January is arguably the most important month in the hip-hop dance community because it signals the start of competition season. Every year, UC Irvine's own Lambda Theta Delta fraternity holds the biggest SoCal hip-hop dance competition in the Bren Events Center, a four-hour extravaganza known to most as VIBE. Competition as well as exhibition teams flock from all over California to UCI–referred to lovingly as "the dance school" in the community for its overwhelming number of established dance teams–to spend just a few minutes on stage showing others what they've worked on for weeks and months. It's a college event that unites not just the dance community, but UCI itself: nerds, jocks and everyone in between.
I attended my first VIBE as a freshman last year, and as someone who considers herself a member of the dance community at UC Irvine, these past 12 months have been torture waiting for the next. But with 15 teams gracing the stage, this year's competition definitely outdid the last one in terms of the number of competing squads, the amazing performances each had to offer and the crowd response.
My personal favorite performance was UC Irvine's own Common Ground. This hip-hop dance team stands out because they're known for having themed sets, and this season's set paid homage to the dystopian story of V for Vendetta, complete with individual Guy Fawkes masks and movie bits incorporated into the music. What's so compelling about CG is that they manage to let their bodies do the speaking–almost as if they're silent actors–and they prove that hip hop isn't just a "swag" thing.
The results were definitely something to be talked about, because the second and third-place winners weren't from California or anywhere close. Kouteissenin and Kaori Alive were the two international teams competing this year (both from Japan), and their equally chilling sets were deserving of their trophies. Kouteissenin's set involved a lot of popping and intricate locking movements focused around masked doctors performing surgical operations and psychopathic patients having seizures in wheelchairs. Kaori Alive chose to make a statement about the misery of war with their military set (spoiler alert: they all die). Nevertheless, Walnut-based GRV Dance Team held down the SoCal fort with their first-ever VIBE win for their aggressive yet clean set.
What makes VIBE the best competition in Southern California is its diversity. There are teams like GRV who demand power with every hard-hitting stomp. There are those like the IV League whose sets are more light-hearted and don't shy away from flamboyance. And there are those like Common Ground, who have themed sets that tell stories. VIBE doesn't discriminate when it comes to style; every team has something different to bring to the table. And it's this acceptance of dance itself that makes this competition so special, and worth the loss of hearing clearly for a few days.