Dancing is the hardest thing in the world. As someone who has spent 22 years trying and failing to do it properly, I always have mixed feelings covering ALC Showdown. It's the biggest spectacle on campus each year, it's hyped up beyond belief, and without fail, it always exceeds expectations. Watching it, I'm filled with equal parts awe at the talent I see before me, and jealousy at the superhuman dancers that supposedly go to BC but I'm pretty sure are from Mars or something.
Anyway, this year, instead of providing the traditional recap, we're trying something a little different. After all, anybody who's anybody goes to Showdown, and you don't need us telling you what happened when you've already seen it. So, in the spirit of giving this epic competition the treatment it deserves, my fellow frustrated dancer Emily Akin and I sat in the press box, took meticulous notes, and graded each performance based on our limited knowledge of whatever incredible stuff these 11 teams did.
We're counting down, but we don't want anyone taking this the wrong way - this isn't "worst" to "best," it's "incredibly impressive" to "incredibly, incredibly, incredibly impressive." After all, if we really knew what to look for, we'd be sitting at the judges' table instead of the press box. Now, without further ado: THE 2013 GAVEL MEDIA SCORECARD.
Teams that rocked, but did not make our top picks-
PATU (Cultural, did not place)
Emily: I know nothing about African dance. Zip, zilch, nada. I guess it looked fresh but I really have nothing to go on here. The costumes were sweet, but they had nothing on Iron Man. Music wise, I dig it. The mix of instrumental and modern stuff kept it interesting. Cultural enrichment is always a good time. Some teams mentioned PATU as being their biggest competition in the cultural division, and it's easy to see why. Way to rep Africa, PATU.
Rob: The power. Oh, the power. I remember watching PATU freshman year, and all I can say is that this was not the same team I remember. I could feel the crowd flipping out as PATU literally flipped only a little while into the performance. The only way it could have been better would have been to include a few more moments like that (or if there had been a set, but that's just because I love sets). Still, now I know why certain other teams were so worried about having to go against them.
Emily: Rock on ballerinas, this is the kind of dance I understand. It's a bummer that DOBC isn't actually competing in Showdown, but I don't think they could have taken on some of these other teams. When ballerinas battle Batman, Batman wins ten times out of ten. It's just hard for traditional dance like this to take on hip-hop.
Rob: DOBC was definitely limited by the shortened time the team received compared to the teams actually competing. The girls did a great job, but it's very hard to compete against hip-hop teams with multiple costume changes and cultural groups stomping holes in the stage when you're doing ballet. Then again, they weren't competing, so there you go.
Sexual Chocolate (Dance, did not place)
Emily: The hype, the hype. Sexual Chocolate refuses to disappoint. Literally, they can do no wrong. The Grease theme was GENIUS. I want to know how they picked who had to be the Pink Ladies. Let me just say, the boys of Sexual Chocolate look wicked fine in a poodle skirt. Their race car left a little to be desired, but the accompanying dance number made up for it. There was some shoulder action, lots of slapping, and some stomping. My step expertise is overwhelming, I know.
Rob: I loved the Grease theme. I love how SC's Showdown performances have progressed from super-serious and borderline-terrifying (the graveyard in 2010) to hilarious (the "Greased Lightning" segment this year was simply brilliant). If I hadn't been at the 2012 ALC Showdown, I would probably have been blown away by SC's 2013 performance. The issue is, though, that I was at the 2012 Showdown, and SC's performance was one of the seminal moments in the college experience of anyone graduating from BC in 2013. It's up there with Montel Harris' 5-TD game against NC State in 2009. Does anyone remember how Montel did the week following that game? He probably did well, but nothing sticks with us the way Buzz Lightyear floating across the stage in SC's set last year does.
AeroK (Cultural, 1st place)
Emily: I loved the opening traditional dance in AeroK's set, but it looked really similar to their dance from last year's Showdown. Not that I was there or anything but, like any informed fan, I watched the video. The opening bit with the teacher was corny to the max. But the modern parts were cool and everyone in Conte literally LOST it when the sheets exploded out of the dancers sleeves. Also, I'm all about the "Gangnam Style" shout outs, but I was glad they didn't overdo the Psy references. And to the guy in the argyle sweater who landed a split for the closing? You, sir, are the winner of ALC Showdown.
Rob: Those segments with the handkerchiefs (or are they sheets? I told you I know nothing) made my jaw drop. All of the groups are referred to as "teams," but it's rare to see every single person doing something on the stage that affects what everyone else does, as opposed to simply all doing the same motions. The only issue I have with AeroK's performance is that even though the group competed in the Cultural division, most of the dancing seems much more American than Korean to me (it bears repeating, though: I know nothing). Also, props for taking the risk of using "Gangnam Style," and rocking it.
