Red, Hot, and (Not So) Blues

Blues dancing at Dupont Circle
Sunday afternoon blues at Dupont Circle | Red Hot Blues ‘N BBQ 2014

Last weekend was the annual Red Hot Blues ‘N BBQ, and all-blues weekend held in DC with late night dances and a barbecue competition. I couldn’t make most of the dances over the weekend, but I was able to squeeze in time for opening night’s Thursday’s Back Room Blues and Dupont Circle on Sunday afternoon. It’s been a long time since I had so much fun dancing with new people, and going to these events reminded me of how much I need to add blues back into my dance life.

Blues is that one dance where I can let go. I find comfort in trusting my partner to guide us through the song together. Each dance is different – the connection, the personality, the playfulness or seriousness mixed with the music create unpredictable moments that I look forward to. I don’t have to think, I just live in the moment and dance the blues away.

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CSDC: International Choreographer’s Showcase Videos

This is old…but it just hit me that I haven’t posted Culture Shock’s performances from our showcase in October. It’s more for my personal log, but go watch them if you haven’t already!

Culture Shock International Choreographer’s Showcase | October 2013 | Act I

In terms of costumes and concept, this was my favorite set. I had so much fun picking out my outfit and accessories, and everyone looked so darn good.

Culture Shock International Choreographer’s Showcase | October 2013 | Act II

Everyone remembers the showcase by this performance. I hadn’t performed on a stage in months before this show. When I stood on stage and felt the audience’s energy, I got an adrenaline rush and remembered why I love to dance.

UK 101: Rip the Floor 2013 and For the Love of Hip Hop

Rip the Floor 2013 was our last competition for UrbanKnowlogy 101 this academic year. While we didn’t place, our medley was fun and my car ended up having a 3 hour extravaganza at IHOP afterwards. There’s nothing like team bonding and food after a long day of prepping, dancing and driving. Missed the competition? Click below to see us sharp and sleek in “Men in Black”!

Rip the Floor 2013 | Songs: “Men in Black” by Will Smith, “Candy Rain” by Soul For Real, “I’m Goin In” by Lil Wayne, “Why I Love You” by Kanye West and Jay-Z, “No Love Allowed” by Rihanna, “Drop it Like It’s Hot” by Snoop Dogg | Choreographers: Cina McKenna, Chris Munar, Nathan Garduno, Demetirus White | Performed by: UrbanKnowlogy 101

Save the Date!
Looking for more UrbanKnowlogy 101? Coming up next is our annual For the Love of Hip Hop celebrating the hip hop culture in our local DMV area. We will bring to you some of the key players in the 5 elements of hip hop (breaking, graffiti, spoken word, rap and knowledge) and get a chance to cyper with us afterwards. Come join us for music, performances and just a fun time!

UPDATE
For the Love has been moved to the fall semester. Join us on September 13th to see the new team and lineup! Stay updated through our Facebook event at https://www.facebook.com/events/498400083554351/?fref=ts!

UK 101: Red Alert Work the Runway Fashion Show 2012

Once again, UrbanKnowlogy 101 wrapped up the year with a strong performance at the annual GMU Fashion Show for HIV Awareness Week. This year, the theme was “Red Alert: Work the Runway” with more vendors and supporters than ever before, including Macy’s and Belle Mode Intimates. UK 101 had the honor of performing twice, opening for the night and again for part II of the show.

Watch below for both parts! Part I (0:14) shows off our sexy ladies and gentlemen while Part II (4:45) draws out a story through our dancing about the consequences of being unsafe.

UrbanKnowlogy 101: Red Alert Fashion Show
Photo Credit: Jenny Pan
Photo Credit: Jenny Pan
Photo Credit: Jenny Pan

We had some of the roughest practices that reminded me of when I first joined the team four years ago, but the late nights seemed to have bonded us even more as a team. Some unexpected events challenged our abilities to work together for the betterment of the show, and witnessing them taught me the importance of making difficult decisions on the spot while considering what is right for the majority. We were very lucky to pull through and show our final product – we couldn’t have done it without every single member of the team. Cheers to another great show and an even better year ahead!

UK 101: Mason Madness 2012

Watch UrbanKnowlogy 101 take the crowd in our latest Mason Madness performance!

