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Spring Sing 2023: Samahang Modern prepares to ‘wow’ Bruins with various dance forms

Samahang Modern poses together in a desert setting. The competitive dance team will perform at this year’s Spring Sing on Friday. (Courtesy of Justin Luong)

By Sanjana Chadive

May 19, 2023 1:07 a.m.

For the first time since its founding in 1986, Samahang Modern is taking the Spring Sing stage.

The competitive dance team will be performing an open-style set that is a variation of its piece presented at Ultimate Brawl, another dance competition, said third-year chemical engineering student and general member Sofia Odeste. Although the overall performance will be dynamic and high-energy, she said the different dance forms showcased throughout the set vary enough to create an element of surprise.

“They’re all pretty distinct,” Odeste said. “Everyone on the team, no matter how diverse our backgrounds are – we all feel pretty comfortable with one of the pieces.”

Odeste said the exhibition’s styles are based in foundational hip-hop, dancehall and contemporary dance. They will be set to a medley, including “Dance Now” by JID and Kenny Mason, “Trademark USA” by Baby Keem, “Bamba” by Luciano (feat. Aitch & BIA) and “say im ur love” by Umi.

Since this is the group’s first Spring Sing performance, fourth-year psychobiology student and co-administrative director Celine Nguyen said the members have found themselves pushing harder than usual. For instance, she said, other board members helped the artistic directors with choreography.

[Related: Spring Sing 2022: Dance team ACA All DAy to feature versatile styles with layered routine]

With practices typically held five times a week, Odeste said the long hours coupled with other academic and extracurricular commitments proved to be the biggest obstacle in mastering the set. Additionally, Nguyen said, the leadership board implemented various team-building strategies, such as a goal-setting poster, to keep dancers motivated.

Since it will be playing in front of a larger audience, Samahang Modern is incorporating more “wow” moments into the set in order to make its mark, said first-year undeclared engineering student and general member Michael Co. These motions, which encompass dance moves such as kicks and flips, aim to highlight the myriad talents of team members, Nguyen said. Moreover, Odeste said these motions allow contrast to be more starkly defined in the set. For example, a transition from rapid movements to absolute stillness carries a lot of weight, she said.

Although the piece doesn’t directly incorporate audience interaction, Odeste said she and her team members rely heavily on its engagement. Five minutes of constant dancing – and therefore, constant movement – can be quite taxing, she said. For this reason, Odeste said the audience’s reactions to “wow” moments throughout the performance will serve as a motivator for Samahang Modern.

“Those ‘wow’ moments we put into the set, … as much as it’s to get a reaction out of you, your reaction helps energize us when it really starts becoming a push and our knees and legs start shaking,” Odeste said.

To emphasize these moves, Nguyen said the team will be incorporating costume changes. For the majority of the set, she said team members will be wearing grey and green hoodies featuring the team logo, black straight-fitted pants and white shoes. However, during the closing set, Nguyen said dancers will exchange their current attire for all-black sets. The change in costuming, she said, aims to highlight the increased dynamism of the final movement. Nguyen added that the simplistic clothing will also be easier on people’s eyes.

[Related: Spring Sing 2022: Icarus Contemporary seeks to break free from isolation with comeback performance]

While there are no explicit references to Filipino culture in the set, Odeste said it still pays homage to her heritage because modern collegiate dance has strong ties to Filipino American groups. Therefore, their influences are deeply woven within the set, she said. After watching the performance, Odeste said she hopes viewers will see the ever-persisting connection between modern dance and Filipino Americans.

At the very least, Co said he wants viewers to have fun and also try their hand at dancing. At UCLA, he said the activity is very accessible because of the variety of teams and workshops open to all students, regardless of how much experience they have. In a similar vein, Odeste said she wishes for audience members to be so impressed with the performance that they remember it for a long time.

“I just want to put something out there that we can be proud of,” Odeste said. “The cleanliness and the togetherness of it, seeing everyone on stage together. I think the set is just built to be ‘wow,’ hopefully.”

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Sanjana Chadive | Lifestyle editor
Chadive is the 2023-2024 lifestyle editor. She was previously an Arts staff writer from 2022-2023. She is a third-year comparative literature student from Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania.
Chadive is the 2023-2024 lifestyle editor. She was previously an Arts staff writer from 2022-2023. She is a third-year comparative literature student from Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania.
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