Showdown 2019: Competition Heats Up More dance teams than ever competed for the top awards at ALC Showdown in 2019.

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oston College students often show up in large numbers at Conte Forum for a hockey or basketball game, but on Saturday, Conte was home to a different kind of athletic competition. ALC Showdown, the annual dance competition hosted by the AHANA+ Leadership Council (ALC), featured 15 different student dance groups all competing for a total of four awards.

Three of the four awards were a result of judges’ scoring. Liz Ronka, an Assistant Coordinator of Dance at Boston University; Emily Stromski, a dance teacher in Massachusetts and former dancer for the Celtics and Demi Lovato; and Eric Rivera, a member of a dance studio in Cambridge and a Resident Director at BC, judged the teams based on cleanliness, creativity, and engagement. The other award—ALC’s Choice, an award that took the place of People’s Choice and was voted on by ALC members—was given to the team that best exemplified the mission of ALC with its performance and engaged the crowd throughout its routine.

The dance teams were divided between two categories: Competition and Culture. Competing in the Competition category were Fuego Del Corazón, Boston College Irish Dance (BCID), Females Incorporating Sisterhood Through Step (F.I.S.T.S.), Boston College Dance Ensemble (BCDE), Dance Organization of Boston College (DOBC), Full Swing, On Tap, Phaymus, Sexual Chocolate (SC), Synergy, and Uprising. Meanwhile, Presenting Africa to You (PATU), AEROdynamiK (AeroK), Masti, and Vida de Intensa Pasión (VIP) all competed in the Culture category. Fuego took first place in the Competition category, while BCID came in second. For the second year in a row, PATU took first place in the Culture category. F.I.S.T.S. took home the ALC’s Choice award.

All awards were presented by Amaka Nnaeto, chair of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) Diversity and Inclusion Programming Board and MCAS ’20.

Audience members were also treated to outside entertainment. Hosts Savannah Clarke, MCAS ’19, and Samir Aslane, MCAS ’19, gave a comedic introduction to the event before taking a moment of silence for Patrick Gregorek, MCAS ’19, who died suddenly on March 24. Alex Gardiner—one of Gregorek’s roommates, a member of VIP, and MCAS ’19—also took the stage to commemorate Gregorek. Gardiner recalled how Gregorek, who was a member of Full Swing, would constantly beg him to reveal VIP’s Showdown theme and was always interested in how their performance was coming together.

“Tonight I dance for you, Pat,” Gardiner said. “… I bet the seats are pretty good from heaven.”

Despite a tearful start to Showdown, the larger dance community was able to come together around a shared love of the artform to provide dazzling entertainment for the Conte audience.

Competition

Fuego Del Corazón

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imulating a dance competition awards ceremony just a couple minutes into its routine, Fuego assumed the role of a losing team on a mission to come back strong in its Step Up-themed routine—a role Fuego wouldn’t have to worry about playing at the end of the night. Fuego danced with a fiery passion to take first place at Showdown. The Latin dance team opened its breathless sprint of a routine with acrobatic stunts before slipping into its seductive style of partner dance. Hip-hop steps added a fun flair to the group’s performance during Bad Bunny’s “Fuego (Fire).”

“The amount of work that goes into a Showdown set is crazy,” Elena Akins, the social media coordinator for Fuego and MCAS ’19, said. “But the countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears are all worth it once we make our routine come alive on stage.”

Fuego earned loud cheers from the crowd, as it performed a traditional salsa onstage, a segment of the dance that was as equally eye-catching as some of the group’s more daring stunts. Jaws dropped when several members of the team formed a human staircase for the Nora Clark (Jenna Dewan) stand-in to run across and fall into the arms of her unlikely dance partner Tyler Gage (Channing Tatum), as a sound clip from the film played. Fuego amped up its passion for a crowd pleasing “Gasolina” segment that featured human swings. During the final moments of the dance team’s performance, it became abundantly clear Fuego would not suffer the same fate as the fictional team it portrayed onstage. Fuego donated the proceeds from its prize to the American Civil Liberties Union, specifically citing its work with vulnerable immigrant families as a worthy cause.

