You’re on a stage. You can’t see a thing because you’re surrounded by darkness. But you can hear, and you can feel. You can hear your heart thumping in your chest, beating in your ears. You can feel the palms of your hands sweating. Just when you think the darkness is too much, you’re blinded by light. It takes a few moments for everything to register, but when your eyes focus, hundreds of others are staring back. Then comes the music, and then your mind runs away with your body.
It’s no secret that UC Irvine is a self-proclaimed “dance school.” Our Anteater Recreation Center offers a wide variety of dance classes, we have a highly-esteemed dance program with Claire Trevor School of the Arts and we’re the roots of many different dance crews that use our parking structures to practice until the wee hours of the morning for competitions or exhibitions. So then it comes as no surprise that Ken-Ya Dance, a charity dance showcase that’s put on every year in Northern California, decided to give birth to a SoCal chapter last year at UCI’s very own Bren Events Center.
Ken-Ya Dance is an exhibition that brings together the talents of countless dance teams from all over Southern California, with 100 percent of its proceeds being donated to Kenya Dream, a community-based organization that raises money to renovate schools and helps educate students in Kenya. In its second year, to be held on April 29, many teams are ready to perform for a good cause once again. But for one recently founded team, Ken-Ya Dance will be a brand new adventure. Although the team hasn’t been around as long as others, its dancers come from various dance backgrounds and are the originals, the main units, the returners. They are The Prototypes.
The Prototypes are no amateur team. Its dancers hail from UCI-famous crews like Kaba Modern, Common Ground, MCIA and The IV League. But how did these starkly contrasting dancers come together?
“Creating the Prototypes was an idea I thought of since joining Common Ground back in 2009,” Prototypes founder and co-artistic director Nigel Cortez said. “It was only until I retired from the competition scene that I really pursued the idea of creating this team. I really wanted to create a team full of people that came from different styles, whether it’s house, popping, locking, Waacking or tap. We all have something to share with the community, and with each performance we create and try something new.”
Many of the team’s members have long since graduated from UCI, but their passion for dance has always stuck with them. Former competitive dancers, now making a comeback to the dance scene, are enjoying new experiences that come with performing, not competing, but co-artistic director and Common Ground alumna Sonali Samarasena insists the goals of competitive and exhibition teams are the same.
“Competition teams all want a great show and want to be appreciated for it,” Sonali said. “Being an exhibition team, we try to do the same; we still do our best to put on a great show.”
“And our practices generally run like most teams,” Nigel said. “We have a set plan going into each practice. We work hard but have fun at the same time. You can always find someone Instagramming in the corner. We usually go back to our roots and use UCI’s Social Science Parking Structure, but when a performance is coming up we add practices and move to Quest Learning Center.”
The Prototypes are a rapidly growing team and, from all the performances they’ve done and are preparing for, it’s clear that they’re not going away anytime soon. They have their own Facebook page and Twitter account (@ThePrototypes01) that they use to update fans, family and friends. But sometimes, their demanding schedules can be hectic, and they’ve gone through some struggle preparing for Ken-Ya, which is this coming Sunday.
Nevertheless, the Prototypes have transitioned through their conflicts smoothly and are all delighted to be functioning as a unit together, united by a love for dancing.
“Although I’ve been out of college for a few years now, I look back on my four years on MCIA proudly because they helped me improve so much,” Kris Chow, a Prototypes and IV League member, said. “So I’m definitely excited to perform on UCI grounds again at Ken-Ya and give back to my school, while also helping students in Kenya. It’s a dream come true.”