The South Asian Showdown Shakes John Hancock Hall

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On Saturday February 27, after getting off of the phone with an executive board member in charge of ticketing for the South Asian Showdown competition, I hastily grabbed my purse, coat and chapstick, and bolted out the door and down the street to the ATM. “The show is sold out, and we do have a few VIP tickets left here, but we’re not allowed to hold them…the doors open in ten minutes…you’d have to pay in cash.”

I had ordered my tickets online that Thursday, but the transaction was somehow disrupted, my only indication that this happened being that I never received a confirmation email. Having signed on to the official website an hour prior and being redirected to a page that read: “Sorry, ticket sales have ended,” these VIP tickets were my only option. I remember praying that no one had gotten ahold of those tickets. I sprinted through the doors of John Hancock Hall, approached the ticket booth, shortly thereafter realized that my prayers had indeed been answered.

 Our second row seats enabled us to get up close and personal with all eleven of the teams that showed up to shut it down. Competing teams were both from local colleges and from colleges like Brown University, the University of Miami, and the University of Texas. Though the competition is mainly for Bollywood style dance, all of the teams dipped into other dance styles like hip hop, contemporary, and even step. The teams also incorporated some of today’s hottest pop, rap, and various types of Indian hip hop music selections. What these performers executed on that stage was absolutely incredible. I sat stunned and just completely taken aback while watching every group change from sequined pantaloons, to bedazzled bedlehs over what seemed to be a forty-five second time period. I’m not kidding, these guys really brought out the big guns! The stunts and series of formations I witnessed were what I concluded as being nothing but a result of lots of practice, persistence, and pure talent. The use of props and lighting was indescribable.  

This year’s competitors were required to shape their routines around a movie theme, and before each team took the stage, a trailer they had created was projected on a white screen that hung below the curtains. A few spoof choices were Legally Blonde (2001), The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), and Bride Wars (2006). Some teams actually incorporated important messages into their movies of choice, one team used the stage to place emphasis on female empowerment and another team turned their spotlight on domestic abuse. Boston University’s ‘Jalwa’ stepped onto the stage putting a trans lives matter twist on Pete Docter’s Oscar-award winning animated film Inside Out.

I luckily was able to grab a member from one of the competing teams during the show’s fifteen minute intermission. I had one question and one question only. While watching the show I took notice of not just the amazing props, or the fancy footwork and waistline-work, but I also took notice of the facial expressions the dancers donned while they did their thing. I nervously approached Aly Khan Rafiq, a student competing with New York City College of Technology’s ‘Toofan,’ and questioned him about why the facial expressions are so important when they perform. Rafiq replied with a grin, “Because we’re all so happy to be here, and so happy to be able to share our culture on this stage…it’s a matter of making up your mind that you want to do it, and just having fun!”

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The College Mock Jams Hit MIT

The “League of Collegiate Dancerz” is known for congregating some of Boston’s baddest b-boys and b-girls in one place with a whisper of just three words. College. Mock. Jam. These jams are usually hosted at one of Boston’s many colleges every couple weeks. Not only do the mock jams gift street dancers the opportunity to bust a move, break it down, and battle it out in what the League refers to as a “light-hearted environment,” but they gift spectators the opportunity to enjoy some wicked cool entertainment. The League’s placing emphasis on its all-inclusive intentions tends to hone in not just college students, but high schoolers and six year olds who hit the floor and completely steal the show as well. After several years of successful jams, the League is still going strong, hoping that these mock jams will provide a stage for hip hop dancers of all styles and levels to show off and show out.

On Saturday February 6, at about 6:00 pm, my roommate and I strolled through the large double doors of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s main lobby. Initially unsure of how to get to the room in which the jam where the jam is set to be held, we decide to follow a guy decked out in black and white adidas sweatpants, a fitted cap, and a plaid flannel. A few footsteps later, we descend a staircase, and are standing right in the middle of dance heaven. We look around and realize that we are surrounded by people decked out in black and white adidas sweatpants, fitted caps, and plaid flannels. Several circles of dancers are scattered around the large room, stretching, tutting, and krumping. I take notice of the dancefloor outlined with blue masking tape, the dj’s incredibly powerful speaker, and the stacks of Domino’s pizza seated on top of a table in the corners.

After about an hour of moving from circle to circle and wondering who will be willing to be asked a few quick questions, the jam’s MC, a loud and lively young man with dreads arrives. After few rounds the judges select sixteen of the crowd’s favorites. One of them is Jacob, a local high schooler, who tells me that he remembers watching MTV’s hit show America’s Best Dance Crew to learn some moves that would impress his class crush. Not too long after I thank Jacob for his interview, he kisses my hand, a true charmer ladies and gents. I walk around a bit, now curious about how all of the other dancers got started. One dancer sates that he began while in a gang at age fourteen, soon after dropping the gang and sticking to dance. Another says she was influenced by her friends, an answer similar the one I got from Fredson Sossavi, a junior at Suffolk University, who drifts around the room armed with a video  camera. “Not only do my friends compete in the jams, but some of them are judges as well.” After seeing one of Sossavi’s videos on Instagram I quickly contacted him about when the next jam would be, and I’m glad I did.

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