Monday, September 06, 2010

Ready? OK!

Updated with photos


Next to the Miss Universe pageant, there is one other annual event that I look forward to each year—the UAAP Cheerdance Competition (CDC)! It is the most-attended UAAP event, surpassing even Ateneo-DLSU championship games, though it must be noted that all eight schools participate in the CDC. (This year's event is scheduled on Sunday at 2 p.m., Studio 23.)

It helps that UP, unlike its basketball team, is a force to reckon with at the CDC, although it's a shame that cheerdance is not considered a sport by the UAAP, and is thus, not part of the tabulation for the UAAP Overall Championship.

To give a short history: the UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe is the most awarded group with eight cheerdance championships, followed by the UP Pep Squad with five, and the FEU Cheering Squad with two. These three squads have placed in the Top 3 in the last six years (2003-2009) and are considered the Holy Trinity of UAAP Cheerdancing, until the Ateneo Blue Babble Battalion barged into the second spot last year and dislodged UST out of the tier. It was the first time Ateneo ever made it into the Top 3 since Cheerdance's inception in 1994; for UST, it was the first time it fell out of the Top 3. UP remains the only squad that has been in the Top 3 since 1995.

UST has always been considered a major threat for the CDC crown with its flawless execution and synchronicity in its routines but all that changed in 2007 when UP and FEU considerably leveled up their routines and moved closer to what we see in the National Cheerleading Championship (NCC) and international cheering competitions. This year, aside from UP, FEU and Ateneo, the DLSU Animo Squad and NU Pep Squad (which hired foreign coaches to train them) are reportedly contenders for the coveted Top 3 spots.

FEU is the reigning CDC champions and with eight (I think) members who are gymnasts for the National Team, the squad is understandably heavy favorites this year. However, the team lacks originality (its routines are normally a mix of the best from UP and UST) and sophistication in terms of choreography, music and props. Nonetheless, it is a squad that attempts to elevate the difficulty level of its routines—it has the best tumble passes among all eight schools—so it will be interesting to see how it has harnessed the skills of its gymnasts this year.

FEU's gymnast members doing the Scorpion just before
they tucked their foot under their chins.

UP, I feel, is the only major threat to FEU's back-to-back championship. Even if it only ended up third in the 2009 CDC (6 points behind FEU, and 0.3 points behind second-placer, Ateneo), it has earned the respect of cheering fans for consistently having the most difficult routines among all eight schools. Its weakness: the nerves that seem to get to the members each time they perform. It had several errors in the 2009 routine, which got the team deductions and cost it the CDC crown. A flawless execution would no doubt help UP regain its title: it has the best flyers, pyramids, stunts and choreographers among all schools.

UP's 3-3-4 pyramid

With Ateneo's 1st runner-up placement, you know that the DLSU Animo Squad can't be far behind. It has undergone a massive makeover these last 12 months, even joining the highly competitive National Cheerleading Championship and ending up fourth place (check out the video; Ateneo placed 9th in the same competition.) Its halftime performances this season has been inconsistent but from the YouTube videos, it looks like it fared better than Ateneo. Its determination to beat its main UAAP rival might just propel DLSU into the Top 3.

DLSU at NCC 2009. Its strengths are in the partner stunts, plus
a couple of good female tumblers. Let's see if that number increases this year.

Throughout these years, UST has insisted on its winning formula that got them a five-peat CDC Championship from 2002-2006: a safe, and thus, flawless routine matched by a very 'pop' theme and music. I thought the troupe hit an all time-low with its bee costume in 2007. (I've always admired UST for its clean and streamlined uniforms... until that year.) UST SDT fans on Pinoy Exchange are hyping their squad in this year's CDC but the troupe's skills remain to be seen: its halftime performances have been real sloppy. I've also read that its main goal this year is really just to make it back to the Top 3.

UST's Coliseum pyramid

Another inconsistent halftime performer is Ateneo but it does generally show lackluster routines until the championship. It will have to prove that its second finish at last year's CDC was no fluke but with the many strong teams this year, it will be an extremely difficult job for the team to improve or even retain its ranking.

Ateneo's 'moonwalk' stunt

At the end of the day, the ranking will have a lot to do with the judges selected for this year's championship (aside from each squad's performance, of course). Until 2009, each of the eight judges came from the competing schools, which made the CDC results susceptible to heavy bias. The most respectable panel of judges only came about last year, with its mix of representatives from both national and international cheerleading associations. This meant that technical merits were given more importance than style, props and judges' indebtedness to one's alma mater.

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