Around the University TownWithout Parachutes

Without Parachutes

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Underneath these flying boys lies a hard concrete floor. A boy can get crippled or even killed doing things like this, but here, no one was hurt.

It was just part of a performance by one of the “modern dance” crews that gathered last Sunday for competition at the local mall. There were 20 crews in all from all over Negros. The contest lasted all afternoon.

These “crews” are actually clubs. Members meet and practice together, often, everyday.

As some members grow too old to dance, they recruit younger ones to replace them. Many of these crews have been in existence for 10 years or more.

In this contest, 10 crews were chosen as finalists. These 10 will compete again for a final showdown at the Silliman gym. Assuming all the participants survive without injury, one crew will be declared the Negros Champion.

In the Philippines, this kind of “modern dance” has nothing to do with ballet. It’s more derived from hip hop, a style of street dancing developed years ago by Black kids in the U.S.A. But U.S. hip hop dancing was never like what you see here.

As performed here by Pinoy dance crews, “modern dance” has developed into a form of violent gymnastics set to pop music — loud pop music, with a hard, fast, hammering beat.

The actual style of dancing does not vary much from crew to crew — sharp, fast, herky-jerky, robotic movements, synchronized within the group with machine-like precision.

The challenge for any crew is how far they can take it; how extreme they can be.

The results can certainly be pretty extreme, as you can see here: multiple back flips from a pyramid of bodies, flying circles of cartwheels, dancers leaping into columns four boys high! It takes months of daily practice to perfect these routines.

The crews are willing to take the risk of serious injury, and use all their spare time in the hope of being The Best in competitions like this one.

Filipinos are natural gymnasts and dancers and divers; they are light, quick, graceful, and deceptively- strong. The Philippines could easily produce internationally-famous dancers, gymnasts, and piles of Olympic gold.

But the governing classes in this country are culturally-ignorant and disinterested in such matters.

So the crews go on dancing, year after year, without hope of support or outside recognition, just for the fun of it.

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Author’s email: john.stevenson299@gmail.com

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