From an outsider’s perspective, gazing upon the daunting mass of bodies lining up outside Doheny Beach Ballroom can spark an overwhelming sense of curiosity. What could possibly be happening on a typical Wednesday night that has attracted so many students? For UC Irvine students, however, it’s anything but typical. The doors open and hundreds of students clamor into the brightly lit room, scrambling to claim a good spot. Although the room is packed like sardines, the faces of eager spectators are still smiling with excitement, feverishly talking with their neighbors and stealing quick glances towards the stage. It’s not a performance by a world renown artist that has these students buzzing with energy, it’s an event of much more significance to the UCI community: the Fifth Annual All UCI Dance Battle hosted by B-Boys Anonymous.
As a person that struggles to execute the electric slide at family parties, I have developed an honest appreciation for dancers. While I have difficulty with the most basic footwork, dancers break, whack and lock with ease. Their ability to express themselves through the movement of their body is not only physically demanding, but provides them with the opportunity to channel their emotions into a display of athleticism and grace. At UCI, this display of talent is in high demand. So popular in fact, that five years ago, an entire night was created to celebrate the craft. For the fifth year in a row, seven dance crews have joined forces yet again to showcase their skills on the dance floor. So, get ready to harness your inner dancer and surrender to the sick beats of hip hop.
The night first kicked off with the introduction of the seven judges, each one representing a dance crew participating in the event. The pool of teams comprised of both competition and exhibition teams alike: Kaba Modern, Common Ground, CADC, MCIA, Urban Motus, INSA and BBA.
Following this opening introduction, dance crews immediately took the stage by storm. As the squeaking of sneakers filled the air, students began screaming the names of dancers or held up a neon green sign proudly in support of their friends. This sense of camaraderie among all, dancers and audience members alike, is a feeling that is not only present during the event, but stems from the cultural impact of dance.
“Dance unites others because it is so rooted in hip hop culture,” Tim Casasola, a fourth-year psychology and social behavior major and the president of B-Boys Anonymous, stated. “Hip hop has always valued ‘peace, love, unity and having fun,’ and dance is only influenced by these values in the subculture that it’s founded in.”
A slight nod from the MC and the speakers began blasting tunes that took over the bodies of the dancers and even the audience, as you couldn’t help but tap your foot to the beat of the songs. The clean, synchronization of the dancers captivated the audience, as they executed complex formations and techniques. They grooved and jammed from one end of the stage to another seamlessly, all whilst having a smile on their faces. As the night progressed and each team poured everything they had into the performances, it became clear that while all the crews may share similar values that tie them together, they were quite different. As each team entered the spotlight, they were able to showcase their distinct style and artistic vision they desired to execute on stage. The choreography and music ranged from each performance, providing the students with a diverse display of performances that embodied each team’s individuality and passion.
“Like I mentioned earlier, dance is an outlet,” Casasola shared, “but it’s also a means for an individual to express themselves. To many students, dance allows them to articulate and express how they are feeling or what they are going through.”
Once group performances ended, the battles began. Each team comprised of three dancers, all originating from different crews, and pitted them against one another in a freestyle match that tested their improv skills and creativity. While rooting for your favorite team became quite enjoyable and even a tad competitive, the overall theme of the event still remained strong throughout the night: respect and unity. Not once was a shout of disapproval or negativity heard over the course of the battle. In fact, the support between dance teams and dancers was so strong, it was hard for me to differentiate which dancer came from which team, as they all began to blend together.
Although , consisting of dancers Al Ang, Thong Mai and Alan Lai who represented the crews of CADC, MCIA and INSA, respectively, was crowned at the end of the night, it became clear that that was never the real purpose of the battle. This night was not meant to elevate one dance crew above another but was intended to act as a platform for students of UCI to gather and develop an understanding of one another; an understanding that despite the multitude of backgrounds we all come from, a united community of love can be realized through whatever you choose to do. And for UCI, dancing is a great way to start.