One in a Million, Dancing to the Top

Eric Lim/New University

By Samantha Lam

Whether it was at the Involvement Fair or other Welcome Week events, almost every UC Irvine student has felt a part of the strong dance community that is on campus Kaba Modern, Chinese Association Dance Crew, Common Ground or Modern Crazy Insane Anteaters (better known as MCIA).

Our infamous dance groups have entertained us to a level of an audience at a live taping of “America’s Best Dance Crew.” But what does it take to be a dancer? What is it about dance that moves us? Marlo “J.R.” Yonocruz, third-year political science major and member of Kaba Modern, takes us through his personal story through his dance career and why he loves the sport so much.

J.R. took up dance as a freshman in high school, inspired by his older sister, Marlie-Joy, “MJ,” who lived and breathed dance as a dance instructor and an active member in three competitive dance groups. J.R.’s dedication to the art deepened during his senior year when he joined the Academy of Villains, a dance group in his hometown in Northern California. After graduating high school, J.R. had his eyes set on UCI because of the dance legacy.

“Dance seems to accumulate around Irvine,” he said. “I was familiar with Kaba Modern before I came down to campus because of alumni that made the group popular in mainstream media such as MTV.”

J.R. felt most comfortable with Kaba because of the Filipino culture base and it’s relation to Kababayan, which he could relate to more than other groups, being Filipino himself. Like other outlets, dance is an art form.

“Dance is a means of expression, a lifestyle and a passion,” he said. “It keeps you productive, keeps you busy, disciplined and occupied. It trains and keeps your mind and body sharp.”

Motivation, as he recalls from a psychology course he had previously taken, leads to mastery. What pushes J.R. forward is his will to master a technique, especially the feeling after landing a trick or step he had been practicing for months. The bond within a dance group is more than a network; it is a second family in which everyone can rely on one another.

J.R. strongly believes that the best dancers are the ones that work the hardest, train the longest and practice most often — not the ones that were born with just the talent.

“Prodigies are one in a million and I’m one of the 999,999,” he said. “All my hard work and my motivation that goes into dance is what pushes me to get better at it … It’s a lot of hard work but it’s not hard work when you love it; it’s something you want to put your time into. The craziest dancers … are the ones who sucked and were the most awkward but had the most drive and passion that let them get to where they are today.”

People watch the well-known dancers and members of any of our many talented dance groups at UCI and do not see their journey, just their endpoint. Hardly anyone is naturally talented in any form of dance and would not need practice. Taking up dance or a sport,is all about a person’s attitude toward it. For those who say they cannot dance, J.R. would encourage them to change their attitude and give it a try.

Witnessing the strong, crisp movements makes the audience think dance is embedded in their DNA and yet almost every dancer on that stage started as the awkward kid in the room who could not get the moves right until they practiced over and over. Much like J.R., who continued dancing despite the challenges because he loved it and his progress is a testament to his dance philosophy.