Onstage freestyle battle during intermission

Originally posted January 30th, 2012 on Intersections.

If you don’t know what VIBE is, check out my preview post before reading this article.

VIBE is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced in the dance world. How to begin?! Well in summary, JR Aquino has an amazing voice, everyone was super friendly, the level of dancing was out of this world and someone was proposed to onstage. I guess the thing that really impressed me was the sense of community. Yes, everyone was ridiculously talented and wanted to start their 2012 competition season off with a win, but the atmosphere was the complete opposite of cutthroat. Check out the twitter feed #vibe17, nothing but well-wishes and congratulations all around. Honestly, I have never seen such an amazing show before in my entire life. For videos and coverage of VIBE click to read after the jump!

JR Aquino opened the show with a medley of his covers including my favorite, “Thinking About You” by Frank Ocean. After JR Aquino played an original song, PAC Modern kicked off the competition with a set featuring everything from breaking, housing, waacking, and more. One thing I noticed about the competition sets in general was that every team demonstrated their range and mastery of multiple styles. Team Millennia followed up with a creative set to the RENT soundtrack. Not only were the competition teams brilliant, but the exhibition teams were every bit as good. For example, Style 2 Kill, an all-female crew, blew me away and lived up to their name:

@style2kill lives up to their name. Girls with sass, swag, sex appeal and technique. #gotitall #vibe17 @VIBEDanceComp

That’s what makes VIBE such an incredible competition; it’s not good enough to be a clean crew that dances really well, you HAVE to be able to do everything if you want a chance at winning. I definitely didn’t envy the judges, despite their gift baskets that included a pair of Vlados.

Not awesome or anything…

The IV League continued the competition with a set featuring the cleanest stripping section I’ve ever seen. But really, how do clothes move in unison? Witchcraft. Barkada Modern followed up with a set that opened to, I believe, Michael Bublé’s cover of Cy Grant’s “Feelin’ Good” featuring some ridiculous waving. CADC, an all-collegiate crew, then danced their set with so much passion and energy that I began to wonder if I would have stayed on the West Coast for college if I had started dancing in high school… No regrets! But one does wonder…

Entity then gave us a gorgeous performance filled with ridiculous lift after lift. Seriously, where do they find these exhibition crews, and why haven’t I heard of them before?! They’re all brilliant. At this point the competition gets serious with more well-known crews dropping their sets. First up is Kaba Modern with a clever little cinema concept, featuring (500) Days of Summer, Zoolander, Titanic, 300, and Scream. Kaba sets are always full of magic and witchcraft, but the Titanic section combined breaking and lyrical?! And pulled it off! So much love. Kaori Alive, coming all the way from Japan, presented a gorgeous piece titled “Requiem.” The piece was inspired by the earthquakes in Japan and is rather heavy, but presents an image of vitality after tragedy. The level of drama and technical perfection in that piece was something else, and earned them 3rd in the competition. See for yourself:

220, the first team in the competition to rep San Diego, threw down a set full of really cool formations and sass. KiNJAZ ended the first half of the show with a hilarious piece inspired by Zelda. I also loved the section to “Lights (Shook Remix)” by Ellie Goulding. After intermission, Surreal Project staged 2 sets, during the 2nd one, one of the members proposed to his girlfriend. There was a noticeable difference in passion and energy between the two sets, probably because that guy was literally dancing with his entire heart. Not gonna say I told you so, but Academy of Villains… 2nd place their first time competing. My immediate reaction:

@official_AOV oh my god. Monster swag. So clean. Musicality. Ah!@ROttEN_PHaRSiDE #vibe17 @VIBEDanceComp

AOV’s sets are really something else. They have so much charisma that you forget about all the other performers and competitors. You just get sucked into the world they create on stage, check it out below:

The Griminals is one of those conglomerate crews with members from major crews all over the SoCal area and it shows when they dance; you can see elements of each crew they’re representing throughout the set which is always pretty cool. Now I’m really upset that my video of The Company performance disappeared on me, but their set was stellar as well. Seriously though, could you imagine having to be a judge? You’d have to start nitpicking at things that most people can’t see anyways. When SGBM stepped up to the plate, I was a little hesitant because I knew Vinh Nguyen wasn’t dancing with them this year and that his involvement in SGBM has decreased significantly due to his time working with the Jabbawockeez in Las Vegas. That being said I was pleasantly surprised by their set. There wasn’t an overarching theme or concept from what I could tell except phenomenal dancing and swag (Yuko! I love your new hair color!). Common Ground followed up with a really cool set with a door and awesome use of color costuming to accentuate the mood of each section, a visually arresting set all around. Before we got into the last two heavy-hitting competition teams, GRV and Choreo Cookies, IDK took the stage and reminded everyone why they’re VIBE Jrs. champions. Every dancer in their team is 18 or under and could stand on equal footing with the rest of the performers that night, making everyone in the stadium feel unaccomplished and terrible at everything.

GRV’s set was pretty hard-hitting, featuring a lot of dynamic changes and groove sections where their dancers would just walk with more swag than you could ever hope you could have. It’s always cool to see dancers like Jawn Ha and Bam Martin of Mos Wanted in megacrew settings. I also appreciate how GRV doesn’t just shove them to the front and let them dance for them. GRV is  really both a crew and family in every sense, and that deserves some respect. That being said, they were a pretty tough act to follow, but Choreo Cookies didn’t even blink once.

If Academy of Villains and Kaori Alive’s performances were based on maximalist principles in terms of theatricality and costuming, the Choreo Cookies performance was the exact opposite. The lights came up and the dancers are wearing grey and black, no make up, nothing. For most of the piece they dance with a piece of red tape on their mouths (props for breathing through your nostrils for most of an incredibly fast set) set to wordless music, symbolizing not reacting/ignoring the critiques of haters, shown in the transition section. At the end they ripped off the tape, and the lyrics came on and Cookies just went buck. Watching the Choreo Cookies for the first time completely blew my mind. I’ve taken classes with a couple members before, so I mostly just know them as genuinely nice and silly people who really love to dance. Being the kind of people that they are, it’s easy to underestimate them. There’s a reason why they are now three-time defending champions at VIBE, one of the toughest choreography competitions in existence. They have to prove that they’re not only better than every team every year, but better than every past set they’ve staged at VIBE. This year they did away with their costuming and let the audience just focus on their dancing. They move faster than everyone else and they’ve proven they can win with just dancing, no fuss or frills. Check out their winning performance below:

That being said VIBE was absolutely insane. Breed closed the show to a Biggie medley, complete with their own double, rapping and dancing. Congratulations to all the performers, that was an incredible show and you should all be proud of what you put on stage last night because it was all phenomenal.

#thatawkwardmomentwhen you’re reporting on #vibe17 and you can’t predict a winner after all the competing teams have gone…@VIBEDanceComp

To watch all the videos I recorded at VIBE, click here for my Youtube playlist!


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