Meet a Couple of Penn State’s Dance Teams
Dance is an art form, a movement, and fulfills the importance of expression. Dance brings together those who are alike, and those who share the same passion. Whether it’s to learn a different style, entertain an audience, be musically diverse, or express your love for movement; dancing is one the most unique categories of performing arts. Dance is such a broad term for the many specificities that this categorical art form has. Dance can be broken down and dissected in many ways: origin, geography, genre and style just to name a few.
In terms of origin, many different places and people are responsible for creating a movement that impacts the world. For example, it is recorded that hip hop dancing officially originated in New York City in the late 60s and early 70s. Many people would gather in the streets and perform without the demand of technicality and flexibility. Even within this new class of dance known as hip hop, this style can be broken down in terms of geography: East Coast hip hop versus West Coast hip hop. The difference between the two is subtle, yet very important to distinguish being that substyles have originated from these areas. When DJ Herc began his music career in New York City he pioneered a new style of music by playing the same record on two different machines at a birthday party. He then extended the dance section of songs so that people can perform longer. This in turn created a new dance culture known as breaking. On the West Coast, Don Campbell (also known as Don Campbellock), created the iconic dance group called The Lockers which took the West Coast by storm during its time. Breaking and locking are different style from the same genre of dance, and originated in different areas of the United States.
This is important to know because dance is much more than a movement, or an artform of expression. It’s more about how dance impacts the audience and the communities that it entertains.At Penn State there are over 15 dance clubs that allow students to freely join and express themselves. This gives students the opportunity to learn from others, meet people from different cultures, and have a platform to showcase their talents.
Urban Dance Troupe was the first hip hop dance to form on Penn State, University Park’s campus in 2005. This group was originally started at the Altoona campus, but made it’s way here to become one of the most achieved student-led dance teams. From reigning supreme at this year’s Penn State Best Dance Crew and Homecoming Dance Competition, UDT is looking forward to expanding and continuing to entertain people of all audiences.
Urban Dance Troupe’s president Christina Kreamer, is a junior who works very hard to keep the team on track. She tells all about the team’s challenges, goals, inspirations, and what makes UDT stand out from the other dance groups on campus.
Nicole: What is your goal for the team?
Kristina: “We all want to get better as a dance team so instead of coming to practice and joking around the whole time, which we do still joke around, but we’re focused on getting things done and practicing hard.”
“My passion is that we’re growing as a team.”
Nicole: How did it feel being the 2017 Penn State Best Dance Crew Champions?
Kristina: “It was awesome, we were focused on Penn State’s Best Dance Crew this year. My freshman year we won, and my sophomore year we didn’t place. So it was a big heartbreaker for us. I mean you can’t win everything, but I think it helped us with being humble, honestly. This year we came into it knowing that we had to put in a lot of work, so we would work harder at practice, get there on time, focus and all of us really wanted it so it made it a lot of fun. It was great, it was so fun winning. We went last and everyone was so nervous the whole time because everyone was so amazing. We were sitting there watching…we were so nervous in the beginning but it ended up being good.”
Nicole: What are some of the challenges this team faces?
Kristina: “Sophomore year I became president, and in the president’s role you see more issues than when you’re just on the team because you’re running everything. Some issues that we have are getting to practice. Everyone has different conflicting schedules which makes it difficult, especially when we get scheduled on the weekend…There’s football games that get in the way, and we don’t want to be that strict and say don’t go to the football game, but it’s a healthy balance. Coming to practice and being 100% committed is our toughest challenge right now.”
Nicole: What are your team’s strengths?
Kristina: “We’re definitely all very passionate about dance and it definitely comes through in our performances. We have strength, everyone on the team is talented in their own way, and as a team we bring hard-hitting choreography, facials, and energy. We’re all really good friends, too, so it makes it fun.”
Nicole: Is UDT a diverse team?
Kristina: “ Definitely. We have two exchange students from New Zealand, one from Australia, one from China, along with the people who just go here. I’m half Lebanese, you would never know. We’re so accepting of every single different culture and diversity is encouraged. It makes it cool for the audition process, too, because you get to see all walks of life. We’re one of the most diverse teams, I don’t know if I can confidently say that, but I think we are. We definitely accept anyone and it positively impacts us.”
Nicole: What makes this team memorable?
Kristina: “In my opinion when you watch a dance routine you’re not going to remember ‘Oh her arm was in the wrong place’ or ‘He was down when she was up’, but you’re going to remember the way you felt when you were watching it. I think that when we perform we bring that energy and those facials that after the performance you’re like ‘wow, that was really cool’.”
