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From Lot 4 to Royce Hall

By Courtney Powell

May 8, 2008 9:15 p.m.

When one hears the term “after-school activity,” one doesn’t typically think of long practices in an abandoned parking lot, memorizing complicated, lengthy routines, or performing in front of crowds numbering in the thousands.

However, for Samahang Modern, a student group that’s been around since the mid ’80s, that’s exactly what it means. Their original hip-hop dance routines leave the group of around 30 dancers in high demand, performing at least twice a month for large audiences.

This Saturday, the group will perform at Pilipino Culture Night at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. in Royce Hall.

“We don’t just dance. We’re a family,” said Gerald Espinosa, a third-year ethnomusicology student and director and administrative coordinator for Samahang Modern.

Espinosa notes that the group participates in retreats and special bonding nights in order to strengthen camaraderie. By doing so, their performances on stage are synchronized and executed.

Originally, Samahang Modern stemmed from the large, Pilipino cultural group, Samahang, in order to give its members an opportunity to do what they love: dance. While it is still a group devoted to the love of hip-hop, it has grown to include students of all kinds of educational, cultural and dance backgrounds over the years. From math students to English students and dancers with years of experience or absolutely no experience, everyone is able to enjoy dancing for Samahang Modern.

“We don’t care what kind of background they come from as long as they are there because they love dancing and want to have fun doing it,” said fourth-year physiological science student and group administrative coordinator Claudette Mempin.

Samahang Modern also provides workshops every Sunday night throughout spring quarter in which anyone can come out and learn choreography with the team. Held at the John Wooden Center, these workshops are a great way to meet people and an alternative to a dull 30-minute spin on a stationary bike.

During actual Samahang Modern practices, it may seem impossible for over 30 student dancers to come up with a worthy routine and practice it until it’s flawless. With the help of guest choreographers, who are typically alumni or professional dancers, and the talent of fourth-year math student and the group’s artistic coordinator Chris Bautista, everything seems to come together.

“We basically just try to blend the music and the moves together to complement each other in the best way possible,” Bautista, who’s currently in his third year on the team, said.

The group usually practices in Parking Lot 4 on campus late at night, when it’s less crowded. Most of the dance groups on campus must make compromises when it comes to practice spaces as well as make up for the lack of funding by coming up with creative ways to raise money for costumes and travel.

“I don’t think people get that we go through a lot to produce what we do. They only see what we do on stage, not what goes on behind the scenes,” Bautista said.

Whatever the issues that may appear, Samahang Modern seems to be able to conquer them, producing one well-executed routine after another.

In addition to their performance this Saturday, Samahang Modern makes cameos at big events such as Spring Sing, the Beat ‘SC rally and the heavily anticipated hip-hop dance competition, Battle Royale, in which Samahang Modern will compete with two other dance groups on May 30 in order to defend their two-year status as reigning champions.

While a complete lack of study time or social life may seem daunting to many students, the members of Samahang Modern take it in stride. After all, the only reason to do something is if the payoff is greater than the sacrifice. Performing in front of thousands and doing what you love to do seems like a pretty fair trade.

“We’re willing to breathe in carbon monoxide in order to entertain the student body,” Bautista said.

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