It’s no surprise that UC Irvine has been labeled by students as “the dance school.” In addition to the numerous dance organizations and clubs, Irvine is the home to some of the top hip hop dance teams, both collegiate and non-collegiate. Competitive teams include Common Ground, CADC and Kaba Modern, the latter of which was a competitor in season one of MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew.” In addition, Irvine also sports a few exhibition dance crews that perform both on and off campus, one of which is MCIA, or Modern Completely Insane Anteaters.
MCIA has the humblest of beginnings. Originally established as the spirit squad CIA, they were expected to show spirit at athletics games and little more. In 2003 MCIA was born to express their spirit at UCI basketball games as well, but in a different matter: through hip hop dance.
Now in its ninth year, MCIA has proven itself to be deserving of the title “dance crew.” They not only perform at many on-campus events, but also entertain at night clubs, other UC socials and have even been invited to dance at the Clippers pre-game shows.
They have also developed their famous motto, “All Love,” a term that inspires and means something different to each of the MCIA members.
Jeannie Vuong, fourth-year sociology major, has had nothing but fond memories of MCIA. It’s her third and last year on the team. “The first time I tried out as a freshman, I didn’t make the team,” Jeannie says. “I was a little disappointed, but then again I was expecting it because I’ve never danced before college. But it only motivated me to improve my dancing; I took a lot of classes throughout the year and tried out again my second year. Luckily, I made the cut!”
When asked why she chose to train for MCIA and not audition for the other dance teams, Jeannie immediately owes her love for MCIA to the friendly atmosphere.
“When I attended audition workshops, everyone was so friendly and willing to help out one another,” she said. “There seemed to be a fun and laid-back family vibe to it.” Now labeled as a “returner” on MCIA, Jeannie finds that she can better manage her time since she’s adapted to the late-night practices. She’s also noticed a massive improvement in her dancing and choreography. But along with the perks of being an “oldie,” she also has more responsibilities.
“MCIA really stresses giving back to the newbies as oldies; returning all the love and attention that we received when we were in their place,” she said. “We all have different ways of giving back, but I like to contribute through having one-on-one talks with the newbies and helping them out with choreography, because we’ve all been there.”
Dennis Chen, fourth-year film and media studies and literary journalism double major, has an entirely different story. It’s his first year on MCIA. Whereas in the past MCIA dancers have left the team to compete, Dennis opted out of two years on Common Ground in favor of an exhibition team, wanting a break from the intensity of competition in order to focus on school.
“There is a huge difference,” Dennis said about his transition from CG to MCIA. “For one, practices are really fun and relaxed, so there is less stress. Also, when you’re not being blocked in a piece or cleaning, you’re allowed to sit on the sides and do homework. CG would never let us do that.”
However, coming straight from a team that has been known to watch the sun rise together during their hell week practices to a team that dances purely to entertain is a shock.
“Coming from someone who has been intensely trained and pushed to be perfect and give 100 percent, I feel like being on an exhibition team can give its members excuses not to explore and push themselves as dancers,” he says. “On MCIA no one is pressured because there aren’t professional judges watching their every formation and movement, and sometimes we need that pressure to improve.”
Nevertheless, Dennis is grateful for the many new friends he’s made on MCIA, and admires what the team stands for. “To me, ‘all love’ encourages us to be vulnerable. We’ll never grow as dancers unless we put ourselves out there to be watched and even criticized.
On MCIA, there is no fear in doing that because everyone accepts and respects one another. In the end, we’re all here to dance and inspire.”
All love indeed.