The School of Nursing’s McLeod Hall might not be a place associated with dance and performance, but that has all changed since the first annual dance competition took place there on Feb. 29, in which teams from various schools participated. Team Fever, the organizing entertainment entity in charge of the dance contest, has provided DJ services for many different student organizations here on Grounds, including the Organization of African Students. For them, this was an opportunity to try out a new type of event.
“It’s just something new,” said Jordan Alexander, a member of Team Fever under the name DJ Juiceee. “I’ve seen that we’ve done VCU’s dance competition, and we wanted to start something new at U.Va.”
For the unfamiliar, Afrobeats is a genre of music that combines traditional African rhythms with rap, electronic or other international genres to create a high-energy, feel-good sound. This genre is very popular worldwide, so it should be no surprise that there are signature dances that fit with many different songs. Though African dance is often not revered in the same way as ballet or other styles of classical dance, the performances at the competition required just as much technical skill and practice to make it look both amazingly difficult and effortless.
The competition featured African-style dance teams from Liberty University, Old Dominion University, George Mason University, Virginia Tech, Morgan State University, Virginia Commonwealth University and Bowie State University. Each team brought their own style and themes to the competition, making it an immensely colorful spectacle to see. From waving their national flags to literally creating a boxing ring on stage, the dancers created quite the show for the audience. The show included many jaw-dropping moments, including backflips, people jumping off the stage and some gravity-defying partner work. After three rounds of elimination, Old Dominion University scored highest with the judges, topping Virginia Commonwealth University and winning the competition.
While the University’s own African dance team did not participate in the competition, they still gave a riveting “It”-inspired performance — featuring one dancer in costume as Pennywise the Dancing Clown and the others as the children attempting to defeat him.
The atmosphere of the night from the audience was incredibly energetic. In the short intermissions between performances, there were impromptu dance competitions on stage, shoutouts to different African countries and even a moment of dancing to honor recently deceased rapper Pop Smoke.
Beyond the dancing, this night served as another opportunity for the OAS to celebrate African culture and heritage.
“I think it's important to show that we are here as Africans and Diaspora students, and that although we have embraced American culture, we still know where we come from,” said Sarah Weisflog, third-year College student and OAS president. “We still embrace that culture and still want to celebrate it and still want to share it with people who might share with us, or who might not know about it and who want to know more about it.”
For students like Weisflog, this event was truly about expanding connections with surrounding areas. Throughout the event, there was an emphasis on the continuation of this type of interaction with the promotion of the OAS’s annual showcase Africa Day. This dance competition served as an opportunity for the University’s organization of African students to connect with similar organizations at different schools in Virginia and Maryland. Despite the event being a competition, there was a strong sense of camaraderie in the room as people from all different cities joined together to cheer on the performers all the way up until the end. This moment of diasporic unity was a smooth ending to an otherwise tumultuous Black History Month, in which the deaths of prominent figures such as basketball player Kobe Bryant and NASA scientist Katherine Johnson left a lingering effect on the community.