Throwback to SAT’s pre-2005, and complete this analogy-Full time job : Competitive team :: Passion : ??? If you guessed “Projects,” congrats! You’ve been accepted into STEEZY University for the Fine Arts.Dance projects are a very special, unique component of our dance community. They’re less demanding than a team, and allow for more ownership of your work. They’re fun, freeing, and ultimately, for yourself. As one of the most distinctive (and long-standing) shows around, Maxt Out continues to highlight this special sub-sect of our community, in the Major Choreographer division of the show. This category is specifically for individuals, duos, or trios, that have taken the initiative to collect their own tribe of dancers to compete against other freelance-esque projects. The fearless directors of Maxt Out 2015’s top 3 Major Chor. teams are here to share their stories with you.
Survey Corps: After dancing together on Common Ground and other teams, Kayla Mallari and Sonali Sumasarena took their best friendship to another level by starting “Survey Corps” in 2013. Two female directors leading a project is somewhat of a rarity in our community, but their collective dance experiences, unbreakable bond, and unwavering acceptance of each other fueled the excitement and confidence for this new venture.
Kings & Queens: In 2011, Dimitri Mendez and Jeffrey Caluag started a movement to let dancers from different teams and backgrounds shine under the same spotlight. They loved how our community supports each other on and off stage - thus, “Kings & Queens” was a project to tie in those artistic talents together, with a niche style, unforgettable presence, and infinite creative possibilities.
G.O.O.D. Project: “Growth Out Of Dance” is pretty self-explanatory. Their mission is to foster their team members to grow, both as dancers and as people. They take pride in their dedication to the team, which inevitably inspires you to work with humility and openness in other areas of your life as well. Years ago, Robin Ching’s solo project R.O.B. (Right On Beat), was his introduction to dancing/collaborating with Julian Talens. When it became obvious that their chemistry held much potential both for creating sets and creating an environment for growth, G.O.O.D. was born, September of 2013. Jaime Soriano, former member, became a choreographer/ artistic director last year.
Survey Corps is known for their themes. Every year, we wait in anticipation for the dancers to change into their costumes so that we can get a clue on what world their performance will transport us to.
This year, Kayla and Sonali channeled their long-time love of Burlesque and went to town with theatrics. Props, costumes, characters -
“It's hard, but also much more fun that way.”- Kayla
“The team will continue to break the mold, push the envelope, and stay true to our strange, humanoid selves.”
KQ kept it simple and chic. Athletic chic, to be specific. Their sleek all-black outfits with white wristbands were perfect to complement their choreography, which is enough eye candy as it is.
The G.O.O.D. fellas stayed as true as ever to their word, and created a medley with intent- and that intention was based on the team itself. The theme of “Growth” may have been less obvious to the crowd or judges, but each member embodied that concept so personally and intimately that it was difficult not to get sucked in to the movement with an sense of eerily familiar empathy.
"Growth" means different things to different people. It’s exciting. It’s painful. It’s rewarding. It's letting go. It's acceptance. All these definitions inspired Robin, Jaime, and Julian to choreograph to songs that captured a certain aspect of “Growth.”
To some, it was
“accepting that it is okay to have grown the way that I have, accepting that when things don’t go your way that it is okay, and accepting where you are at that moment.”- Jaime
A different purpose and dynamic, naturally, come with different challenges in road to Maxt Out.
Kayla and Sonali, if it wasn’t obvious, are quite the ambitious duo. Their number one challenge? Staying on track.
“Both of our ideas combined spirals into a furious flurry of over-ambition. But somehow it ends up working out. Every time. And that furious flurry turns into some kind of wonderful. We're kind of a glorious spectacle, and I wouldn't have it any other way - stress and all.- Sonali
Kayla remarked on how the lax atmosphere of projects (in comparison to competitive teams) leaves room for people to be on different pages.
“It’s about finding that balance between pleasure and professionalism in dance.”- Kayla
Another big issue inherent in projects- scheduling.
“Many of our dancers are members of other competitive teams projects for Maxt Out. Because of this, sometimes KQ will have rehearsals with half of the team, and work with the other half another day. It was inconvenient at first, but Dimitri and I have found ways to work around it.”- Jeffrey
With any relationship (and yes, your relationship with your team is as real as any other) - it all comes down to communication. To maintain a level of efficiency (and respect), straightforward dialogue about your schedule is absolutely necessary to avoid annoying last-minute changes of rehearsal plans.