Songs: “Beez in the Trap” by Nicki Minaj, “Make me Proud” by Drake ft. Nicki Minaj, “Domino” by Jessie J, “Don’t Mess with my Man” by Nivea, “I’m the Ish” by DJ Class, “Gangnam Style” by PSY | Choreograhers: Cina McKenna, Jia Zheng, Lawrence Hailes, Demetirus White | Performed by: UrbanKnowlogy 101

I can’t believe I’m saying it but this performance was my fourth and final Mason Madness show with UrbanKnowlogy 101. It didn’t click until 10 minutes before we went out on the court, when my teammate Becca turned to me and said how sad it was to perform for the last time at our annual pep rally for the basketball season. All I was thinking at the time was hoping that our formations were going to turn out okay. The years before, I imagined how awesome and crazy our senior year Mason Madness would be, but my mind was so distracted that I barely recognized it when the moment arrived.

Nevertheless, this routine earns a spot in my favorites list, especially with our breakout of “Gangnam Style” at the end. Hope you enjoy our rendition as much as we enjoyed recreating it. Props to Tommy Le for being our PSY!

It’s been a great four years seeing our team grow and still be as strong as, if not stronger than, years past. Words can’t express how excited I am to prepare for our next big show for the HIV/AIDS Awareness Fashion Show – more info coming soon!

Hip Hop Studios in Beijing

And I’m back! I’ve been working on multiple posts trying to organize all my thoughts since returning from China and switching gears for the fall semester, but it’s been a good three months since I’ve fully finished anything and clicked my “Publish” button. I’ve put my reflection of my semester abroad on hold, but for now I’m posting yet another entry on my hip hop experiences in Beijing.

Beginner Hip Hop Class at 嘉禾舞社 (Zaha Club)

The bulk of my blog focuses on the research, interviews, and personal experiences I’ve gained from traveling and dancing abroad. In my last two months in Beijing, I met many dance students and teachers ranging from less than one year of experience to almost a decade of being a full-time dancer. It will take some time, but I’m hoping to put my data together and blog about the hip hop scene in Beijing as extensively as I did in Taiwan (which I’m still finishing on this blog…).

This dance post will be different from my previous ones. A few weeks ago, a reader commented on my site and asked me what dance studios I would recommend in Beijing. As I was typing my responses I realized that I had much more information than for just a reply back, so I decided to post my thoughts here as well. Below are the four studios I visited during my stay in 2012:

1. 舞佳舞
舞佳舞(Wujiawu) Dance Above Family is the first hip hop studio that opened in Beijing and is the home to the hip hop pioneers of China. Needless to say, its style is more old school, focusing on learning the fundamentals of dance and building your way up to find your own style. This studio houses some of the city’s best poppers and nationally known hip hop battlers, including Amo (popping) and Zaki (hip hop). For a good hip hop class, I recommend Zaki (national runner-up of CCTV’s hip hop battle in 2002-2003) and Wood (founding father of the hip hop dance scene in Beijing).  舞佳舞 also hosts the annual international hip hop battle Keep on Dancing in Beijing every May.

Address: SOHU Western District, Building 17 Ground Floor 8826, Chaoyang District (10 minute walk from Guomao station on Line 10 and 5 minute walk from Jianguomen station on Line 1)
Website: http://www.wujiawu.com.cn/

2. 嘉禾舞社
If you’re looking to learn choreography, 嘉禾舞社 (Jiahewushe) Zaha Club is the place to go. They have three locations now, but I suggest going to the one near Guomao (Line 10) or Yonghegong station (line 2 and line 5). I took classes with Bobo, who is one of the most seasoned dancers at Zaha, and he is now teaching at Yonhegong. I can tell from my experience and everyone else’s that he is a big inspiration to the dance scene in Beijing. I spent most of my time here because it is the style I’m most comfortable with, and I was able to learn a lot from the students who came from all different backgrounds. Zaha Club also has a company team called Team Invader who competes at national and international competitions throughout the year.

Address: See the “About Us” section on the main page of the website for the three locations
Website: http://www.jiahewushe.com/main/

3. SPY Dance School
SPY, another veteran of Beijing’s hip hop scene, is right next to 舞佳舞 and is known for its jazz teachers. SPY highlights their sexy and energetic choreography rather than the hip hop fundamentals offered by teachers from 舞佳舞. Our jazz team at Tsinghua invited one of SPY’s instructors last semester to teach a routine to Jessica Mauboy’s “Get ‘Em Girls,” emphasizing strong feminine moves from Beijing’s interpretation of jazz.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find their address or website online, but here is a video of their professional crew to see what they’re about:

4. SDT Dance
SDT Dance is a studio in Sanlitun that teaches beginner hip hop classes and has guest teachers come in for special workshops every few weeks. Jun Quemado from Movement Lifestyle guest taught in 2010 and local professionals visit during the week. SDT allows you to drop in for a free trial of jazz or hip hop on Saturdays and Sundays.

