For many, when we hear the word “art,” sometimes, the first things that tend to come to mind are drawing and painting. The world of art goes beyond paper and pen, it appeals to the body through sound and motion. Dance is to stage what painting is to canvas.

Here at UC Merced, there are many dance groups open to students, from cultural to modern, either as a sub club or an organization of its own. There are many places where students have the opportunity to express through the freedom of dance.

For the upcoming Dance-Off, there are three main teams competing: INTRO Movement (Inspiring Notions Through Ranges of Movement), D.Co. (Dance Coalition), and HHM Dance (Hip Hop Movement). As for the cultural side, there is PAA (Pilipino American Alliance), Ohana, Hmong Student Association, Hermanos Unidos, ASU’s All African Habesha and many more. For now, we will focus on the big three teams that will be performing this weekend. Don’t worry cultural, you will get the limelight next time.

“Dance is the expression of one’s self that you get from music. It’s like one’s own interpretation of how a song should be put into movement, if ever one were to know,” said third year, Jeffery Xie of HHM. “I do it because it gives off a good feeling whenever you practiced so hard for a move and you finally get it down; a plus when people see it and get excited as well… Being a dancer can be quite challenging, but if one’s willing to commit the time and effort to perfect their craft, it becomes a second nature to them.”

Hip Hop Movement is a cultural awareness group that is meant to spread the knowledge of Hip-Hop through its four branches, finding its roots through a group of breakdancers. HHM is a safe place where people can express themselves freely and keep people improving through competitions, which was the original purpose of Hip-Hop dancing. HHM is open to anyone who is willing to learn.

“I started [it] as a hobby back in elementary in Japan,” said third year, Kendra Le of HHM. “It’s an adrenaline rush whenever I’m on stage. Now, I do it as a career but the feeling is still the same.

“Dance is a way to express your emotions. Sometimes I see someone freestyling and I get a glimpse of how they feel in that moment,” said third year, Eva Salas of D.Co. “I dance because it’s a nice way of bonding with my friends while simultaneously relieving stress.”

Dance Coalition focuses on diversity and the notion of family. They consistently learn Tutting, Contemporary, and Hip-Hop pieces as well as Chinese, Latin, and KPop choreographies and are still open to learn more. D.Co. considers themselves a dance family, where they can hang out outside of the dance room and they know they can count on each other for support and build each other up, just like a family!

“On stage, emotions are everywhere. Waiting backstage in anticipation of a piece that I am in personally makes me nervous. But, once your queue is up, you are in the zone,” said Salas talking about pre-show jitters. “The adrenaline kicks in and the moves come naturally after so many long hours of practice. It feels good knowing you’ve done the work and can just enjoy yourself on stage.”

“Dance is a form of artistic expression, a way of life. It allows you to be yourself and tell your story,” said UCM Alumni, Daveon Smith of INTRO Movement. “Dance is a lifestyle, raw and unedited. Regardless of looks or size, it’s a way for you to be free and show the world your beauty in various forms of movement.”

INTRO Movement is a dance team built on diversity and style. They pride themselves on allowing a wide range of dance techniques and song. Each member provides a small piece of uniqueness found nowhere else, that when combined is a truly remarkable thing. Those who are interested in joining are tasked with learning a short choreo created by one of the current members. They don’t ever discriminate or judge prior to tryouts and are always willing to give those with the passion a chance.

All of these dance groups have been working their hardest these past few months to put on a show for us. Don’t forget that our dancers are students too!

“It’s a very long process because everyone is balancing their dance practice and school work. We all commit to the team so it’s not uncommon to see people running to their laptop every 2 minutes between pieces,” Le said commenting on Hell Week for dancers. “As a team, HHM have our up and down moments while getting ready for Dance Off, but everyone is wholeheartedly dedicated to giving our audiences an incredible experience, even if it’s only for the night.”

They have been practicing every day as much as they can, wherever they can. Sometimes they can be seen practicing in the dance rooms in Tenaya, outside in the open air near S&E, or even inside the classrooms after classes are done for the day. For some groups, practices go on from two hours to six hours, sometimes even all night till the brink of dawn!

“When dancing, you begin to forget past stresses and just be comfortable in your skin. I dance because it allows me to portray a side of myself many don’t see,” said Smith. “It allows me to fully express myself in ways I couldn’t in my norm day to day life. When I dance, the stage is my own and the world is my audience.”

These dance groups are dedicated to the art of the dance, with an inspirational level of showmanship. Check them out at Dance-Off today starting 7pm!

As a final send-off quote Smith would like to add “I would like to thank Anjeliko San Mateo for reaching out and allowing me to be a part of this article. I would also like to thank INTRO Movement for the remarkable experiences during my time on the team. To the teams competing in this year’s Dance Off competition, I would like to wish you all the best of luck and remind you to leave it all on the floor. To my Bobcat babies out there, remember to slay the existence of your haters and remain flawless.

Forever Yours, The Queen Bee” – Daveon Smith

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Picture Credit: CAB’s Marketing Team


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