BCID

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ehind its glamorous Great Gatsby theme laid the familiar steely precision that has made BCID a force to be reckoned with on campus—prior to Showdown 2018, BCID had taken the first place prize in the Competition category two years in a row. In this year’s performance, the group banked on especially intricate moves. Risk was met with reward when BCID won second place, as well as an especially enthusiastic crowd response.

“We had a lot of new members this year, and we are so happy that they got to start out their BCID career with such a high,” Eileen McAleer, captain of BCID and CSON ’20, said of ushering in a new class of BCID members at Showdown.

The group made use of clips from Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby and favorites from the soundtrack like will.i.am’s “Bang Bang” and Fergie’s “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody.” Half the team was decked out in flapper dresses and headbands, while the other half wore dapper fedoras and all-black outfits. Continuing its nod to the ’20s, BCID even incorporated the Charleston into its choreography. The audience went wild, as the dancers glided across the floor, rapidly arranging themselves into different shapes while their feet continued to stomp in perfect unison. BCID conveyed the tragic ending of Gatsby through a dramatic dance off. The stage was bathed in crimson light, and the music suddenly halted when the dancers drummed out a harsh percussion on the floor. Viewers knew what was coming, but the sight of Gatsby dropping to the floor was still a striking conclusion to the flawless routine. BCID donated the proceeds from its second place prize to Rosie’s Place, a women’s shelter in Boston.

F.I.S.T.S.

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.I.S.T.S. incorporated an impressive theme, props, and overall set into its performance. The dancers wore pink tank tops that read “Barbie” and denim shorts. Large pink Barbie boxes lined the backdrop of the stage, with giant teddy bears leaning against them. Everything about F.I.S.T.S.’s performance screamed girl power, from their donation to Strong Women, Strong Girls to the overall message of its theme. “Girls can do anything” was the group’s overall message to the audience, especially when Ken—a male guest performer—made an appearance.

“Girls can be doctors and lawyers too,” the girl group screamed at Ken.

The team was impressively loud, which is important in a step performance. Even as they fell to the floor, the audience could hear the precise moment when they hit the stage. The performance was perfectly coordinated—although at one point, one dancer fell a few seconds early—and, overall, it was spectacular. F.I.S.T.S. used crowd-pleasing songs throughout the set, including the “Barbie Girl” theme, “Good Form” by Nicki Minaj, and “7 rings” by Ariana Grande, which drew cheers from the audience. F.I.S.T.S. won the ALC’s Choice award, and it was clear the group rehearsed a great deal to produce a pristine performance. The articulate stomps and claps made for an impressive and unique performance.

BCDE

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CDE’s ladies were the “Dancing Queens” of this year’s Showdown. The Mamma Mia! theme received cheers throughout the audience, and everyone was singing along by the end of the set. The team’s precise coordination ranged from its impeccable synchronized spins during “Voulez-Vous” to its unique costumes. All 30 dancers wore red jumpsuits, matching bandanas, and ponytails. The performance included ABBA crowd pleasers including “Dancing Queen,” “Mamma Mia,” and “Super Trooper.” During “Super Trooper,” the group closed the set with an impressive triangle formation, one in which every member was in sync. In between songs, BCDE even played out key scenes from Mamma Mia!. Three of the dancers were dressed up as Sam, Harry, and Bill, Sophie’s fictional fathers in the movie. The crowd’s familiarity of the songs and overall theme made for plenty of audience engagement throughout BCDE’s set.

DOBC

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OBC clued in Conte to its flawless technique during its Clue-themed routine. The all-female team moved across the Showdown stage with effortless precision and grace after starting off the performance with a lift that flipped one clue piece backward and across the board. Members of the team, all dressed in black aside from the sparkling colored Clue pieces, carried giant game cards onto the stage while dancing to Panic! At The Disco’s “Death of a Bachelor,” following a stomach-lurching scream that sprung the board game into action. DOBC added dimension to its set by creating levels with staggered formations onstage while dancing to Loud Luxury’s “Body” before forming a pyramid formation for a “Wasn’t Me” segment that was equal parts comical and risqué. The audience looked on with awe, as a group of girls pirouetted for a mind-numbing period of time amid one final fierce act during Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do.”