Address: Sanlitun 33 3.3 The five-story building (next to Nali Patio), Chaoyang District
Website: http://www.sdtdance.com/plus/list.php?tid=13

These studios were recommended by my teammates at Tsinghua, but I’m sure there are plenty more in the area if you talk to the teachers. From what I gathered, 舞佳舞 (Dance Above Family) is famous for its battling scene and 嘉禾舞社 (Zaha Club) is well known for its studio training. The dancing social circle is relatively close-knit so if you’ve got more time than I did during my months in Beijing, I would suggest talking to Zaki (Dance Above Family) and Bobo (Zaha Club) about getting more involved. If you find new information, please share! Good luck searching and have fun dancing :)

Note: Photo is property of Jia Zheng. Please credit properly!

Hip Hop in Beijing: Videos of Tsinghua’s DK5 Crew Spring 2012

“Best Energy” at UR Rattan Hip Hop Finals

It’s hard to believe that our school’s hip hop team is having its final performance of the academic year tomorrow night.  Unfortunately I will not be dancing nor performing, but I’ll be sending my endless support to my teammates and friends who made me feel at home this semester.  Take a look at what we’ve been up to these few months!

UR Rattan Hip Hop Finals (videos below)
We received “Best Energy” for the night, and rightfully so!  This was our cleanest performance overall, though there were still some spots we needed to work on.  Out of the teams that made it to the finals, we were one of the few with choreography instead of the more common old-school hip hop prevalent in Beijing.  I choreographed a new piece to Nicki Minaj’s part of “Make Me Proud,” something I wouldn’t have predicted in accomplishing this semester had I not been challenged and inspired by the right people.  Long practices and sleepless nights were dedicated to this competition, but that’s where I had some of my favorite memories with the team. Contestants included Peking University, Beijing LiGong University, Beijing JiLee University.

Click here to watch Round 1 (Team performance)
Leaders’ solos begin at 2:55, our team begins at 6:00
Songs: “I’m Busy” by Mims, “You Make Me Wanna” by Kimberly Cole and Eddie Amador, “Make Me Proud” by Drake ft. Nicki Minaj, “Outta Your Mind” by Lil Jon, “Crank it Up” by Json | Choreography: Michael Ho, Jia Zheng, and choreographer of “You Make Me Wanna”

Click here to watch Round 2 (Solos)
Choreography from professionals and freestyling by Xiao Yu (5th performer).  Special credits to UrbanKnowlogy 101 and Andye J for my portion!

UR Rattan Hip Hop Semi-Finals (videos below)
This was our first competition of the year.  A bit rough, but we pulled it together given our time restraints and limited knowledge of information.  Surprisingly, we received the highest score of the night, followed by Beijing LiGong University in second with their popping routines.

Click here to watch Round 1 (Team performance)
Songs: “Buzzin” by Mann, “Quickie” by Miguel, “Get ’em Girls” by Jessica Mauboy, “I’m Busy” by Mims, “Crank it Up” by Json | Choreography: Michael Ho, Jia Zheng, Spy Dance

Click here to watch Round 2 (Solos)
A mixture of freestyle and choreography inspired by Tessandra Chavez and Brian Puspos.  Michael (the second performer) learned his solo portion from a studio at the east side of Beijing.

Click here to watch Beijing Ligong University’s routine
Their routine is to a popular song about two male lovers, hence the wild responses in the audience.

*Note: We never had proper practices for Round 2 of either competition, so excuse the lack of transitions.

Just at practice:
http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMzk1NzY1NDU2.html

Our performance at the National Cheerleading Competition is worth watching, but it takes forever to load over here so I’ll have it up later.  In the meantime, enjoy!

Hip Hop in Beijing: A Bittersweet Practice

Laowan and Mingjie, the power couple and leaders of our hip hop and jazz crews

I should be sleeping by now since our final practice for our last competition of the semester is in less than seven hours.  Before I do, I want to say how proud I am of the team to have come this far.  In February, some of the members were learning the most basic movements of hip hop, immersing themselves into the culture with no prior dance experience other than watching the occasional Michael Jackson video or dance showcase on the internet.

