown to love so much and everyone on that stage with you is there for the same reason, because they love to dance. The feeling of being on stage, hearing your teammates cheer you on, hearing the crowd reactions and seeing the end-product on YouTube knowing how hard you all worked for the past few months is truly something special.”