Full Swing

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onspicuously absent from last year’s Showdown, Full Swing made a dazzling return with an elaborate Back to the Future-themed performance. It was a clever choice for a group that brings retro swing dancing to a modern crowd, allowing the dancers to combine classic moves with modern twists in its performance. To represent the time machine, a squad of dancers in metallic garb performed precise movements to Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” Full Swing entered its element during a ’50s school dance scene that soon erupted into an acrobatic fight set to Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock.” Brightly hued a-line dresses and greaser-style leather jackets completed the back-in-time illusion. The group’s daring stunts amazed the enraptured crowd. Jumping back to the present, Ke$ha’s “Timber” accompanied the dancers, as they shed their prim and proper outfits for sequin hot pants and vests. It was a playful finish for Full Swing that left no doubt that it can hold its own in a competitive environment.

On Tap

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ontroversy ensued when On Tap announced the theme of its routine—Michael Jackson—in the video screened prior to the start of the group’s routine. The tap group followed up with an acknowledgment of the recent controversial HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland, that detailed the late pop star’s rampant child sex abuse, stating that the theme had been picked prior to the documentary’s release—despite the fact that Jackson was first accused of child abuse in 1993. To compensate for the choice, On Tap detailed its outside contributions to the National Children’s Alliance and altered its costumes for the performance—each member wore all black. The dancers performed to Jackson and The Jackson 5 hits, such as “Smooth Criminal,” “ABC,” “P.Y.T.,” and “Thriller.” Although cheering was relatively muted during the performance, On Tap earned a few screams while performing segments of the iconic “Thriller” video that integrated tap into the famous steps.

Phaymus

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haymus, one of BC’s hip-hop dance teams, brought the speed to Showdown. The group’s NASCAR theme was both unique and exciting. The costumes were red and black, with some team members wearing checkered accent pieces. Phaymus also incorporated checkered flags and gas cans as props, and used screeching tires and horns blowing throughout. To stay consistent with the theme, the group danced to “Gasolina” about halfway through the set, which encouraged the audience to cheer and dance throughout the song. At the end of the set, the group even brought out a trophy for the race’s “winner.” The group comically fought over the trophy as they were on the quest to win the Showdown trophy. Phaymus’ set was energetic and different, and the dancing was clean and clearly well-rehearsed.

Sexual Chocolate

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exual Chocolate, whose theme revolved around the concept of brotherhood (the same theme it performed with at last year’s Showdown), began with a standard hip-hop number to Chris Brown’s “Kriss Kross.” Members wore Timberland boots, red and white sweatpants, and simple black sweatshirts. The music disappeared and the group returned to its roots with a traditional step routine.

“SC, OK!” chanted the members as they stomped and clapped across the stage.

SC pulled off their sweatshirts to wild cheers from the crowd to reveal white t-shirts before jumping into another hip-hop routine to Migos’ “Pure Water.” When the lights turned red, the crowd knew exactly what was coming. Members brought chairs onto the stage and performed an approximation of a lap dance to Chris Brown’s “Famous,” albeit this time without anyone in the chairs. SC finished with a fast-paced, stunt-filled number to “Twerk” by City Girls. Demonstrating brotherhood in action, the team packed into a tight structure, as one member climbed to the top and raised his fist triumphantly.

Synergy

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ast year’s Showdown champs showed up with more hip-hop highlights during its Oregon Trail-esque choose-your-own-adventure routine. Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead” ushered in a pounding set of high-energy movements. Reciprocated energy radiated off the crowd when the group screamed the final “God” of the track in synchrony. Synergy slipped into a smoother style of hip-hop during Sage the Gemini’s “Gas Pedal.” Synergy conveyed its theme through storyboard video-game style segments where sound clips would give the audience two options in a given scenario, a feature that seemed to be aimed at audience involvement but did not quite achieve its goal. The crowd, however, cheered on the team throughout its performance. Aside from the footwork that carried the dancers across the stage, the group’s clean formations allowed Synergy to exhibit its strong technical skills throughout the routine.