After nearly 10 hours of practice tonight, I’m stating with confidence that our chosen routine looks the best out of all routines we have performed all semester.  In about 13 hours, we will be on stage for a national competition at our own Tsinghua University performing what we have choreographed and sweated through for the past two weeks.  The competition itself is more for aerobics/gymnastics, but they just added a hip hop portion this year, so we are all curious to see how the judges and audience will react to this new style of dancing.

Throughout practice tonight, I was cheering inside about how our sleepless nights will be over after this weekend.  Then I thought about how much I am going to miss being around this energetic bunch.  I always feel welcomed coming into each practice seeing their smiles and enthusiasm for dancing ready to burst out.  Sometimes I forget how much time we spend together, because we are so focused on working towards the same goal that hours will pass by like minutes.  I will still see them after this competition, but it won’t be as intimate as dancing next to their soaked bodies in the non-air conditioned gym. Yum!

We have a smaller group than usual performing tomorrow, but the ones who aren’t directly participating have helped immensely through the process.  I was touched when David, our b-boy of the group, came and visited to help us film despite his short time available.  Then Xufan, our graduating senior, patiently stayed to help us figure out formations for each routine.  While these members aren’t able to dance tomorrow, they have shown tremendous support and I can’t thank them enough for it.

To get a sneak peek of what we have been doing, click here for our challenge round and solos at the most recent UR Rattan Hip Hop Finals held last Wednesday.  加油 DK5!

Hip Hop in Beijing: When Dedication Surpasses Skill

Having fun during one of our evening practices

Since early April, I’ve had the chance to visit and take classes from several dance studios in Beijing.  I’ve chosen to seek out the hip hop sessions here to see how they differ from learning in a western or Taiwanese environment.  While my main goal throughout this experience is to gain more insight on how students think hip hop is viewed to locals outside of the dance world, and how dancers have personally gained interest in this hobby, I first want to address the amount of motivation and drive I have seen from these dancers in this short time.

The two studios I frequented the most so far were 舞佳舞, famous for their popping and hip hop teachers, and Zaha Dance Club, known for their creative choreographers.  Although these companies have high reputations within the city, I noticed that the teachers still focused on explaining dance steps in a fairly elementary process, such as indicating where to place the right arm or introducing a body roll to the left.  By the end of a two-hour class, we will have accomplished two 8 counts whereas I view it as being taught in 10-20 minutes.  The teachers recognize that this is the best for the class as a whole, where as I see some of the explanations as common knowledge for a dancer.

The routines are relatively simple for studios with renowned professional teachers who have claimed titles at international battles and performed at local dance showcases.  However, I do admire the students’ drive to improve and take advantage of their resources on site.  While students may have a difficult time grasping every concept and movement, they have a desire to understand and eagerly ask the teachers for individual help during breaks or after class.  Sometimes, the teacher will end up staying after the end of a class on a volunteer basis to mentor a student for fifteen minutes, or to simply chat with them about how to practice a certain movement.

This dedication also translates into our team at Tsinghua.  The students are young and have been exposed to a limited amount of material, but their dedication shows in their time commitment and enthusiasm to try new things.  Laowan mentioned that every semester, they will have 100 or so new students signed up on their interest lists.  While it appears that people show great appreciation for this scene, many guys will join for the sake of attracting girls, and many girls show interest because they want to be sexy and effectively lose weight – which is completely understandable, because who doesn’t want these attributes?  The numbers slowly trickle down with each passing week but the ones who remain truly have the desire to dance, and it shows through their cooperation and willingness to learn.

Hard at work

In the past month, we have had four of our seven total performances for the semester so far.  Each practice is led with intense training and high energy with an equal amount of fun and inside jokes.  Routines are drilled into us until the wee hours of 3-4AM and there is no question that teammates will practice on their own after we disperse.  While it takes days to produce a presentable show, there are rarely any signs of complaints because they like what they are a part of.  Finding a practice space is usually our biggest obstacle – student organizations compete for a spot in the gym, so if we’re lucky we can stay for two hours at a time.  Then we migrate to the second floor lobby, and finally move to the ever so reliable C Building that is open 24 hours where we can have our midnight dinners and last-minute runs of our routines.

Xufan, our oldest and cutest member!

