“This time we’re gonna get funky… cha cha real smooth. Turn it out,” are a few of the iconic phrases from the “Cha Cha Slide,” which blasted from the speaker system and kicked off the Black Student Union (BSU) Dance Competition, held in Aragon’s theater on Sat., Feb. 23. At the start of the competition, the host, junior and BSU member Akil Hamsath, invited all the dancers at the competition to come onto the stage and dance the “Cha Cha Slide” as a collective group of dancers before the formal program began. Dancers came running, jumping, and turning from all corners of the theater to hop up onto the stage, filling it almost completely. The number was accompanied by a cheering and clapping audience as each dancer brought a personal flair and attitude to the staple group routine.
Beginning at noon and lasting roughly two hours, the competition had a total of six groups performing. Despite the event’s competitive spirit, only three groups participated in the competition based portion of the event.
The noncompetitive groups consisted of the San Mateo Park and Recreation Department’s performance troupe, Jazz Ma Tazz, Aragon’s Asian Pop Club Dance Team, and Bret Harte’s Dance Troupe. San Mateo High School’s Dance Team, Mercy Burlingame High School’s Dance Team, and Christa McAuliffe Middle School’s Step Team competed for first, second, and third place. Two years ago, CMMS took home first place; this year, Mercy won first place, with San Mateo and Christa McAulliffe receiving second and third places, respectively.
The BSU has hosted the competition seven times, although last year the team did not have the event due to construction on the theater and gyms. The event serves as a fundraiser for the BSU. Junior and BSU President Devon Hughes says, “We give the money to ‘My New Red Shoes,’” an organization that provides clothing to homeless and low-income children.
“We will be giving at least 50 percent of our profits from the competition to the charity, if not more,” adds Hughes. Tickets were $5 and the event had an estimated 100-150 in attendance, excluding performers.
The audience, in addition to the number of teams at the competition, was smaller than in previous years. Many point to the absence of a competition last year as the cause of a smaller turnout. BSU adviser Don Bush says, “Since the first [competition], the event has gotten bigger and bigger each year, and more teams competed in the past. At the last minute this year two teams decided not to come out as well. That made the event smaller too.”
Bush reflects, “We could have done more to publicize and advertise the show, but next year it will be bigger.”
Although the Asian Pop Club danced at the event, the Aragon Dance team did not. “The dance team has never performed at the competition before even though we invite them every year. I think the reason has been because they didn’t want to lose,” says Bush.
Aragon Dance Team member junior Emily Pereira says, “Someone on the team said they thought it would be too biased if we competed [because Aragon was hosting].”
San Mateo High School’s Dance Team and the girls from Christa McAuliffe were noted as the most enthusiastic and supportive participants in the event, with the latter given the spirit award.
A crowd favorite for the afternoon was the “dance-off,” where a student from each group and school came on stage and was given twenty seconds to show off his or her best moves. The highlight of the miniature competition came when team captains Jasmine Mallory, from Mercy, and Ben Lim, from San Mateo, had their own dance-off. Mallory initiated the individual face-off by grabbing Lim by his orange and black crewneck and pulling him center stage, at which point the two went back and forth, rapid fire, demonstrating their unique moves. The heated showdown ended with the two embracing in a hug and demonstrating the supportive atmosphere present throughout the competition.
Although breaks in the formal routines were peppered with freestyle dance breaks and lyrics competitions, Lim says, “Performing here is different from a rally because… it’s more about cleanliness and technicality.”
Mallory says, “I find it really refreshing to just lay my heart out on the stage… I felt like it was a lot stronger competition than before…We bumped up our routine and everyone had such strong elements… The stepping was fabulous and the stunts for San Mateo were really good.”
Leah Maes, a third grade student from Bret Harte, reflects, “I loved [the competition]. I got to do my own moves. Whether you win or lose, you still get to celebrate.”