A New Age of Modern

“Dance has always been in my family,” Branlee Querubin, a third-year philosophy major and one of the newest members of Kaba Modern, said.

The renowned dance team recently held auditions for their 2013-2014 season and took on 26 members for the new year. When Querubin began his first year at UCI, he quickly became well known in the Irvine dance community for his “full out” style, as well as his memorable stage presence. Wanting to expand his dancing repertoire to choreography, he spent his first years vetting the local teams before deciding on Kaba Modern.

“I believe in a lot of the same ideas,” Querubin said when explaining his decision. “One thing I knew was how Modern was very supportive of freestyle. Without that, I don’t think I would be as whole as a dancer. If you told someone you were on Kaba Modern it’s like, ‘Whoa,’ because they were on national television. I want to pursue professional dance, and having that reputation is very helpful to pursue that type of career.”

With this in mind, he decided that 2013 would be his year to audition alongside friends, Francis Cailles and Alfonso Fuentes, the latter of which is a Kaba Modern returner.

This year will be Fuentes’ third season on the team. He originally made the cut in 2011 and returned in 2012. Early in his returner year, however, Fuentes was forced to take a year-long hiatus due to a medical illness.

“I wasn’t satisfied with the way I left; I felt that I could still offer more to the team,” Fuentes said. “I wanted to be there for Modern in any way that I could, especially for the newbies.”

Recharged with a new fire after his break, Fuentes set his sights on returning.

The auditions took place on Tuesday of Week 6.

“It’s a two stage process,” Executive Director Brandon Leong explained. “You start off with the dancing stage, which consists of three rounds.”

The first round is a freestyle section where auditioners can perform solos to music, ranging from hip-hop to funk. While many of the dancers excel at performing choreography in the later rounds, a select few really stand out with their improv to the songs.

“It gives people the option to showcase their own abilities that don’t pertain to the choreography we give them for the other rounds,” Leong added.

The choreography is the set of three pieces created and taught by each of the coordinators, which includes Leong, Alex Cristal, the Artistic Director and June Santiano, the Administrative Director. These pieces come into play during the last two parts of the dance audition: the individual and group rounds.

The individual round is a chance for dancers to perform the choreography as it was taught in small, randomized groups. The judges want to see that these performers understand choreography as given, stay true to the vision, yet still stand out in their own way. While all dancers perform the same moves, what really sets them apart is their execution, cleanliness and stage presence.

The last section of audition day is the highly anticipated group round.

“People get into groups of two or three members … take the original choreography we gave them and change it up, add formations, blocking and effects. They alter it so that it fits them and so it becomes a more dynamic performance,” Leong said.

Many of the performances are filled with audacious add-ins meant to wow the audiences, make them laugh or simply leave a memorable (and hopefully favorable) impression on the judges.

The second stage of the process is interviews. Dancers who do well on audition day are given individual interviews. In the interviews, the directors make sure that their goals, dedication levels and schedules match up with the teams’. This year, Kaba Modern selected far fewer members than it had in its previous year (35).

“This is a building year,” Leong explained. “We really want to build for the future and build quality so that we can have a stronger and larger team again in the future.”

When asked about Querubin, Leong responded, “I’ve seen him in the last few years and I knew he was a very open, hungry and talented dancer. He is also very educated with his style. That’s what we are looking for: people who are very knowledgeable about certain styles so we can have future teachers for the rest of the team.”

Fuentes was selected for a slightly different reason.

“We’ve seen him train for years and years before he even made the team. Just seeing how much he’s grown from that experience, we really appreciate his drive and his putting his all into the team.”

Both Branlee and Alfonso made the roster, which was released at midnight the Friday after auditions.

Leong has high hopes for this team, especially the new members.

“I expect them to work the hardest and to be open to new things. I want to have them be knowledgeable about what Kaba Modern means and try to emulate that for the future.”

With a few performances already lined up for the season, the team is ready to jump into their practices.

“I’m really excited for this year,” Leong said. “I have a lot of confidence that we’ll be able to have a very bright year and we’ll be able to spread our positivity and passion.”