Irish Dance (Showcase)
Emily: WAIT, I KNOW THIS STUFF. I actually used to take Irish Step Dance lessons, so I'm biased. The team did a great job of incorporating the modern aspects into the usual traditional stuff, and I'm SO glad they used normal music. There is a time and a place for a jig and ALC Showdown is neither of those. Props to the sole guy in Irish Dance, he is looking like a hardcore pimp out there. There were a few choreography SNAFUs, but it was nothing that a little Ke$ha couldn't fix. The crowd lost it when the circle of skipping people turned into TWO and then THREE and then FOUR circles of skipping people. It kept Irish Dance from making the same mistakes as DOBC by not playing to their audience/venue. If you're going to do Irish Step Dance at ALC Showdown, you have to swag it up a bit. Irish dance did just that. Rock on ladies.
Rob: Irish Dance knew its audience, and its members gave that audience everything they could want out of an Irish step team and more. In fact, the way BCID tailored its performance to the Showdown crowd gave me an idea for how next year's show could potentially be even better: order the show by category! Have the Showcase teams open, have the Cultural teams go next, have the intermission, and then have the Dance category take up the whole second half. This way, our ballerinas and Irish steppers and cultural performers can do their thing without the pressure of being sandwiched between two hip-hop groups. How doesn't this make sense? Let's see it, ALC Programming.
Phaymus (Dance, 1st place)
Emily: There was a lot of pressure on Phaymus to bring the swagger after watching all of the other teams compete. When they were on point, though, holy moley it was amazing. Nick Minaj's "Stupid Ho" was put to fantastic use that bordered on twerking. Unfortunately, some of their set was a little flat; I wish it had been as epic throughout. The "Gangnam Style" repeat was unfortunate, but what are you going to do? Some teams are bound to use the same tunes. The Diner theme was cute, but it's just too hard to compete with Batman or The Rugrats.
Rob: Let me first say that of my four years attending Showdown, this one was Phaymus' best. Secondly, let me say that going last in this contest is always challenging because odds are that at least one team will have used some of your music, especially when you're the fourth hip-hop group performing. But let me third say that dubstep "Gangnam Style" was therefore not only awesome, but a brilliant decision. If BC Dining decides to turn Lower into the Phaymus Diner for a night, I would not be opposed.
Our top 5 performances from ALC Showdown-
5. Fuego del Corazon (Dance, did not place)
Emily: Fuego definitely has an edge with the paired dancing. Most teams seem to be either mostly female with one or two guys who can break dance. Fuego's impressive team is equally split, which makes it easier for them to pull off stunts. The "twirling circle of death" was definitely the highlight of the set. Note, I'm dubbing it the "twirling circle of death" because that's an accurate portrayal of what would happen if we mortal human beings attempted it. Not to mention they all looked SMOKIN' in their costumes. I totally dug the glitter. The Latin dance is just such a fun style. Can we all take a break from the pathetic excuse for dancing we call grinding some weekend? Mandatory Latin dance should be imposed on the Mods next weekend.
Rob: Every time Fuego does a flip, the world starts spinning a little faster. My heart starts beating a little faster. And Conte Forum goes crazy. If I was choreographing a routine for Showdown (which I never have or will do for obvious reasons), I would not bother incorporating any stunts. Fuego is stunts, stunts are Fuego - they're synonymous. When the guys started rotating the girls on their elbows, I could feel the floor shake from the audience collectively losing it behind me. In the three years past, the only beef I've ever had with Fuego's sets is their relative lack of theme compared to the other groups in the Dance category. But this year, after the "US Navy goes offshore in Brazil" theme, I think I was missing the point. Fuego's theme is, always has been, and always will be doing things that other teams are either incapable of or too afraid (read: sensible) to try for fear of breaking their skeletons in half.
4. Synergy (Dance, did not place)
Emily: I'm on Team Joker all the way. My mind is completely blown, as an ALC Showdown newb I've never seen anything like it. Easily my favorite part was when the Hulk's rage sent the other dancers rippling out across the stage in a massive group worm. I aspire to such dancing greatness; Mods be warned, I'm trying that one out next weekend. The superhero clique was swagged out but their entourage could have used something to make them look a bit more pimping. The gray was a little drab for me. I might have prematurely placed my money on Synergy.
Rob: Superheroes. All I can say is genius. GENIUS. The Joker. Batman. The Flash. Wonder Woman. Superman. Catwoman. And I almost had a heart attack when the Hulk came out and started stomping the stage. It was either awesomely overwhelming or overwhelmingly awesome. Take your pick. I've never seen any others, but I'm pretty sure that that was the greatest Dark Knight-themed dance performance of all time. Did the team forget or opt not to use some obvious superhero songs to accompany the swagtastic costumes? I guess that's really the only beef I have with the set - if only "Iron Man" had played when Iron Man came out! Ah well. It's still too ballin' for me to wrap my mind around. What a way to start the night.
3. F.I.S.T.S. (Dance, did not place)
Emily: Holy step team. I wish I had half the swagger of the F.I.S.T.S ladies. Looking hot while dressed as a lion or a clown isn't easy, but they all pulled it off. Also, am I the only one who thinks stepping sounds like the most painful thing in the world? Slapping yourself silly just isn't my idea of a good time, but watching other people do it is a great time. I loved how they switched from music to just the pounding of their shoes, though some of the voice-overs were kind of weird. And the S&M whipping got real weird real quick. But who cares, the whole set was awesome. And to top it all off, their closing, with everyone collapsing onstage except the ringmaster, was insane.
