There’s a reason the crowd roars as soon as X-Tasee steps on stage at a University showcase — they command the room with moves that ooze passion, personality and dedication, and that reputation precedes them. X-Tasee dance crew has not only been a community staple since their founding but have been evolving ever since.
The crew was started in 2005 as the University’s first competitive hip-hop dance group. Fourth-year College student Alexis Stokes, X-Tasee’s current social coordinator, described the group’s style as “dynamic.”
“The foundation of X-Tasee is hardcore street hip-hop,” Stokes said. “[The crew has] gradually transitioned into being more accepting of different dance styles.”
This is most clear in the flair each individual member brings to their choreography and performance.
“We have flowing, we have hard-hitting, hip-hop, jazz,” Stokes said.
Along with hip-hop, diversity and inclusivity have always been fundamental to X-Tasee’s mission. Although the crew is audition-based, they welcome anyone from the Charlottesville community to try out, regardless of University affiliation or prior dance experience. While practices and performances are reserved for official crew members, their dance workshops remain open to the public.
Third-year Education student Isaac Henderson had no prior dance experience before trying out in Spring 2021 — now he is the group’s vice president. He encourages everyone interested to go for it.
“Take a chance,” Henderson said. “Go full out. Go as hard as you can. Try out.”
The crew fine-tunes their skills through hard work and dedication, practicing at least three times a week — often more when there’s a showcase in sight — and sometimes learns multiple dances in one night.
Each dance is an original piece choreographed by crew members and chosen at boot camp a week before the semester begins. The group opts for a democratic decision-making approach — after each crew member choreographs two dances, the team votes on which ones to perform.
These extensive efforts to prepare for performances pay off for the public. X-Tasee’s work is showcased at local events throughout the year, including Lighting on the Lawn and various a cappella concerts. The crew has strong ties to Black student association groups on Grounds and performs at many of their events as well such as last semester’s “For The Culture Cookout.”
According to Lani Saxena, fifth-year Medical student and X-Tasee crew member, the crew’s affinity for performing at competitions was stunted by COVID-19, as X-Tasee was forced to withdraw from in-person events.
“We're starting to slowly get more into the competitive aspect,” Saxena said.
Though they do not yet plan to compete this semester, crew members have remained busy traveling to showcase opportunities off-grounds. This past weekend, the crew performed at the 13th Annual Coalescence Hip-Hop Showcase at James Madison University, sporting varying shades of purple to show off their latest set.
While COVID-19 may have changed their performance schedule, their pre-show ritual has remained the same throughout the years.
“We do a little prayer circle before every performance,” Saxena said. “Then we have a song that we like to sing or chant before they go on stage.”
Rich traditions like this are central to the group’s spirit, in the same vein of many other long-standing clubs and organizations. Older members of the group enduringly refer to new members as “babies” before they grow into “toddlers” and beyond with time spent on the team.
Perhaps one of the most special gems of tradition X-Tasee is known for are the nicknames they bestow upon each “baby” their first semester, some of which include “Quiet Storm” and “Poetics.” Referred to as “X-names,” each nickname is inspired by the “X-factor” each individual has.
“Your X-factor is what presence you bring to the stage,” Stokes said. “What do you bring to the team that's different from everything, everyone else?”
Whether it’s their “X-factors” or the hours at practice that bond them, it’s clear that the X-Tasee environment creates something special.
“[Our bond] transcends outside of the dance floor and practice,” Stokes said, emphasizing the strong relationships and genuine friendships formed between crew members.
The bonds extend to their alumni, who are forever welcome to join the team on stage when X-Tasee bring out their “x-dance” — a routine that has been passed down through the years, taught to each member past and present.
“The team is definitely like a family,” Saxena said. “It's a very sappy sentiment. But I definitely believe that.”
Don’t miss a beat — follow the group on Instagram @xtaseedancecrew to be notified of future performances, audition cycles, and dance workshops open to the public.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that X-Tasee was the Univeristy's first hip-hop dance group. The group is the University's first competitive hip-hop dance group. This article has now been updated to reflect that.