Ram Squad was initially a breaking club back in 2003.Then it expanded with popping and other different types of styles. Sarah Bien is elected the president of Ram Squad for next fall.She’s been on the team since freshman year and is currently a junior. She tells all about how she’s ready to lead this team to more success, overcome possible challenges the team may face, and continue to have fun with dancing.
Nicole: What do you plan to do in the president role?
Sarah: “I feel like this year I didn’t do as much as I wanted to. My goal for this year is to really focus on building everyone’s skills and freestyles like wacking, popping, breaking because we focused a lot on personal choreography. We’re going to try to have more locking choreography, wacking, and breaking so we can show everyone the styles.
What is wacking? “It’s two different styles, the first is vogueing which is poses, wacking is more movement with the arms, you can make it very powerful, groovy, or whatever you want.”
Nicole: What makes your team memorable?
Sarah: “I think every team is great, like UDT and Whiplash, but I think what makes our team stand out is that we’re a very open group. We don’t require auditions the first time you want to dance with us. You just have be a paying member then you audition for that specific dance, (like breaking or locking choreo) because we don’t want to discourage anyone, and want to encourage everyone to dance.”
Nicole: What is your team’s mission and purpose?
Sarah: “Just to show the urban hip hop style, we’re trying to showcase all different styles and help anyone who wants to learn more about it. Because we’re in State College it’s hard to get good lockers and breakers to come and teach. We learn from each other, we learn from youtube, and it’s quite the challenge sometimes.”
Nicole: Do you want to expand your team?
Sarah: “I think expansion at one point in Ram Squad’s history was important because they were a very closed off group, like you’d walk into a room and if you weren’t good they wouldn’t look at you. They wouldn’t talk to you, but then they struggled because they wouldn’t get a lot of new members. Then there’s this phase of trying to get too many members, but the quality is not there as much. Now it’s my goal to bring that quality back.”
Nicole: What do you think was different from being the champions of Ram Squad last year, to not placing this year?
Sarah: “Last year we asked certain people to do it, so we didn’t have an open audition like we usually do. Thon and PSBDC is a week apart so it was short timing. But I think the difference was we had a lot of fun in the first one, we didn’t have as much fun this year. For me it’s not only about winning, but it’s about being clean and having fun. I don’t know what exactly happened, I’m still trying to analyze it. Maybe next year our focus shouldn’t be about winning, but being clean and having fun.
Nicole: What are some challenges that the team faces?
Sarah: “I think some challenges are when you have choreography practice, and you’re practicing with the music playing the same five minute mix over and over again. For breakers and poppers that dance to different types of music, how can you dance to silence? So it’s a little hard sometimes, because they need their music played, too. So to have that balance we just tell them ahead of time that we’re doing choreography and talk to them to make sure they’re okay. They tell each other, but not the executive board so its kinda hard for us. We have to be proactive and reach out to them too.”
Nicole: What are your strengths as a team and as a leader?
Sarah: “We’re very open and diverse. I came to Penn State because I wanted to have lots of school spirit, and I wanted to have that diversity. Here in Ram Squad you get to meet people from all over, like international people or people from the states. And as a leader? I guess just listening to the people and I care about everyone in Ram a lot, as president I just want to help everyone out.”
Nicole: Is Ram Squad a diverse team? How does it impact the dancers?
Sarah: “Yeah. impacts their dance style? Maybe yeah. This girl yesterday was freestyling, but we wanted to learn modern from her because she has a modern dance background, so that was cool. Just learning the rules, the levels, and the types of movement that there are and trying that out and now I was want to apply that to some of my personal styles I do in wacking. Yea I think diversity does affect dance in general, too.”
Nicole: What is the team’s greatest accomplishment?
Sarah: “A lot of the past Ram has built it up to where it is now, like the accomplishments of Ram from 2003. Now we have the opportunity to perform at Thon, because they know who we are and expect great things, they have high expectations. We don’t want to let past Ram down, we want to keep that quality up. I use to watch Ram practice for 2 hours because they were so awesome. ”
Nicole: What is your goal for the team and a personal goal?
Sarah: “I’ve been doing wacking a lot but I really want to pop more, because I feel like you can use that in anything and any style. Getting more knowledge in those styles and going out to more jams in NY or DC and looking at other people and how they dance, taking that knowledge back and bringing it here.”
Nicole: What’s next for Ram Squad?
Sarah: “We have a bunch of workshops coming up, and were having Ram Jam. Ram Jam is going to have 2 v 2, like I team up someone then we battle against each other. It’s like a closing ceremony for the year. Anyone from other teams are welcomed. We have the Crazy About Korea performance as well, and everyone is performing to Korean pop music.
Photo Credit: Candice Crutchfield | The Underground