Hip hop and you don’t stop: 6th year for UCSD’s ‘Fusion’


La Jollans and UCSD students had better be ready for some body-poppin’, some windmillin’ and some serious head spinnin’ as the sixth annual Fusion Hip Hop Dance Competition whirls its way into UCSD’s Rimac Arena.

Billed as the largest hip-hop dance competition on the West Coast and the largest entirely student-organized event of the year at UCSD, Fusion hopes to draw in more than 3,000 dance lovers Sunday, April 3.

The event is not just a competition. Swirled into the hard-fought competition are a number of dance troupes who appear solely for exhibition. This year, the focus of the entertainment is on culture, with dancers appearing from Asayake Taiko, a Japanese drumming group based in UCSD, and a Hawaiian dance group from UCSD’s Hawaii Club, in addition to a number of hip-hop dance troupes.

Fusion is a joint production of the university’s Second-to-None dance team and the Multi-Asian Student Association.

Kingsley Ma, one of four event coordinators, said part of his team’s aim is to highlight how important hip-hop dancing has become in Asian youth culture.

“What the media has seen so far is that hip-hop dance is mainly white and mainly people of not-Asian descent,” said Ma. “We want to break that stereotype that hey, you know, Asian people are part of hip-hop dance just like the other races are.”

Ma has been a part of Fusion since 2001 and is a dancer himself. He said hip-hop dance is an amalgam of different dancing styles and moves, usually performed in a group of 15 to 30 people on stage, to a background of rare beats that the troupes search out in record stores and on the Internet.

“It’s kind of like synchronized swimming,” said Ma, “where everybody does the same thing, and it’s actually judged on how crisp everyone is or how well everyone is organized and following the central dancers.”

In addition to the harmonized troupe dancing, Ma said some of the dance teams bring on breakdancers to wow the crowd with their acrobatic, gymnastic maneuverings. Dancers spin to the music on their hands, knees, backs and heads, hoping to win points with the judges for originality and difficulty.

Competitors come to La Jolla from all over California. This year’s hot favorites include CADC and Kaba Modern, two troupes from UC Irvine. The dance teams are mainly comprised of students, though some of the members are professional dancers who have appeared on music videos and danced live in concerts and exhibitions.

Huy Nguyen, a coordinator of Fusion, said that hip hop is a vital part of American culture that deserves to be treated as a legitimate art form.

“Before their time, there was always stuff that wasn’t considered culture, like rock and jazz,” said Nguyen. “Every new form of music or art is always contested. In the end, it is actually a part of culture because it incorporates so much. I mean, the clothing styles, the music, it just becomes integrated into the way society is.”

Tristan Cabalar, another Fusion coordinator, goes one step further. He says hip-hop dancing is one of the purest art forms.

“When you see someone dancing, it’s as if the music comes out of the person,” said Cabalar. “It’s kind of weird, when you just hear it without even thinking. We call it freestyling.”

Cabalar, who is also a dancer and will be performing with the UCSD’s 220 or Second-to-None troupe, said the routines the dancers perform often take months to put together and hundreds of hours of practice to perfect. He said that while there is something of a regimental aspect to the synchronizing of the dancers, there is also plenty of room for improvisation and self-expression, and that hip-hop dancing is one way for people to express themselves in a non-constricting, non-conformist environment.

“Honestly, it’s a community,” he said. “It’s a way for you to represent yourself, to show who you really are. There are no boundaries. I mean, people have different styles and different talents. It’s a time for you to show it.”

Cabalar and his colleagues work long hours to put together the show. For the coordinators, Fusion is a second job that cuts into study time, work time and time off. There is no financial gain for the organizers, who take on the responsibility of a $25,000 loan each year from UCSD to put on the show. They hope to make that money back each year and have been successful so far.

The sixth annual Fusion Hip Hop Dance Competition takes place at 5 p.m. Tickets are on sale for $12 at the UCSD box office, $13 from Ticketmaster and $15 at the door. Five percent of all proceeds go to support San Diego charities.

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