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One Game At A Time

One moment in time

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THIS coming weekend, eight teams will have one shot at glory.

They don’t have a double-round classification phase or a Final Four. Over the last year leading to their showdown on Sunday, Sept. 15, these teams have been tearing their brains out and flexing their muscles to be ready for that one routine that will enshrine them as a great team.

These are the eight UAAP member schools as they prepare for the Cheerdance Competition  this season. Each squad gets to do a cheer, a dance routine and usually an integration of the event sponsor’s name in a single performance.

The coliseum is always filled to the rafters for a variety of good reasons. For one, the champion school wants to defend its crown while the previous year’s runners-up want a second chance. Also, teams that haven’t done well in the basketball tournament have a chance for redemption.

This seems to be the case for the University of the Philippines of late as its hoop team continues to look for wins while its cheerdance squad has been dominant.

As I recall, the judges invited for the competition represent the schools and the dance and gymnastic sectors of the country. That’s for fairness, and to see if teams comply with required tumbling or gymnastic moves. But the intervening judging variable of late seems to be the surprise factor that a squad brings to the floor.

I have no proper English term for it but I think that after all the required moves, the “gulat” (surprise) element often intrigues the judges and titillates the audience.

Teams master the required moves but always add some spice with a prop or dance step that will cap the routine. Not so long ago, University of Santo Tomas had the helicopter spins where dancers were tossed straight up, would lie flat in the air for a moment and spin on the way down.

In their breakthrough year with a runner-up finish in 2009, Ateneo unveiled the Michael Jackson Moonwalk with dancers backpedalling while being lifted.  And as always, UP comes with some of the best surprises with identical hairdos, costumes and unified dance moves that seamlessly mix both gymnastics and dance.

It’s really exhilarating to see the excellent teams like UP, UST and Far Eastern University perform. They seem like one team in motion and the discipline is evident. This is an important element to watch out for because Filipino dancers are truly so gifted and nimble that they tend to deviate or ad-lib from the routine.

That’s okay for some performances but not in the Cheerdance Competition where synchronized movements are earmarked as essential.

Discipline is also indispensable for the difficult gymnastic and formation moves.  Tossing and building pyramids require concentration and an allegiance to the predetermined routine. We’ve seen pyramids that have crumbled and tosses that have not been caught because of slips in concentration. Staying true to the rehearsed routine is without question integral for safety and completing the performance.

Ball games will take a backseat to catch its breath before the Final Four, when the cheer teams take over with performances they have painstakingly worked on for months and will be done only once. It will be either a performance for the ages, an act teams would rather forget quickly, or an impetus to be better when the next shot at glory comes around.


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