This semester, I have found myself covered in a thin layer of strange fog. I keep doing weird things, I have dashed out of my apartment at warp speed, twice leaving fully-prepared breakfasts just sitting on my counter for a whole day. Maybe it’s a senior year thing, or I am too all-over the place, but I simply cannot get myself to Get With The Program and Get Present.
That is, until I dance. Right now, dance is everything.
Don’t get me wrong, the School of Theatre is my home. Like, literally my house. But my fave after-school activity, and some of my most measurable artistic growth lies in Boston University’s hip hop team, Fusion.
The only moments in this BU SOT life a gal has free are Sunday afternoons, Monday nights, and Sometimes Saturdays. Fusion takes up all of these for me. For the last four years, instead of doing laundry, homework, or grocery shopping, I have elected to dance instead. And I am not self-pitying or complaining! For real, I tried quitting the team for Mental Stability. I couldn’t stay away and rejoined. It is so, so worth it.
Can I humblebrag for a second? I’m going to. Fusion is an unbelievable dance team. Diverse in dance styles, majors, and ethnicities, we have tons of variety and originality to bring to the table, and make some truly awesome art. (Can I humblebrag again? I’m going to. We placed third at World Of Dance Boston last semester which is unheard of for a collegiate team jusssssaaaaaaayin) (also that link is gonna take u to a page thats gonna want u to make a ~*WOD account*~ literally just give an arbitrary email and password so u can watch fusion kill that dance pls thank u bi)
Here is a quick index of hip-hop specific (and Fusion-specific) terms that will help you with the rest of this post:
Set: The full music/dance piece with which a team competes. Made up of a series of songs (sometimes just one, sometimes around six or seven) strung together by someone Very Frickin Skilled With Music Mixing. Usually about six minutes in length.
Texture: The same original meaning of the word, but in the context of dance. Just like fabrics have different textures, music has textures, and so do dance moves! Just as a variety in tactics in a monologue/scene are more effective and interesting to watch – in any given dance, the more variations in texture the better, more interesting, and more “AAAAAY”s the team will receive from an audience. (ex: Milk: a specific term for a frequently-used texture: the act of milking a dance move for everything that it’s worth, drawing it out slowly and fully)
Noob: A member of the team who has just been admitted after their first semester audition. In order to achieve permanent status on the team, the member must audition twice. (this policy rocks bc if someone gets on the team and is a Big Old Jerk for a semester then they are not welcome back sry the end)
Fishy: Short for “official”, these are members of the team who were just admitted after their second audition, earning themselves an official spot on Fusion
Oldie: Anyone who has been on the team for three or more semesters.
EBo: Short for “Executive Board”, a collective of team-elected officials and leaders of the group. EBo and Baby EBo (Executive Board in training) are responsible for all executive and managerial decisions and for carrying the brunt of the choreography workload.
A semester on Fusion looks a little bit like this:
- Have a long, long team brainstorming session to come up with a Set Concept
- this can be a specific theme, a storyline we are interested in telling, an emotional arc we are looking to take the audience on, or an “Organic Set”, aka we craft it based on the natural rhythms of the different pieces people present on Choreo presentation day
- Audition Noobs!
- Fusion holds auditions open to the BU community
- ‘Deliberation’ is held with the entire existing team to determine, of the auditionees, who will be offered a spot on Fusion (this . . sh*t. . . takes . . . hours… imagine a 30 person conversation about the dancing abilities of strangers)
- Retreat & Initiation
- bonding time/activities/party to welcome the Noobs onto the team!!!! (we tell them it’s a pajama party, then have a normal party. very innocent heckling)
- Choreo Presentation Day!
- anyone and everyone, Noobs, Fishies, Oldies, can present/perform a song and original choreo, with hopes that it will be in the set. About 20-30 pieces are presented each time.
- EBo Figures It The Heck Out
- They stay up until 3-4AM that night discussing the needs of the team and set, watching videos of all choreo presentations. By the end of this meeting, they have curated a set list and send out a very late night email revealing who this semesters’ choreographers are
- each choreographer (after freaking out that their piece was picked) teaches all 35 members of the team their dance
- Review Sessions
- somewhere in there, choreographers find a minute to host a review session, going over the dance and reminding members of the team what specifically they are looking for when their dance is performed during the set (personality, textures, hard-hits, milks)
- Each member of the team auditions each dance, to be in each dance. Usually the entire team is in the opener and closer, but the middle pieces are more selective. Choreographers are looking for potential dancers, and also at what level each dancer has in mastery of the piece – this determines a member’s placement in the stage picture.
- We put that thing together. Members sit up against the studio mirror and listen with bated breath as the choreographer is setting the opening formation – will they call my name? will they call my name? As a Noob, you hear your name called less. As an Oldie with a little more skill and the trust of the choreographers, you may find yourself dancing for six minutes straight of choreography! (This…. is the ultimate dream.)
- This part SUCKS and ROCKS all at once. You have just learned six minutes worth of dances. They are in your body! You ~*feel~* them, you ~*get~ them. HOWEVER 2 make a stage picture, it’s all about to change for you. Every member of the team does a different 6 minutes of this dance. In this moment, everything you know is a lie as you furtively try to rewire your brain to turn on the third snare instead of the second and to lean left when the original choreography leans right. It’s wild. It’s stressful. It’s worth it.
- No mercy. No prisoners. Not even the choreographer can escape the brutality that is cleaning. Every arm angle and foot pop is ruthlessly examined, drilled, and “matched” to the rest of the dancers in the piece.
- “Hell Week”
- This is what the team has always called competition weeks – members call it “Hell” because we hold practice every night of the week – I always smirk a little @ this one …
- then, we crush it
Here’s the part that makes me want to weep:
For the first time ever, I am a choreographer for this year’s set. Cam Engles and I collaborated on a piece and it got selected, and I could not be more proud, honored, or excited for it. I will get to flex these directing muscles and stage the piece, (here’s something a little petty – choreographers are always front n center which means for the first time ever I get to take front and center with Cam for my last performance on this team.) I’m just .. . very moved and humbled and overwhelmed and thrilled. It’s kind of like my hip-hop senior thesis!
I’m gonna call this post Part One because there is certainly more to come. and In case I haven’t forced you to watch it today, here’s a sneak peek of our dance: