Arts, Arts Features

Road to Showdown 2023: Dance Teams Gear Up For Annual Competition

Each year, ALC Showdown turns what is usually a sports-centered campus into a dance-crazed school for a weekend. Students pack the seats of Conte Forum to watch routines that Boston College’s 17 dance teams spend months perfecting. For all the teams, there is an overarching goal to have fun on stage with the family they have created with their teammates. 

“We always talk about [how] it’s not just about winning,” Jean Santos, co-captain of Fuego del Corazón and MCAS ’23, said. “We’re here to build a family and that’s what’s most important so [we’re] just focusing on having fun on the stage.”

The annual competition, hosted by the AHANA+ Leadership Council (ALC), is also a way for the teams to prove to themselves that they are among the best of the best. It is a competition, after all. 

“[Placing last year] gave us more motivation,” Matthew Jean, social media chair and alumni outreach coordinator of Sexual Chocolate and CSOM ’23, said. “We want to maintain that title and try to kind of reassert that crowd favorite award. And it gave us that mindset … to re-elevate our game from last year.” 

On April 1, BC’s dance teams will compete for first place and a chance to win a donation to a charity of their choice at ALC’s 2023 Showdown. Two teams will be named the runner-up and the crowd’s choice award winner. 

For BC Dance Ensemble (BCDE) director Alexis Callen, MCAS ’23, said winning first place in 2022 was “surreal.” Since ALC canceled Showdown in 2020 and 2021, everyone on BCDE who competed last year was performing in the competition for the first time. BCDE assistant director Megan Stevens, MCAS ’23, said that because of this, the group did not know what to expect and were not prepared for the level of energy present in Conte Forum. 

“It was really amazing and I think it’s such a special tradition because I don’t think there are that many schools where that many people will come out to watch like dance groups perform,” Stevens said. 

BCDE, similar to most of the other 15 teams that competed in 2022, relied on support from past alumni who performed at Showdown in their BC careers. But for the Golden Eagles, 2022 marked the team’s first time performing at the competition. 

Having some Showdown experience under its belt, the team decided to start preparing for this year’s competition earlier. The Golden Eagles began brainstorming Showdown ideas over the summer, according to section leader Kayley Ellis, MCAS ’24. Since the Golden Eagles do not have much time to practice for Showdown in the fall because they perform with the BC Marching Band during football season, Ellis said this pre-planning allowed them to smoothly transition into Showdown rehearsals after Winter Break. 

Instead of obtaining advice from alumni, Ellis said the Golden Eagles received feedback on their theme from their coaches before they began to choreograph the routine themselves. 

Even though Capital Dance Ministry only formed last year, its dancers were still able to get Showdown advice from alumni because the group was created by dancers previously on other teams such as Synergy and UPrising, according to Chaeyoon Syin, Capital Dance Ministry co-president and LSEHD ’23. 

Syin said that because of this and the power of faith on their team, Capital Dance Ministry feels prepared and is not nervous to enter the competition for the first time. 

“Because for us, it’s really, let’s trust God,” Syin said. “Let His will be done on our dance scene.”

Due to BC’s lack of dance studios on campus, the addition of another dance team to the Showdown roster made trying to schedule a spot for a rehearsal space even tighter than it has been in the past, according to Brady Luck, BC Full Swing president and MCAS ’23. Luck said that BC Full Swing was often left to practice in rooms that were not conducive to dancers performing lifts and spins. 

“We’ve really had to get creative with making sure that our dancers are safe because safety is our first priority,” Luck said. 

All of the teams are still finalizing their routines, and many have been putting in extra hours as the competition approaches. 

“Showdown season can get a bit tense,” Jordan Nakash, Presenting Africa to U (PATU)’s manager and MCAS ’24, said. “We’re all staying up super late. We all have work to do or just things going on during our days. But this year, everybody’s really been working together helping each other get the dances down. We’re all committed to doing our best on stage.”

Nakash said PATU will come out on top of the competition because of its collaborative team dynamic and the way in which it blends traditional African dance and contemporary diasporic dances.

