One of the more popular Picnic Day events, the annual Davis Dance Revolution (DDR) will feature 14 student-run dance organizations competing for two $1,000 prizes this Saturday, April 20.
DDR began nine years ago as an event to allow student-run dance organizations to perform for audiences and showcase diversity through modern and traditional dance, upholding UC Davis’ Principles of Community.
Seven dance groups compete under each category, modern and traditional, with each category offering a grand prize of $1,000.
“It’s important to see the richness of the diversity of our campus, and the event shows the power of dance through showcasing the talents of our students,” said Lori Fuller, DDR coordinator. “The performances speak volumes to who we are as a community on this campus.”
Due to the popularity of the event for both performers and audiences, DDR has expanded this year, adding Agape, SoNE1 and Salsa Adiccion to the lineup.
“This year we have 14 groups performing, and there were many other teams that wanted to participate but there was no more space in the show,” Fuller said. “It’s a show that’s growing, and it’s a show that people are interested in.”
In its ninth year, dance clubs continue to up their game in hopes of wowing the crowds and winning the highly coveted grand prizes.
Groups under the traditional dance category include Davis Ballet Company, Golden Turtle Lion Dance Association, FILAH: Filipinos in Liberal Arts and Humanities, JASS: Japanese American Student Society, Na Keiki ‘O Hawai’i, PASE: Pilipino Americans in Science & Engineering and SoNE1.
Bryan Ramirez-Corona, one of the main choreographers for Na Keiki ‘O Hawai’i and a fifth-year genetics major, discussed the group’s preparations for this year’s tough competition.
“‘O Hawai’i club has competed every year of DDR. Our DDR performance is a subset of one of the several different dances that we perform for our main annual event, the Luau,” Ramirez-Corona said. “For DDR, we perform one of our Tahitian dances. We start preparing for DDR very early on in the year; we have tryouts in the fall, we start practicing right away and we put a lot of effort into our preparations because a $1,000 prize is at stake.”
‘O Hawai’i is frequently one of the top three finalists and has won first prize under the traditional dance category in 2010 and 2011. This year, Ramirez-Corona hopes the group will take the prize by demonstrating their talents and adherence to Polynesian heritage.
“Every year, we try to have a ‘wow’ factor. In past years, we’ve incorporated sticks into the choreography, had a giant banner drop and increased the difficulty of our dances. This year’s dance is the most traditional choreography we’ve had in five years, and we are excited to use music I found in Tahiti,” Ramirez-Corona said.
In addition to using authentic music and choreographies, part of ‘O Hawai’i’s effort to uphold tradition is the incorporation of elaborate, hand-crafted costumes and Polynesian body painting.
“What separates us from other groups is that we are very hard-core about being traditional. We make all of our costumes by hand. We have costume-making parties where we will all sew together pieces of real grass and greenery, beads and shells — and I paint animal symbols on each of the dancers for the performance,” Ramirez-Corona said.
Groups competing under the modern dance category are Agape, Breakdance Club, MK Modern, Mobility, Popping Club, Salsa Adiccion and Released Contemporary Dance Company (RCDC). RCDC co-director Elyan Shor, a fourth-year animal science major, discussed RCDC’s experience with DDR.
“Released is a fairly new company to Davis, and we’ve only been competing in DDR for the past four years. It’s a really exciting experience, and we start putting together our piece in January,” Shor said. “It’s a great opportunity for members of the group to contribute their ideas to the choreography.”
As one of the only non-hip hop groups in the modern dance category, RCDC uses its unique style to stand out for the audience.
“Contemporary dance is hard to define, but it’s a bit like a mixture of jazz and modern dance. It’s not as structured as jazz, and it’s a lot more free. It’s tough to compete against the talented hip hop and breakdance groups, and one challenge is our size — we’re a smaller group compared to the others, and we try to stand out by putting something creative out for the audience to respond to while still staying true to what we’re good at,” Shor said.
Never having won first place in the competition, RCDC revamps its performance strategy by having a clear thematic focus and strengthening their technique for this year’s event.
“It’s a showpiece, so you need to have a theme to make your piece cohesive. When it comes to DDR, we try to focus on a theme or emotion to convey. In the past we got carried away with more complex themes that took away from our performance, so this year we wanted to have a really strong dance piece while using a simpler theme to tie it all together,” Shor said.
Davis Dance Revolution presents a unique opportunity to view the talent and cultural diversity of many of Davis’ student-run dance groups. Tickets are available at the Aggie Stadium ticket office, tickets.ucdavis.edu and at the door.
CRISTINA FRIES can be reached at email@example.com.