Out on an Interschool Dance Night-Out: The Hip-Hop National Interschool Experience

The Hip-Hop National Interschool dance competition puts the spotlight to campus-based dance crews aspiring for recognition and prominence in the hip-hop dance scene. The Philippine Dance Network in partnership with Obra Inc. and Infinite Ready-to-Drink Cocktail, have conceptualized this event with the main purpose of creating a platform where students from different schools can converge to do what they do best – dance. In the process, it aims to elevate the status of Pinoy dancers as world-class performers and assert the relevance of hip-hop and youth culture as an integral part of the society.   

Held last Nov.6, 2009 at the UP Film Institute, I arrived at the event with much anticipation. School spirit was crisp in the air as the facade of the UP Film Institute teemed with high school and college students clad in their respective, vibrant and catchy dance crew colors. Some were huddling for last-minute pep talks, others held on to one another for the group prayer, most were still practicing and mastering their routines. Bumping into a b-boy who good-naturedly made way, I myself rushed head-on to the crowd to meet the rest of the event’s production staff.

The interior of the UP Film Institute was just about completely-filled by then with students and spectators eagerly awaiting for the start of the event. As media coordinator for the event, I immediately checked if the photographers I was just talking to on the phone were present and in their right designated places. Then I went over to Jaemie, our cheerleader host who was going through her spiels with the stage manager. Just then, project coordinator Nash confirmed the other host wouldn’t be able to make it, and so I was thrust in the limelight to take the co-hosting job the last minute.

The line at the box office was still long when the lights dimmed out and we had to start the event. A lone contemporary dancer stepped on stage and opened the event with a solemn prayer; after which the Black-Eyed Peas hit “Boom Boom Pow” played and right then the party started. The roll call of the participating dance crews for the night was met with much cheers and applause, and each dance crew came up with their own gimmicks in introducing their schools – some had ready-prepared synchronized routines, others thought freestyle was the best way to go (and they were very good at it, too), there were those who launched into impromptu groove trips, there was even a couple of high school girls who just played it cool like it was their typical Saturday night-out in the club.

The judges were introduced next. Breakdance master Jay Mastah that night was the epitome of “hip”, and he was gladly received with shouts of approval and admiration, especially from b-boys who aspire to follow his footsteps, literally. Dame of ballet Ms.Shirley Halili-Cruz of the Halili-Cruz School of Ballet on the other hand had her own following in the crowd, and off stage, she admitted she was thrilled to be invited to judge a hip-hop competition. Rounding off the panel was the ultimate hip-hop chick, Khel Parina of G-Force, whose smashing looks, moves and fashion statement were quite a hit among guys and girls alike, but especially with the guys.

The high school category came first where five dance crews competed. The participating high school dance crews, in order of performance, were FEU Fern High School’s FEU Fern Dance Troupe, Pulong Buhangin High School’s Pusong Pinoy Crew, Good Shepherd Academy of Taguig’s GSATI Movers, Letran High School’s Letran Squires Dance Troupe, and Eastern Bacoor National High School’s Resurrection Crew.

 The high school bunch of movers were quite experimental  concept-wise, playing with and incorporating in their dance numbers a diversity of themes. While the FEU Fern Dance Troupe looked and moved like secret agents on a mission, Pusong Pinoy Crew from Pulong-Buhangin High School partied like real hardcore rock stars, even managing to dance to such impossible tracks as System of a Down’s “BYOB”, among others; while the girls of the GSATI Movers from the Good Shepherd Academy of Taguig strut it out high-fashion style.

The college category performances were defined mostly by its spectacular stunts. The participating college dance crews were AMA Computer University’s AMA Dance Troupe, Our Lady of Fatima University - QC’s PAGFA Dance Troupe,  De La Salle University – Dasmarinas’ D Vibrant Beat, University of Perpetual Help – Laguna’s UPHL Dance Troupe, Pamantasan ng Montalban’s Element’z, Polytechnic University of the Philippines – Sta. Mesa’s Power of Student Hoppers, Philippine State College of Aeronautics’ God’s Crew, University of Manila’s UMDT, University of the East’s U-Exist, Taguig City University’s New Project Crew, Arellano University’s Cyberkz, Technological Institute of the Philippines’ TIP Talents Guild, and Lyceum Manila’s Lyceum Pirates.

 With 13 groups competing, the performance can be compared to a decathlon and melting pot of all the basic hip-hop styles, both established and emergent. Whether they tut and wave, pop and lock, groove and break, the college movers were on top of their game. Groups like the AMA Dance Troupe and the TIP Talents Guild had their loyal fan bases hooting and rooting for them. It was also what can be considered a night of girl power as first lady of hip-hop Khel Parina, at one point, was gushing non-stop at what could only be an exceptional  performance from the three girl dancers of PUP’s Power of Student Hoppers. In typical TV talent show fashion, the dance crews received comments from the judges immediately right after the performance.

As in any dance competition, the evening wouldn’t be complete without the spontaneous one-on-one freestyle showdown. The eager  b-boys and freestylers kept the audience at the edge of their seats for a good several minutes, until it was eventually decided that Benedict Ramos of TIP has the best freestyler for the night.

A spectacular number from Team Vibe Philippines featuring Jay Mastah elicited a whooping response from everyone, dancers and non-dancers alike.  Jay Mastah  responded back to the audience’s enthusiastic reception with an inspirational message especially to the student dancers. In an unexpected twist of the evening’s events, the audience provided the beat to a song intermission number of Obra Inc.’s talent Kenneth Alcantara, proving that the beat goes on wherever the dancer goes.

After awarding certificates to the particpating dance crews and the judges , we were ready to announce the winners of the Hip-Hop Nationals Interschool. The FEU FERN Dance Troupe  bagged the highest honor in the high School category. And completing the high school winners were 1st Runner-Up Resurrection Crew of Eastern Bacoor National High School and 2nd Runner-up Pusong Pinoy Crew of Pulong Buhangin High School.

Meanwhile, the suspense level was high as we revealed the winners for the college category one by one. We started out with the 2nd runner-up, Cyberkz of Arellano University, followed by the PAGFA Dance Troupe of Our Lady of Fatima University. Finally, cheers erupted as we announced the college category winner, PUP’s Power of Student Hoppers!  The awards were handed-out by Jay Mastah, Ms.Shirley Halili-Cruz, Khel Parina and Ms.Marou del Rosario from Infinite.

 “Appropriately, the winning dance crew’s name, Power of Student Hoppers, embodies and pays tribute to what this competition is all about,” project coordinator Nash Anggahan commented. “Hip-Hop National Interschool is all about empowering the student dancers, bringing the power to all the campus-based dance crews out there.”

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