Dance is dance: UPSDC’s path to ICU gold

A victory for the team, the university, the country and the local dance community. 

The UP Streetdance Club (UPSDC) made history as the first collegiate team to represent the Philippines and clinch the championship at the International Cheer Union World Cup (ICU) held from Oct. 6 to 8 in Seoul, South Korea.  

The delegate team, composed of 24 student dancers from UP Diliman, took the gold for the Performance Cheer Hip Hop Division against teams from 17 countries. 

The two other teams representing the Philippines also emerged successful in their respective competitions, with the Southies Cheer Club taking the gold in the Cheerleading Senior Coed Elite Division and The School of Saint Anthony’s DanSSA snagging the silver in the Performance Cheer Junior Hip Hop Division.

The UPSDC delegate team poses for a picture before taking the stage. Photo from UP Streetdance Club

The path to the world stage

The UPSDC prepared for the gold in only one month, including dance practice, logistics planning and financial executions. The team trained daily, wasting no effort before they conquered the world stage. 

Coach Arvin Rulloda, one of UPSDC’s three coaches, shared the importance of ensuring all the dancers were well-conditioned as they headed toward the tournament.

“Grabe ‘yung physical demand of dancing a competition piece. Kahit two minutes lang siya, ang daming gagawin,” Rulloda said in an online interview with Tinig ng Plaridel

Under one month, the team had to compose a choreography following the set criteria by the ICU. The team said they focused on variety, groove, formations, blocking and other aspects of the dance that would improve their overall performance.

According to team captain Giulia Añasco, the UPSDC took a different approach from what they regularly do in crafting their ICU piece.

“It isn’t like our UAAP pieces in that all segments or the entire piece revolved around a particular theme,” she said. “It’s just really more of a mix of choreographies that we’ve performed previously that we thought would showcase our strengths the most.”

While the dance itself covered a huge part of their contest preparation, the team also faced issues regarding their resources.

Throughout their month-long training, the team was also busy making arrangements for international travel. Due to funding issues, the team had to shoulder major expenses, including airfare, registration fees, food, accommodation, transportation and costumes.

To cover these, a target of P85,000 was set for each member, which they earned through crowdsourcing and income-generating projects like bake sales and ticketed viewing. Fortunately, the whole team reached the required amount before flying out. 

According to Añasco, they did not expect to receive funding from the university because the budget from their previous international stint in Arizona, USA, last August has yet to be fully processed.

“It was really [due to] the circumstances of having two international competitions so close to each other. We would have tried to push harder for university funding if we had more time,” Añasco shared.

Amid these challenges, the team held the positive mindset of “24 strong,” with the members supporting one another to rise above the competition.

“If we were having a hard time because siyempre iba-iba ang situations ng members, we would just have each other’s backs,” said Añasco.

Beyond the gleam

Coach Lloyd Marcaida, another of the team’s coaches, explained that the ICU had unique expectations unlike other international and local dance competitions despite having the same criteria.

“We knew that they were looking for a certain kind of piece, usually one that includes a lot of gymnastic skills,” he said. 

As such, the team had to adjust and learn new skills in their short preparation period, which Marcaida said may have brought a bit of strain on the team. 

Nonetheless, the dancers succeeded in the execution of their ambitious choreography through their willingness to win over the entire duration of the contest. 

“The competition itself took 3 days: prelims, semis and finals. The idea alone na tatlong beses kaming sasayaw ng same routine was scary but fulfilling because we worked hard and we were able to place all three times,” she said.

After the competition, the team returned home to overwhelming praise and support from UP Diliman students, athletes and fellow Filipinos.

While the team was filled with gratitude, the coaches and captains implored everyone to extend past the gleam of their victory, hoping for persistent support for the club and dancers in general.

“More than athleticism, it takes performance and artistry,” said co-captain Jacky Aragona. “I hope people will be able to see that and more support [will] come for the dance community.”

Although the old notion of “dancers are not athletes” is slowly fading away, more people are yet to recognize the effort and hard work put into dance to ensure the success of UPSDC’s future endeavors.

“We train as much as other athletes and we practice as much as other performance arts. I think that would be a good start to recognizing dance as not just an art form or a sport, but as dance itself,” said Rulloda.

Nonetheless, there is no denying that times have changed and UPSDC has come a long way from where they started.

“Tuwang-tuwa ako sa support from the UP Community now as compared to 10 years ago,” said Rulloda. “Now, people view the UP Streetdance Club with a certain prestige. Salamat to the UP community for that kind of support.”