In a basketball-hungry nation such as the Philippines, there are few instances wherein other competitions which are not related to basketball manage to draw more attention than the well-loved hoops action. The UAAP Season 73 Cheerdance Competition did just that, as the time-honored Araneta Coliseum burst and bled with color as 20,950 people flocked to witness the competition, Sept. 12.
Eight schools vied for the coveted crown, which was last held by the Far Eastern University (FEU) Pep Squad, whose Sarimanok theme earned the nod of the judges last Season 72. This year, however, seven other universities staked their claim at the crown as the months of preparation boiled down to six pressure-packed minutes, which was the time allotted for each university to incorporate their dance routines.
The schools were judged by Head Judge Javier Beron and other revered figures in the field of dancing and fields akin to it. Other judges were Anatoly Panasyukov, Jasmin Amanda Valenton-Ortega, Evangeline Navarro, and Robbie Hayden.
When the dust settled, it was the University of the Philippines (UP) Pep Squad who emerged victorious by slightly edging the equally impressive FEU Pep Squad, with the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Salinggawi Dance Troupe trailing closely at third. While the students and alumni of these institutions gloated in their victory, our very own Animo Squad flew under the radar to capture the fifth spot which is a marked improvement from their seventh-place finish last year.
Clean and Simple
After months of stoking the fire of the Animo in every DLSU basketball game and contorting their bodies, it was the turn of the Animo Squad to take center stage during the Cheerdance Competition.
As the voice of Apl. de ap blared the all-familiar nationalistic lyrics of the Black Eyed Peas ditty “Bebot,” the Philippine flag was hoisted by one of the members of the squad, which is a fitting end to their routine. The outnumbered but determined gallery of DLSU fans roared in admiration as if Joseph Marata just hit a corner pocket three-pointer.
In stark contrast to the lofty and outlandish themes of their routines in the previous seasons, the Animo Squad opted to keep things simple during their performance, which came after UST and before Ateneo’s Blue Babble Battalion.
A remarkable improvement not only of DLSU but also of the other squads was the impeccable incorporation of gymnastics, dance and the awe-inducing stunts. The degree of difficulty of their routine has likewise ratcheted up, as their lifting and tosses can be compared to those delivered by the teams, which finished in the top three.
Perhaps the most notable improvement from their performance in comparison to previous seasons was that little errors were found in their performance, and their moves were clean and synchronized.
Perhaps serving as another barometer of the squad’s improvement was the bequeathal of the Samsung Stunner special Award to Animo Squad member Nikka De Dios as she, in the words of host Boom Gonzales, was “the face that represented this year’s cheerdance competition.”
The fifth-place finish is indeed an improvement which can be chalked up to the experience of the vastly improving Taft-based Animo Squad. The last time they figured in the top three was way back in 1998, when they were still called the DLSU Pep Squad, second only to the FEU Pep Squad. They likewise figured in top three in 1996, 1995, and 1994.
They may still be two spots shy of barging in the top three, but with their vast improvement this Season 73, this troupe of Lasallians who embody school spirit has nowhere to go but up in the upcoming seasons.