Whereas teams like PATU expressed a competitive energy ahead of the show, BC On Tap, a no-cut student tap dance team that welcomes beginners, said that its motivation to participate in Showdown is to have fun and entertain the audience.

“We’re just there to have fun,” Cynthia Billovits, co-president of BC On Tap and CSOM ’23, said. “Tap dancing is especially just for your individual enjoyment. So we’re going in, for our own fun, to be entertaining for the audience without really thinking about placement.” 

This spirit is shown in On Tap’s practice traditions, which include coordinating outfits and a role reversal practice day, where the underclassmen critique the upperclassmen during rehearsal, according to Emma Phelan, vice president of On Tap and MCAS ’23.  

Ahead of Saturday, all the teams have ramped up the time they are spending tweaking and perfecting their choreography—-a process of fine-tuning the flow and presentation of the groups’ sequences that started many months ago. 

Elizabeth Oduro, president of Females Incorporating Sisterhood Through Step (F.I.S.T.S.) and CSOM ’23, said that F.I.S.T.S. is working to try to include interactions with the audience and organize its formations more. Oduro said the team has learned a lot since last year’s performance.

For Synergy’s last few practices before the competition, it is fine-tuning the aesthetic details of its set.

“I think it’s more so just kind of continuing what we did last year,” Tate Mills, Synergy’s outreach coordinator and MCAS ’23, said. “I think just being as clean as we can, focusing on textures while we dance, and making sure that our formations are super intricate and nice to look at visually as well.” 

Synergy started its Showdown preparation with weekly practices on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but has increased to daily practices in the last weeks of preparation, according to Mills. BC Irish Dance (BCID), on the other hand, now meets three times a week for a total of 10 hours to make sure there are no mistakes during its performance on Conte Forum’s stage, according to Colleen Stapleton, BCID co-president and CSON ’23. 

David Zhao-Dian, AEROdynamiK’s events coordinator and MCAS ’25, talked about how the late announcement of Showdown last year caused issues for the rehearsal schedule of his team. 

“I think most of those issues we had last year were the result of the fact that the show got pushed earlier,” Zhao-Dian said. “And so I think a lot of those issues, such as not having enough time to clean or maybe not having the dedicated amount of time to run the set as many times as we wanted to, have gone away this year just because we have that extra time.” 

AEROdynamiK has been rehearsing for two hours daily for the past two weeks, according to Zhao-Dian. 

While ALC Showdown is quickly approaching, the dance groups are still maintaining the tradition of keeping their choreography and theme a secret. 

According to Jean, Sexual Chocolate goes through a democratic process of choosing its theme. He said that every member of the group presents their own theme idea and detailed outline of how they want to showcase it onstage. Then, all the members vote on one theme.

Coming up with a theme and getting to reveal it the night of Showdown in front of the crowd is an exciting part of the competition, according to Zhao-Dian. 

“I just want to say, be excited about our theme reveal,” Zhao-Dian said. “I think it’s gonna be sick. I think it’s gonna be really awesome.” 

According to Billovitz and Phelan, On Tap will incorporate an element of nostalgia while relating to the audience with a modern twist in its set. Similarly, Santos said that since this year is Fuego’s 20th anniversary, the team decided to incorporate references to past Showdown routines throughout its performance. 

Regardless of the results of the Showdown competition, all groups expressed their appreciation for the hard work that was put into preparation for the show, as well as respect for their opposing groups’ dedication. But of course, each group said it is ready to put its best foot forward and surpass its competition. 

“F.I.S.T.S. ladies are always confident,” Oduro said. “I have a lot of friends on other dance teams … so honestly, I want all of us to do well. But, I also know the work that my team has put in and I know that we’re not coming to play. Everyone on my team is locked in. [The set] is definitely going to be good.” 

Masti, UPrising, Phaymus, Vida de Intensa Pasión, and the Dance Organization of Boston College did not respond to requests for comment.  

March 30, 2023