‘Gold or nothing’: How the UP BFT danced their way to the top in UAAP 85

A historic three-peat. A redemption tour coming to completion. Possibly a tournament sweep. 

Such were the opportunities open for the UP Ballroom Formation Team (UP BFT) at the comeback of the UAAP Ballroom Formation Competition last April 29 at the University of Santo Tomas (UST). 

It could have gone a lot of ways with State U going up against talented teams in UST, Far Eastern University and Adamson University across three different events.

But the team had already set their mind from the get-go: it was gold or nothing even before they set foot on-stage.

During the UP BFT’s exclusive viewing at the College of Human Kinetics New Gym four days before the contest, Latin team co-captain Eman Clifford Ros bared the winning mentality they shared within the team.

Sabi ng coach namin, ‘Kung sasali tayo, dapat ang goal natin [ay] ‘yung gold. Kung hindi ‘yung gold ang aim natin, ‘wag na tayo sumali,’” he said.

Team coach Jay-ar Fernandez highlighted how the group wanted to reclaim the crown after placing second in Standard last season. The UST Sinag Ballroom Dance Company had champed the category then, narrowly edging the Maroons for the hotly-contested title. 

Four days later, that’s exactly what Fernandez’s dancers did. 

Redeeming themselves in the Standard division, the UP BFT completed a rare sweep of all three categories in the UAAP Season 85 Ballroom Formation competition.

The team claimed its third straight championship title in Latin while also clinching the crown in the Latin-Mix category.

The UP Ballroom Formation Team poses for a photo op after sweeping all three categories in the UAAP Season 85 Ballroom Formation Competition. Photo by Glecelyn Simba

It was a “Send Me Back Saturday” for the UP BFT that afternoon. The team, grooving to musical hits from the 1980s, completed a sweep reminiscent of their predecessors’ in the inaugural edition.

In the process, the squad also avenged their sweep bid in Season 82 that was ultimately foiled by Sinag. 

Even with UST as the Maroons’ team-to-beat this Season 85, however, Standard team captain Joanna De Leon viewed things differently.

Locking in their goals

Rather than focusing on beating their competitors, De Leon and her squad looked to outperform themselves from last season. 

“Ang tatalunin namin ngayon ng team ko, ng standard team, ay ang standard team ng last season,” the captain said during the viewing.

When the Standard team reclaimed the title this season, the team skipper could only sigh in relief that their hard work and dedication paid off. 

“Naging meaningful siya in a way kasi parang last season, naging first runner-up lang kami. Ang heartbreaking no’n,” De Leon shared

For Latin team captain Jamila De Luna, their title this season means more than just achieving a three-peat. 

Magandang memory ‘to sa akin syempre na aalis ako na nakuha ang gold. Kasi ‘yun din naman talaga ang goal ko,” the graduating captain said.

Leading the Latin-Mix team in their first UAAP stint, Jan Christian Garcia admitted there was pressure to perform well given the UP BFT’s winning tradition. 

The champion team’s achievement was not without tumbles, though. Behind the UP BFT’s success story are the challenges they had to face throughout the season.

Grooving through the hurdles

One of the setbacks they encountered was the lack of training spaces during most of the team’s preparation.

All three squads had to share a single court among themselves, the captains revealed. It was not until March that each team was able to get their own practice venues. 

For Latin-Mix captain Garcia, however, it was the lack of funding that proved toughest to work out. 

‘Yung Standard at Latin, meron silang allotted budget na from UAAP. Kami, parang naghanap ng way para magkaroon ng budget sa costume, kumuha kami ng mga donation,” Garcia explained.

Both Standard captain De Leon and Latin captain De Luna rued the training schedule their squads had to follow. 

Majority of the UP BFT members are part of other on-campus dance teams, demanding longer training hours from their personal schedules. Most of them would arrive at the evening BFT practices directly after training with their outside teams. 

Feel ko ‘yun din naging reason kung bakit may mga nagba-back out [na dancers]. ‘Di nila kinakaya ‘yung oras ng training. Super late na ng uwi and ‘di naman lahat naka-dorm; ‘yung iba uwian,” Latin captain De Luna added.

With fatigue settling in the lead-up to the competition, De Leon highlighted the need for the team captains to maintain a positive atmosphere during training. 

Luckily, the UP BFT had no shortage of motivation among its members.

Nags-start na kami ng ballroom na pagod na ang katawan. Buti na lang may mga members ako [tulad nina] Roy, Otum, Ryan, ‘yung mga batchmates ko na nagli-lift up ng spirits ng mga tao, so ang laki ng tulong,” the Standard captain shared.

How the UP BFT will sustain their dominance in the UAAP amid these challenges remains yet to be seen.

With all three team captains graduating, there may be a few changes in the team’s next steps forward. Despite this, the Maroon faithful share one hope: that the squad will keep striving for excellence in the next seasons – for gold or nothing.