Rob: I am afraid of three things: lions, clowns and people with whips. My reaction to the F.I.S.T.S. set should have been to start hysterically screaming in abject horror. But instead it was simply this: WOW. I wish the F.I.S.T.S. circus was a real place so I could take my kids there and teach them how to be awesome. And how to end everything they did by falling on top of each other like dominos. To my very untrained eye, the F.I.S.T.S. ladies were more in sync than any of their competitors, and when their set finished I could see little holes and craters in the stage from where they'd repeatedly stomped it. I could go on, but I think what I wrote in that third sentence sums it all up. WOW.
2. Masti (Cultural, 2nd place)
Emily: So much swagger, so much determination. Those kids can dance like no other. Their costumes were shiny, which helped keep me focused, since I have the attention span of a squirrel. I genuinely think Masti had the most fun on stage, so that makes them a winner in my book. They crushed it with the canes and didn't need to resort to other props to distract the crowd. They had some unbelievable stunts, although a few looked a little familiar from a certain Strip Mod performance. But when the guys picked the girls up and strummed them like guitars, that my friends is originality in its finest form. Out of all of the Cultural groups I definitely think Masti did the best job walking the line between fun traditional music and contemporary music. Bravo Masti.
Rob: Masti came out wearing not the traditional brightly-colored garb of years past, but almost all black. Why? Because, as its co-captains said in our preview, Masti came to kill the competition. At first, I wasn't sure if Masti was going to live up to its Joe Namath-like guaranteed win. And then, The Stunt happened.
If you weren't there, or somehow don't remember, The Stunt happened at approximately 9:59 PM on April 6, 2013. A leaping man was leaped by another leaping man. Let me repeat that, the way it felt at the time: A LEAPING MAN WAS LEAPED BY ANOTHER LEAPING MAN!!! When The Stunt began, the ALC Showdown was a competition. When The Stunt finished, that had all changed. The rest of Masti's set was just a victory dance.
1. UPrising (Dance, 2nd place)
Emily: You can't go wrong with 90s Nickelodeon references. UPrising totally capitalized on this and played up The Rugrats theme perfectly. There was a kid wearing a diaper who was really crushing the pelvic thrusts. And I didn't hate it. His diaper exploded eventually, poor boy. The music that UPrising chose was probably my favorite in Showdown, Pussy Cat Dolls anyone? And I personally lost it when "Chicken Noodle Soup" came on. The human metronome stunt was probably one of the more life-threatening things I saw all night.
Rob: Anytime you have "Wild Boy" segue into "Stunting Like My Daddy" while Tommy Pickles is onstage crying along to Lil' Wayne's lyrics, you are going to win me over. Anytime you have a girl playing patty cake with an upside-down dude's feet, you are going to win me over. And anytime you turn one of your members into a hand on a clock swinging back and forth like some lunatic unhinged Big Ben, you've won me over. Yeah, so the jump rope stunt didn't go perfectly. Everything else, from the costumes to the music to offering the audience members "Chicken Noodle Soup," fit the theme flawlessly. My kids are getting dropped off at UpDaycare right after we leave the F.I.S.T.S. circus. UPrising may be the newest dance crew on campus, but it's proven two years in a row that it's the one you'd least want to take on in a competition.
Congratulations, UPrising. You delivered Gavel Media's choice for the single best performance at the 2013 ALC Showdown.
We said it at the start, but based on our rankings, it deserves repeating: we know little about dance and nothing about how the judges selected the winners. We would like to offer our congratulations to AeroK and Phaymus, winners of the Cultural division and Dance divisions, respectively.
Still, before we wrap up our wrap-up, we'd like to leave with one more suggestion for how to make Showdown even more incredible: GET THE CROWD INVOLVED. Give everyone who walks into Conte Forum a ballot. Obviously all the voters would pick the teams they came to see (and shouldn't the teams get credit for that?), so let the voters pick two teams from each category. Let the teams themselves vote too while we're at it.
Then, you collect the ballots, have a team of 30 people counting 100 ballots each during a second intermission that should only take fifteen minutes tops, and then announce the winners. Can you imagine the anticipation? And not only that, wouldn't it mean more to the competitors to win based on the votes of their peers rather than based on the votes of three strangers? Maybe it sounds crazy, but it kind of sounded crazy last year when the ALC decided that pre-recorded videos would replace traditional hosts for each team's introduction, and that worked out extremely well.
Anyway, that's our grand idea. We'd like to once again congratulate the winners AeroK and Phaymus, all of the other teams that performed, and the ALC itself for putting on such an awesome event. It may be the understatement of the year, but the 2013 ALC Showdown was without a doubt an unabashed success.
Photos by Robert Rossi and Emily Akin/ Gavel Media.