A Different Kind of Selfie: The Rhythm-in-Blue Dance Competition of the Company of Ateneo Dancers
Orgs in Ateneo have their own lives and spaces on campus. These territories are often defined and the thresholds neatly delineated. The thespian groups, taking residence in the small theaters, such as the Rizal Mini Theater in Faber Hall and the Blackbox in the Old Communication Department Building (now known as the Fine Arts Annex), have their nightly rehearsals and daily servings of biscuits and Box-O-Rice dinners in between company calls. The Red Brick Road, as well as the patches of grass in the Zen Garden, occasionally mushroom with kiosks of the business cluster organizations - they are either selling either wares or tickets to their parties, or dunking professors in carnival games. At night and during weekends, the resident students turn the campus into their playground for Amazing Race games and some scheduled fun runs.
Once a year though, some of these orgs gather and turn the Henry Lee Irwin Theater, appropriately constructed right beside the Blue Eagle Gym, into its own arena. Under the crimson, blue and, gold light of their orgmates’ applause and cheers, their anointed and commissioned dancers of choice take part in what can be considered the World Cup of orgs.
Welcome to the Rhythm-in-Blue (RiB) Finals of the Company of Ateneo Dancers (CADS).
The dance concert features two main acts: the much anticipated pieces of the competing orgs and the visually spectacular performances of CADS members and alumni. The competition has an elimination round and a final round. In the days leading to these two rounds, contestants and some of their more supportive orgmates draw battle lines in the online world by changing their Facebook and Twitter profile photos to customized pictures that bear their org logo and a design that hints at their dance theme. Tickets are often sold out on the afternoon they are released. On the day of the event itself, the buzz of chatter, the clustered laughter, and hoots hint at the dormant life force that will in a few minutes electrify the Irwin Theater with shockwaves of kinetic collegial energy.
Each year, CADS sets a theme which all competing orgs must peg their choreography and narrative on. The themes however are generously general enough to give orgs enough flexibility to stretch their creative muscles. Last year’s theme for instance was “Saludo.” This year however, orgs were challenged to prepare a piece based on a theme that was close to them, one that required not only talent, skill, and patience but more importantly, the grace of self-examination: “Millennials.”
“Millennials” is the now trendy term used to name the “Generation Y” cohort. Referring to those born in the early 80’s up to new millennium, millennials are those who witnessed the rise of cable TV, the popularity of MTV, and the birth of Internet. Younger millennials, in other words today’s college students, have never known a world without the Internet. Stereotyped images of these present-day millennials often include teenagers looking down at their gadgets at the family dinner table and young men/women taking a selfie essentially everywhere (including in comfort rooms).
This year’s theme, however, invited the participants to take a different kind of selfie - one that demanded a transformation of the issues of the heart into forms of visual and physical art. And deliver the orgs did.
The socio-political theater group Ateneo Entablado opened the competition with a haunting but poignant dance piece on suicide. With black tears streaking down their faces and contact lenses that made them appear like zombies on stage, the performers invited the audience to be more sensitive and perceptive of the emotional needs of those who seem fine at first glance. The second performers, ARSA Dance Troupe extended the theme through a lighter but still moving piece on what goes on in the mind of a typical millennial girl. With the use of chairs and tables as props and devices, the resident students played on the tension of stillness and movement that can be found in the restless mind of a typical adolescent.
AComm and Box, the home orgs of the Communication and the Biology majors respectively, chose a lighter approach by taking the audience on a trip down memory lane, to the uniformed world of basic education, the domain of Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls where the only rule of thumb was to get down and to move it all around, student handbook rules be damned.
Spirituality took center stage in the piece of Ateneo Lex. Sporting shirts that featured deadly sins such as lust, the future lawyers demonstrated in cadence and smooth prowess that underneath the carnal temptations of today’s media-saturated and free-for-all liberalism, is the grace of salvation that can only be had from an acknowledgement and acceptance of such gift.
Majority of the pieces focused on how millennials perceived human relationships vis-à-vis the various material and social realities faced by today’s generation. The all-female cast from AJMA with its minimalist costume ensemble of white shirts and red cloth tied to the wrist and to each other seemed to put emphasis on the significance of the ties between people. Through its choreography, the performance placed particular emphasis on the vitality of human solidarity – the red cloth that tied the performers to one another made the audience realize that they have one and the same life force. The rather carnivalesque costume choice of CODE on the other hand paraded the color and glee the topsy-turvy world of meeting and dealing with desire within the frame of the classroom.
The dance avatars of ACTM and MECO orgs, home orgs of ComTech and MEco majors respectively, offered their aesthetic renditions of the ever-changing nature of relationships in the age of smartphone and dating apps. With tight master narratives of the instability of adolescent relationships paired with an almost flawless choreography to add complexion to their storyline, the dance troupes brought to stage the roller coaster world of contemporary relationships from the joys of meeting to the fierceness of fighting to the redeeming grace of reconciliation and forgiveness.
Defending champions AMAneuvers explored the tension between the virtual world of Instagram and that beyond the controlled environment of the color filter. Through its comic choreography, the management majors of Ateneo invited the spectators to evaluate the plausibility of the fantasies and idealized fronts when these are placed against the moving and frameless world of reality.
It was indeed a night of learning and revelation. And while all themes teased and tugged at the audience’s collective heart in various ways, execution, physical clarity and tightness of the performance broke the stalemate in what was truly a tough competition. AComm bagged 2nd Runner up while the judges had to confer and decide on two orgs that, in an exceptionally unusual moment, yielded the same average score. In the end, MECO was awarded 1st Runner Up while ACTM was given the yearlong bragging rights for being this year’s RiB champions.
Aside from these great performances of the ten organizations, audience members were also treated to a visual feast of pieces from CADS members who wowed the spectators with their mastery of classical and contemporary dance forms. Capping the event was the much anticipated performance of the Dollhouse who showed the audience what glitter and glamor looked.
All in all, more than the awards and stiff competition, RiB: Millennials was a celebration of a generation by a generation whose future is as bright as the brightest of stage lights, whose ability to chart a constellation of ideas rivals the wisdom of ancient old.
To the generation of no limits.