Despite the amount of work accumulated within everyone’s majors, my teammates are willing to sacrifice a few hours of sleep to better the team as a whole.  While our usual practices are held two to three times a week for three hours each, we dedicated each minute of our free time to perfecting our routine during competition week.  I am proud to say that it paid off, proven with the highest score received for the night at the semi-finals for UR Rattan Hip Hop Competition at 北京吉利大学 (Beijing Geely University).  This shows that even with time constraints and shortage on training, my teammates’ passion and determination for hip hop has brought our Tsinghua team farther along into the scene than ever before.

Click here for a video of our first performance.

UK 101: Rock the Runway Fashion Show 2011

It’s bittersweet writing this post because this performance was my favorite, but also the last one, for the year.  :'( Everything about the show was great: the story, the underlying message, the dancers, the practices, the real show, and the after party! This is our second time performing at GMU’s annual Fashion Show to spread the awareness of HIV and AIDS, organized by the Student Involvement Office.  After the models melted the audience with their hot red and white outfits, we took on the stage along with Noteworthy (our female a capella group), V (student rapper and poet), and recording artist Rashida.

Take a look at our final product below, thanks to Tony Marquez (watch in 1080p HD!):

Rock the Runway Fashion Show 12/2/2011 | Songs: “Headlines” by Drake, “Party” by Beyonce, “We Found Love” by Rihanna, “One Night Stand” by Chris Brown, “Fantasy” by Timbaland feat. Money, “Fall for Your Type” by Jamie Foxx feat. Drake, “Little Bit” by Drake, “Cold” by Aziatix | Choreographers: Kathy Lopes, Catie Brown, Cina McKenna, Olivia Jeffords, Jia Zheng, Brittany Hill, Demetirus White, Tri Le | Performer: Urbanknowlogy 101

It may have been a little difficult to hear the spoken word and narration of the show, so I’ll provide a summary of what our wonderful Vice President, Pierre Durant, communicates to the audience:

  • In the beginning we are given the description of AIDS (represented by the red handkerchief), and how it can be transferred to anyone anywhere.  The story starts with a guy who is too confident for his own good (played by Tigre Fortune) and doesn’t really care about what anyone says.  He then meets a girl at a party (Bethanne Sours) where she retrieves AIDS from the player after a hook up.
  • The party girl then takes drugs with the heroine addict (Olivia Jeffords) who transfers it to three other friends.  Upon returning from their state, the homosexual man (Demetirus White) transmits AIDS to another man (Lawrence Broadway).
  • The prostitute (Catie Brown) flaunts her charm and tries to seduce a nonchalant guy (Tommy Le), who decides to take the offer.  The girl he is involved with (me) is angry and tries to make their relationship work, but he (Tommy) doesn’t care and manipulates her, resulting in another transmission.

  • The story then turns to a man (Travis Carey) who proposes to his girlfriend (Rebecca Barbush) but ends up having an affair with three other women, one who already has AIDS (Kathy Lopes), goes back to his fiance, spreading the disease to her, too.  One of the affairs (Cina McKenna) is upset about her mistake, and she tries to hide it from her boyfriend (Tri Le) but in the end, he receives AIDS as well.

  • An angel (Megan Ellard) sees all these affected individuals and is sad about how quickly and effortlessly this disease was transferred from one person to the next, sending the message that people should always stay strapped and be prepared all the time, because the next person could be you.

Yes, the plot is a little exaggerated, but our goal was to show how dangerous AIDS can be through our dancing.  This particular show required some more acting, which I think we pulled off by showtime.  Even from the beginning stages of putting this together, I knew that it was going to be a great performance.  My personal favorite was “Fantasy” choreographed by Sasha, a member from our founding group.  I was so upset that I wasn’t able to be in this one, but Catie did such a good job portraying her character it didn’t even matter!

I was honored to be dancing in Catie’s “Fall for Your Type” because I connected with this piece so much.  Every time I performed this, in practice and the show, I got an adrenaline rush of just putting out all my emotions into those few seconds.  I was so happy I was able to show this side of me on stage, because it’s certainly different from what I’ve been doing with UK 101 in the past.  Tommy was also a great actor; I couldn’t have done it without him!

I’m still waiting for my official acceptance, but I’m most likely studying abroad in China next year, which means this would be my last time performing with UK 101 until I return to GMU in the fall.  I am truly grateful for some of my closest friends who attended the show.  It meant a lot that they were able to come and support.  Even though this isn’t the end of my journey in UK 101, I feel like I’m leaving it for eternity.  Though, next year, I’ll be back as an even better dancer and hopefully sharing what I learn from overseas.

Note: All photos are courtesy of Jenny Pan