UP rules Cheerdance tilt; La Salle pulls off surprise, edges FEU for 2nd place
MANILA—It’s not just their blonde cropped hair that stood out.
Drawing inspiration from international pop icon Madonna, the University of the Philippines Pep Squad showcased a unique and edgy routine to capture a second straight championship Saturday in the UAAP Samsung Cheerdance competition.
UP imbibed everything Madonna—from the black cone bra to the blonde ’do—in a near-perfect number that sealed the team’s seventh overall title in front of an electric, overflow crowd of 20,842 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Madonna is known for reinventing herself and the team can really identify with her,” said UP co-captain Laurence Martin Bautista. “I think we showed creativity. Our theme came off as different. We presented a very clean routine, yet very challenging.”
UP also presented an impressive formation of the Oblation, the iconic symbol of the State university, to cap the show-stopper that earned the multi-titled squad a P340,000 cash prize.
“Although we had a foreign theme, we also tried to incorporate something from our school,” said Bautista.
Sticking to a traditional Green Archers theme, the La Salle Animo Squad finished second overall to barge into the top three for the first time in 13 years in the league’s annual crowd-pleaser.
La Salle’s surprise runner-up finish, which came with a P200,000 prize, was made even more special as one of its members, Aiana Lontok, dislocated her arm early in the performance yet bravely finished the routine.
“We really didn’t know that she was injured,” said La Salle captain Harriette Mauricio. “She was crying when she was performing. It really made our win worth it.”
The Far Eastern University Cheering Squad copped third and a P140,000 prize with a performance inspired from Bollywood shows.
The University of Santo Tomas Salinggawi Dance Troupe, the league’s record holder with eight overall crowns, failed to crash the top three for the second time in three years.
UST last won during its five-year romp that ended in 2006, while UP has dominated in recent years by taking home three of the last four crowns.
“We wanted to inspire the crowd, to amaze the crowd, and I think we achieved that,” said Bautista.
“Initially there were apprehensions going blonde,” admitted UP co-captain Kathleen Anne Madrigal. “We were shocked when we first learned about the theme because we don’t know what we’ll look like, but eventually we liked it.”
UP swept the competition by also ruling the Group Stunts side event, an exhibition of lifts and tosses, with Nesza Salvador winning the Samsung Stunner award.
The Adamson Pep Squad finished fifth, followed by the National University Pep Squad, the Ateneo Blue Babble Battalion and the University of the East Pep Squad.
Three international experts served as judges with Ai Hasegawa (IFC Japan), Damien Ng (ICU Singapore) and Michelle Tang (ICU Singapore), while Paul Alexander Morales, artistic director of Ballet Philippines, and Javier Beren, IFC certified judge from the Pilipinas Cheerleading Federation, rounded out the five-man panel.
The criteria included dance technique, jumps, tumbling skills, tosses, lifts/stunts, pyramids, choreography, degree of difficulty, synchronization, audibility/clarity, formation and audience impact.
“We were only expecting third, so when we heard that we’re second, we were just overjoyed, proud and happy,” said Mauricio.
La Salle also credited new coach Ruf Vandolph Rosario, the mentor of Perpetual Help’s reigning NCAA champion Perps Squad, for its breakthrough win.
“It meant a lot and I’m so overwhelmed,” said Rosario.
UP coach Lalaine Perena conceptualized the Madonna theme and the routine’s soundtrack, which included “Material Girl” and “4 minutes.”
“The members of our team really motivate and trust each other,” said Salvador.
The UP Pep Squad is also set to compete in the 6th World Cheerleading Championships this November in Hong Kong.
UST, which finished third place last year, built its routine around the school’s 400 year celebration and donned Tiger-print unitards.
Adamson had a ballet-inspired performance, while National University showcased a Spanish matador theme. Ateneo also had a Bollywood theme and costume similar to FEU, while UE had a space warrior concept.
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