s winter dissolves into spring, changes start to occur around Boston College’s campus: The snow packs lining Linden Lane start to melt, the Plex fills up with bikini-and-boardshort-bod hopefuls, and the Brighton Dance Studio heats up—a lot.
For those who belong to dance groups on campus, the coming of spring signals a seasonal Showdown-induced insomnia and paranoia. Every waking hour not spent in class or O’Neill Library is devoted to perfecting routines whose themes are kept under lock and key by the performers in anticipation for the highly-attended dance competition in Conte Forum.
This year, dance teams are preparing for a different competition than those in years past. ALC Showdown, an event sponsored by the AHANA+ Leadership Council (ALC), will feature a couple of new rule changes in 2019. Scheduled for March 30, the event will feature two dance categories instead of three and will hold teams to a shorter time limit.
n prior years, teams competing at Showdown were divided into three categories: Competition, Showcase, and Culture. In response to a proposal presented by the Dance Council—an organization whose membership is composed of representatives from each dance team—the Showcase category has been eliminated for this year’s event. Each proposal required a unanimous vote among members according to Kat Gomes, marketing director for On Tap and MCAS ’19.
Amaka Nnaeto, chair of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) Diversity and Inclusion Programming Board and MCAS ’20, met with Chris Liu; a member of AEROdynamiK (AeroK), representative for the Dance Council, and MCAS ’19; in the last few weeks of fall semester to discuss the proposed changes.
“The Dance Council came to me with a list of different things they wanted after last year’s Showdown and years prior and I tried my best to accommodate them,” Nnaeto said.
Last year, three teams—Phaymus, On Tap, and AeroK—performed in the Showcase category. Prior to this year’s scrapping of the Showcase category, an audition process determined which teams would compete in the Competition and Culture categories and which teams would only perform in the Showcase category. Some of the teams that did not make the cut for the Competition and Culture categories were invited to perform in the Showcase category. Two teams—Full Swing and Conspiracy Theory—were cut from both categories last year, and did not perform at Showdown.
“This year, [ALC] did it in a format so that if you wanted to perform you would have to explain your theme for Showdown, your preparation, [and] you would have to send in a set [from] this year’s team, so like something shot in the semester prior." Amaka Nnaeto
he audition process for Showdown was also altered: In prior years, teams were required to audition with their routine in front of ALC for consideration for Showdown, but this year teams did not have to perform any part of their Showdown routine before ALC to be considered for a spot at Showdown.
“This year, [ALC] did it in a format so that if you wanted to perform you would have to explain your theme for Showdown, your preparation, [and] you would have to send in a set [from] this year’s team, so like something shot in the semester prior,” Nnaeto said.
First and second place awards with monetary prizes were up for grabs in the Competition category, but those performing in the Showcase category were only eligible for People’s Choice Award—an award that is decided by text votes from audience members at the end of the event. At Showdown in 2017, Full Swing, a then Showcase team, tied with Boston College Irish Dance (BCID), a team that competed in the Competition category that year, for the People’s Choice Award. Both teams had Star Wars-themed routines in 2017.
The Competition and Showcase categories were further differentiated by the time allotted for the teams’ performances: While teams in the Competition category were given eight minutes to perform, Showcase teams were given half that time. The Culture category teams—Presenting Africa To You (PATU), Masti, and Vida de Intensa Pasión (VIP)—were also given less time to perform, with just six minutes for each performance.
Traditionally, only eight teams competed in the Competition category, and therefore an hour and 12 minutes were devoted to Competition performances. With the addition of three more teams to the Competition category, the overall event time would have increased by 12 minutes—a time increase that was deemed too high by Nnaeto and Liu considering the event has seen lower audience numbers by the end of the night, due to its already lengthy duration.
“I know what goes into these performances, and seeing people get up and leave in the second half of the show is really demoralizing.” Cameron Halloran
nlike other competitions at BC, such as BC’s Best, that progress from the least to most competitive categories, teams from the three different categories perform in no particular order at Showdown. Audience dwindling has been disheartening to some of the dance teams who performed later in the night in years past, and Nnaeto and Liu wanted to mitigate the effects of audience members leaving early if possible.
