If you’ve ever felt like the school spirit at UCI was lacking, just wait until you see the Spring Quarter Dance Festival. The entire Irvine Dance Community (IDC) — comprised of hundreds of students and alumni from various educational backgrounds — gathers at the end of every school year to perform with their teams and cheer each other on. Though the enthusiasm culminates at this event, by no means does it dwindle during the rest of the year. UCI is home to a prominent, long-standing and tight-knit modern dance community that, for many of those who participate in it, is the most special part of their college experience.
With a name like “Irvine Dance Community,” it may seem that dance is their only focus. However, the community is much more than just a group of people who dance together. The culture is very social: team members are very close with each other, and there’s a lot of love between different teams.
“What I like most about the dance community is the familial aspect,” said Andy Dien, a second-year software engineering student and board member of the dance team Unique Representation of Movement (URMO). “I feel like dance communities in other areas are different. Here, the bonds between teams are strong so it’s easy to meet other people. That’s nice to have, especially for first-years or transfers.”
One reason why the dance community is so prominent in Irvine is its strong foundation. Several teams have been around for decades, and many of the alumni are still actively involved in engaging with new members and keeping their teams running.
“Joining the dance community really helped me come out of my shell and be more supportive of others,” said Angel Huynh, a graduating biological sciences student and member of the dance team Modern Completely Insane Anteaters (MCIA). “The IDC is really supportive of everyone and it’s easy to get caught up in the energy that it gives out.”
The IDC does not only include experienced dancers. Though most teams have an audition process, they are very welcoming of people with no experience, as long as they demonstrate a passion for dancing and supporting other dancers.
“Coming in as a new dancer was honestly really scary at first,” said Joshua Pagaduan, a first-year psychological sciences student from MCIA. “But through the support and love of the dance community, I’ve been able to overcome a lot of my initial fears.”
There are multiple kinds of collegiate dance crews that people take part in. URMO and MCIA are exhibition teams, meaning they do not compete but instead focus on performing. You may see them dancing at the flagpoles on campus, or at other community events like the Midsummer Night Market. Other exhibition teams include I Never Stand Alone (INSA) and Level V Origins (LVO). LVO is the go-to team for beginners, since there is no audition process involved.
There are also several teams that regularly compete, including Kaba Modern, Chinese Association Dance Crew (CADC) and Common Ground. Then there are various project teams, like Project Renegade and Square One. Konnect K-pop Aspiring Performers (KKAP), the K-pop dance team, does filmed covers as well as performances, and is also open to everyone. There’s also BBoys Anonymous, the university’s only freestyle dance club.
Most teams have practices around three times a week in addition to frequent social activities. Being on a dance team is definitely a big time commitment, and it can sometimes prove challenging to balance with other responsibilities, but it also comes with many unique experiences and benefits.
“You have a group that you can talk to, not just about dance but about anything,” Dien said. “Having a space to just dance and having people to talk to in that space, it really helps you take your mind off of the stress of school.”
Despite being such an important part of the sense of connection and pride at UCI, the university still seems to sideline the dance community.
“We have all these teams struggling to find random spots to perform and practice, and I think UCI could do a lot to help out with that,” Dien said. “They have all these dance rooms that nobody else needs to use at 9PM, meanwhile we’re having to relocate because the police are being called on us.”
The university should consider giving more attention and space to the IDC, especially considering how much it benefits from the publicity and school spirit that the community brings.
“Many people that started their dance journey at this school now compete for famous teams in international competitions,” Pagaduan said.
The IDC is always welcoming newcomers to join and embark on their own dance journey. Many of the teams host workshops in the beginning of the fall quarter for anyone interested in learning or training in modern dance. These workshops are also intended for people who want to get a feel for the different groups and their styles prior to auditions to find a group that fits them. Some teams host additional mid-year auditions during winter quarter.
The audition process itself varies by team. The dance portion generally consists of learning several pieces of choreography at audition workshops that take place over the course of a few days before performing the pieces for judges on audition day. Some teams instead conduct hiring workshops, meaning the candidates are selected based on their performance at the workshops themselves. Those who pass the first round are then interviewed to determine if they fit the team’s values and social atmosphere.
Check out their workshops or catch them performing at the Anteater Involvement Fair or All IDC in the upcoming school year to see if you might like to join the community.
Fei Yang is an Arts and Entertainment Intern for the spring 2023 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.