“Luckily, on G.O.O.D., communication is not too much of a problem as we’re clear about our expectations from the team right from the beginning.”- Jaime
Our philosophy is that dancing is a gift. So even those stresses that you can’t avoid in dance should always be trumped by the enjoyment you feel when sharing with those you love. How to fan the fire and keep the party lit? The teams have their own ways…
“Kayla and I are both planners. We plan for things like a year in advance. By planning everything ahead, we keep things low stress for the team and especially for us. Planning ahead gives us time to be silly at practice, and keep things light. Dancing with friends is good for your soul!”- Sonali
“We're weird. Really, really weird. So things stay interesting.”- Kayla
“Dimitri and I definitely try to crack a bunch of jokes during rehearsal. Most of the time we think we're really funny... But we actually aren't and it’s some of our other funny members on the team keep the morale high.”- Jeffrey
“As coords, we have to schedule time wisely. Dancers don’t like staying ‘til 3am – especially if isn’t your main competitive team. With that in mind, we try to finish rehearsals before or by midnight.Another thing that we do from time to time is we ask them how they are feeling and what we need to focus on in the set. After all, they are the main stars and they are doing most of the dancing, so it’s very important for them to know that they are appreciated as dancers and as friends.”- Jaime
“Connection and intention. Connect your dancers to the music by showing them your intention before teaching any moves. Present the objective of each rehearsal in an inviting manner. Get over one on the same page, then let your dancers take ownership of their role on the team — and magic will happen.”- Robin
We know that dancing’s not about numbers or placings, no matter how exciting healthy doses of competition might be. This may be the biggest distinguishing factor between teams / projects.
Projects are more lax - which trickles down into other differences in team culture and behavior, translating to more freedom (which is, ironically, when people’s best work usually comes out.)
“[On a competitive team,] one mess up is detrimental to your score sheet. Being on a project sort of gives the directors and dancers more freedom creatively. We can explore more because there the project 'standard' is almost no standard at all. It's open terrain. It lets us stretch our artistic wings.”- Kayla
“On KQ, we have complete creative control over what is put on stage. Our rehearsals are pretty laid back, compared to competitive teams structured, get-things-done-now type of mentality. We take things as they come.”- Jeffrey & Dimitri
“I love that we can have so much fun and crack a bunch of jokes but still put out a set that we can all be very proud of. What's special about G.O.O.D. Project is that it helps you focus on your individual goals as a dancer and it gives you space to really be yourself rather than just being clean and together on stage.”- Jaime
Objects come and go— we’re certainly not going to be missing any pieces of metal when we’re old and wrinkly. The things we obtain are never as important as the people.
The directors of these projects would embrace those rewards with open arms, over a trophy, any day.
“The most rewarding part of directing is watching the team accomplish new feats, or finding love for things they haven't tried before.”- Sonali
“For me, it’s the idea of mixing and matching with fellow dancers from other teams without having to sacrifice your said team gives you the opportunity to taste of everyone's flavors, this symphony of styles. We’re constantly learning new things from/about each other.”- Kayla
“The most heartwarming part of directing is our team’s trust in us. Watching the final product and knowing that these 40+ individuals all dedicated chunks of their lives to be a part of our vision… especially those who’ve been here from the start (4 years ago)- we really admire loyalty.... to the royalty. *smirk emoji*”- Jeffrey
It is an honor to be a part of someone’s growth and progress. Knowing you’re making a positive influence in someone’s life is the most rewarding thing I can ever take away from dance. G.O.O.D. is definitely the epitome of good vibes, a place to just get together and dance!"- Jaime, Robin, Julian
Relive the Maxt Out experience with the performance videos of these amazing projects followed by their reactions to hearing the results!
"THAT WAS REAL????!!!!!!!’ I have been struggling with confidence issues, with depression, with anxiety, with all sorts of monsters in my head telling me that I wouldn't be able to do this. When Kayla got injured those monsters in my head got bigger and louder. When our name was announced, I thought I didn't hear right. I was in shock. All that was clear to me in that moment was our team flooding the stage and that I was crying face first into the floor. I felt so proud!!! Not for the work that we put into this set, but merely for the fact that we said we were going to do this for Kayla, and we did just that."- Sonali
“Sonali and I went through our own personal struggle together as directors when my injury happened, so to just share the stage with her at the performance was an accomplishment in itself. Hearing our name called out for first was surreal. I just remember hearing her scream "NO" into the stage, and then I saw our dancers run up and I just gave up - I collapsed and started crying. A few months prior I was just hoping to be able to walk normally, and then suddenly we were placing at Maxt Out. It's bizarre in the best kind of way.”- Kayla
“Place or no place, we were extremely proud of our set and had so much fun with each other on stage!- Jeffrey & Dimitri
“Every performance on G.O.O.D. leaves us walking away feeling fantastic and accomplished because it’s always just a fun time being on stage with everyone, and that feeling is enough. But placing was the cherry on top of a really delicious red velvet cake. It was definitely a good reminder and a great reward for the team to know that hard work does not go unrecognized. Driving home from the competition and thinking back on the long day, we were more high off of the feeling of dancing with these guys and finishing the set on stage, than being handed that trophy. But we’re grateful for everything and it’s definitely motivation to do even better and surpass ourselves next time.”- Jaime. Robin, Julian
Congrats to these teams and EVERYONE who performed at Maxt Out 2015! Thanks for sharing with us, Kayla, Sonali, Jeffrey, Dimitri, Jaime, Robin, and Julian!For all the videos of Maxt Out, check out all the performance videos shot by Vibrvancy!
Have you ever danced on a project? What’s your favorite part of it? What distinguishes the experience, for you, from being on a competitive team? Comment below and share with us!Directing is no easy job. And these guys have figured it out along the way - but here are more tips to take your leadership (and team) to new heights!The week following, another celebration of dance was held in Toronto, Canada. Wanna see how a different scene compares? Read all about it, here.