Uprising

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prising was the first to perform at Showdown and set a high bar for the teams that performed after it. With a theme of love, Uprising detailed the ways love shows itself in different stages of life, starting with a cute number as school kids set to Louis the Child’s “Better Now.” Shifting from the chillingly precise isolations of the first part of the dance, the members of Uprising easily cozied up for a steamy high school number featuring flannel shirts and partner work. The group also utilized two plastic dividers to stage a dance off before segwaying into a high-power hip-hop segment. Smooth movements characterized the final moments of the hip-hop crew’s routine—members glided across the stage while Kanye West’s evocative “Ultralight Beam” played over the Conte speakers, earning a resounding round of applause in the process.

Culture

PATU

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or the second straight year, PATU won the Culture category at Showdown. The team entered the stage with cheers from the audience hoping the team could keep up the winning streak. The Avatar: The Last Airbender theme was unique, and, while it wasn’t extremely evident from the dance moves, the background screens clarified any confusion, allowing the audience to focus on the performance itself. The costumes were vibrant and colorful, varying among red, blue, and yellow pieces.

PATU is the master of being perfectly coordinated without being rigid or too stiff—the group is effortlessly synchronized. It’s the type of performance that only comes from intense and repeated rehearsing. The lighthearted atmosphere PATU brings lines up very well with its uber-coordinated moves, which require a great deal of talent. PATU donated proceeds to CameroonOne, an organization that connects orphans in Cameroon to surviving relatives and ensures they receive an education and health care. PATU has truly perfected its craft—the group has proven to be a consistently strong team of individuals, each with their own unique flair but impressively consistent as a whole. From the costumes to the songs to the dancing itself, PATU always stays consistent with its mission and continues to set the standard for the culture category.

AeroK

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eroK won the crowd over with a playful Pokémon theme. The dancers, decked out in red and blue windbreakers, black pants, and white sneakers, began with a peppy hip-hop number. Familiar characters from the Pokémon universe made appearances throughout the performance, including Ash Ketchum and Professor Oak. A dancer dressed as a Charmander led a group of dancers in an energetic, trap-heavy routine. Then, the ladies took the stage to the tune of a gentle R&B song. The dancers formed a tight circle, and, suddenly, it was the moment the crowd had been waiting for: Pikachu himself made an appearance. Cheers erupted as red light flooded the stage and he led a posse of dancers in a swaggering, upbeat finale.

Masti

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asti brought the throwback spirit with its Showdown performance. While the South Asian dance troupe’s theme wasn’t evident at first, toward the end of the performance it became clear that it was in fact Scooby-Doo. In the beginning of the set, one of the characters got kidnapped, which gave away the fun theme that took the audience straight back to childhood. Many of the dancers donned costumes of Scooby-Doo characters, such as Fred Jones and Scooby himself. The rest of the team wore traditional South Asian clothes. The team was very noticeably coordinated at the end of the performance and was able to effectively mix modern, popular songs with more traditional numbers. The set got better as it progressed, ending with the dancers performing in a clean and synchronized triangle formation.

VIP

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s the familiar opening whistles of “The World Es Mi Familia” rang out, the crowd stirred with excitement. VIP incorporated the soundtrack of the beloved animated film Coco and imagery from the Academy Award winning film for its festive, timeless performance. VIP began by paying homage to the old school, dancing the salsa to Tito Puente’s “Ran Kan Kan.” Then, the ladies of the group, wearing colorful masks, seized the stage to perform a hip-hop inspired routine to Bad Bunny’s trap-heavy “La Romana.” Screens framing the stage displayed colorful geometric patterns, as the men of the team emerged from the darkness wearing skeleton button down shirts, reflecting Coco’s Day of the Dead theme. The audience erupted in cheers when it heard the opening horns of Cardi B’s Latin-inspired hit, “I Like It.” The routine came to a climax when the members formed intricately twisting circles, rapidly switching partners and forming a rotating pinwheel shape before dramatically dropping into the splits.

Correction, April 3, 8:12 p.m.: A previous version of this article stated that AeroK competed in the Competition category. The team, in fact, competed in the Culture category. The order of teams has been updated to reflect this information.

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor

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