“It killed me last year to watch so many people leave and not see the final [teams] performing because [Showdown] was just so long,” Cameron Halloran, captain of VIP and Lynch ’19, said. “I know what goes into these performances, and seeing people get up and leave in the second half of the show is really demoralizing.”
Initially Nnaeto and Liu considered giving every team—including those in the Culture category—seven minutes, but even this solution was considered to add too much time to Showdown. In order to avoid exaggerating the effects of the long duration of Showdown, Nnaeto and Liu decided to cut every group’s performance time down to six minutes. This makes for a total BC dance group performance time of an hour and a half. This hour and a half does not account for the time spent on performances by Boston-based dance groups, transition time filled with emcee commentary, or the tallying up of the judges scores and text-in votes at the end of the event.
Teams that were in the Competition category in years prior, however, are finding it difficult to adjust to this new time constraint.
“As an organization that is step-oriented, the time change really affects our team I feel,” Djanan Kernizan, captain of Females Incorporating Sisterhood Through Step (F.I.S.T.S.) and MCAS ’19, said. “Eight minutes helps because we need skits in our show. We need little areas [of] talking so we can breathe because you can’t hit your body for eight minutes straight—you can’t hit your body for six minutes straight. We don’t switch out our girls the way other teams are able to because with stepping you need to hear it more than see it.”
howdown has grown significantly since its inception in 2002. The event was first held in Robsham Theater and then moved to the Flynn Recreation Plex in 2007 after the event had sold out Robsham the year before. Since the event’s inception, teams have been divided into at least two categories—Competition and Culture—and then three with the addition of Showcase, which was created in 2013 when Dance Organization of Boston College (DOBC) and BCID were featured in Showdown but not eligible to compete in for prizes, although the category was not formalized at the time.
The distinction between Culture and Competition teams lies not in whether a group performs in a dance style belonging to a specific culture, but rather whether that team has direct ties to a culture club on campus. Because BCID and Fuego Del Corazón are not attached to a culture club, they perform in the Competition category despite performing Irish dance and Latin dance respectively.
According to Michaela Gacnik, captain of Masti and CSOM ’19, there was discussion among the dance teams of axing the Culture category all together because this may cause confusion among audience members.
istorically, teams that compete in the Culture category are not eligible to win first or second place in the Competition category, which, to some, makes it seem like the Culture category teams are secondary to those in the Competition category.
“People don’t understand that we’re also competing,” Tanya Walia, co-captain of Masti and MCAS ’21, said. “People assume like, ‘Oh you’re culture—you’re not actually in the competition.’”
Because there is a process for being selected to perform at Showdown, having a Culture category in which teams tied to a cultural organization are invited to perform ensures that the event maintains its commitment to recognizing diversity on campus as an event put on by ALC.
“I think [the Culture category] has a lot of value,” Nnaeto said. “It is the ALC showdown and it’s really important to celebrate those communities. I want to make sure that regardless every year that those teams are being recognized because that is really important to what [the mission of] ALC is.”
One metric that did not change for this year’s competition is how the teams are judged: All 15 teams will be judged on cleanliness, creativity, and engagement by three to four volunteer industry professionals. Regardless of category divisions or time limits, the bar for performance is still set incredibly high and ALC Showdown continues to be one of the most widely attended student events. As of Thursday, roughly 3,000 of the 4,000 total tickets had been sold, according to Nnaeto.
espite the dance politics backstage, students show up for Showdown in large numbers with the expectation of being blown away by the talent of their peers. Based on the commitment and dedication displayed at various teams’ practices leading up to the show, audience members at Showdown will not be disappointed.
Correction, April 3, 8:33 p.m.: A previous version of this article stated that teams competing in the Culture category were not required to audition for a spot at Showdown prior to 2019. Culture category teams were in fact required to audition, and could be rejected and instead invited to perform in the Showcase category.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff