'Funky, fresh, dressed to impress, ready to party!" For Samantha Duenas, third-year student at UCSD and member of the dance troupe Second 2 None, Missy Elliot lyrics are inspiring. "It sums it up with her," Duenas says of the rap singer, "because she's very funky, she's very fresh, very innovative as an artist, yet she still has elements of old school and classic hip-hop in her. I like dancing to her stuff." Duenas, a Filipina-American, is a member of the Multi-Asian Student Association, which is putting on its sixth annual hip-hop dance competition, "Fusion." "Professional teams pay Fusion to dance at the event," says Sam Pitak, a student on the Multi-Asian Student Association committee. "Last year we brought in over 3000 people. From what I saw last year, we get a pretty good cross-section [of ethnicity]. You'll see 40 to 50 percent Asian, 30 percent white, and 20 percent, um, other." Pitak guesses at the ethnicity of his fellow association members: "I'd say they're primarily Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, and a few Caucasians, in that order. We are an Asian group, but we don't like to be exclusive."
Pitak, who is Thai, explains the appeal of hip-hop to the Asian community: "Hip-hop culture appeals to everyone. It's consuming the majority of youth right now. We all grew up in L.A., Bay Area, Sacramento, [places] where hip-hop culture is very big. It's the only thing I was ever exposed to. There's a large group of Asians in Southern California interested in hip-hop and dance; a lot of Asian guys are DJs."
Pitak is personally drawn to hip-hop because "There are so many elements to hip-hop culture. There's rap, emceeing, the actual rhymes, dance, break-dancing, and graffiti." Hip-hop is pervasive, and not just on college campuses. According to Alonzo Westbrook, contributor to Hip Hoptionary: The Dictionary of Hip-Hop Terminology, "seventy percent of hip-hop's audience is nonblack."
There will be eight teams competing at Fusion and exhibition performances by six noncompeting teams, including Second 2 None (written in the lineup as "220") and professional teams like Culture Shock, Future Shock, and Urban FX. Duenas used to be a member of Culture Shock, but the professional dance team's rigorous schedule conflicted with her school schedule and she quit the team last year. The Culture Shock Dance Center of San Diego in Old Town offers classes to children and adults.
Anyone who has watched MTV in the past five years is probably aware of the sexual nature of many hip-hop dance routines, like the one in the video for Sisqo's "Thong Song." The camera concentrates on gyrating young women and features many close-ups on their jiggling -- and but for a dainty strip of cloth forming a "T" -- bare bottoms. "Second 2 None has a part in their routine where they do a lot of booty shaking," says Pitak.
At a recent dance competition in Irvine, the song "Yeah" by Usher was used by a handful of teams. Lyrics to "Yeah" include "These women all on the prowl, if you hold the head steady I'm-a milk the cow. Forget about the game, I'm-a spit the truth. I won't stop till I get 'em in they birthday suits."
Dancers at Fusion will not get away with overzealous sexuality -- there are rules to prevent such conduct. "We tell them to keep their music PG-13," says Pitak. "That means they have to edit out all swear words." Dance routines and dress are under supervision. "We can't have any butts hanging out and different stuff being revealed. But there's a lot of stuff that's a little bit sexual in nature. We allow grinding as long as it's not real, real graphic."
Teams consisting of approximately 20 members will perform onstage in front of a seated audience for seven minutes, which includes setup and takedown of any props. Teams are coed, and the music used is typically a medley of several songs. Some routines involve acrobatics. There is a competitive edge to the shows, but Duenas assures, "It's definitely not like a street battle or anything."
Security guards will screen audience members at the entrance. "We've never had a problem with crowds getting rowdy," Pitak says. "At UCSD there are a lot of problems with people coming drunk and high to concerts, but if it happens at Fusion, it's on a small level." Pitak attributes Fusion's lack of violence and drugs to the high level of security the committee has employed from the beginning. "We pay a lot of money for security. It costs us, like, $10,000. That gets us patdowns, people patrolling...stuff like that."
Competing teams are from UC Riverside, UC Irvine, UCSD, UCLA, CSU Fullerton, and CSU Long Beach. Of the eight teams, one will go home with a trophy and $1000. Second place will receive $300, and the third-place team will get $100. "Most of the winnings that teams get go right back into the team, like paying for time in a [recording] studio," says Pitak. -- Barbarella
Fusion Hip-Hop Dance Competition
Sunday, April 3
UCSD RIMAC Arena
Cost: $12 advance; $15 at the door
Info: 858-534-8497 or www.fusionhiphop.com