In my review of the UP Pep Squad’s 2011 Madonna routine, I wrote:
UP ended the routine… with an homage to the woman who, like the UP student, espouses independent thinking and freedom of expression. In its open-mindedness, the UP Pep Squad is able to do what other squads may have limited themselves from doing.
For that routine they ended with this:
|Photo: InterAKTV/Markku Seguerra|
This year, they opened with this:
|All screenshots are from Sir Facebuko|
… which seems to mean a continuation of the narrative. This time though, they are stripped bare of the blonde hair and flashy costumes, and instead, shaved their heads and wore flesh-tone costumes in honor of the school’s icon, the Oblation. (The symbol would recur throughout the performance.)
Compared with some of the teams with their garish costumes and makeup, the UP Pep Squad looked like a blank template—androgynous—and in the context of the normally noisy and anarchic CDC environment, almost not of this world. They had a peace and immaculateness to them that just have never been seen in the competition before. It was chilling.
Shaving one’s head, whether willfully or in the process of cancer treatment, has often been described as a cathartic process. It was from this perspective—the purging and purification—that I viewed what UP described as its “Freedom” theme.
Aside from challenging the gender construct, freedom is also achieved by facing fear, and in this case, the Fighting Maroons defied gravity.
(By the way, here’s an article I wrote for InterAKTV on how to judge the UAAP Cheerdance. It might help as I discuss the technical merits of UP’s piece.)
I was floored by the stunts that took place one after the other. All partner/group stunts and pyramids were mounted by tossing the flyers to second or third level and their formation and lines look so clean.
(I am not a fan of flyers who have to crawl on top of the base, particularly those that grab on the shoulders of other flyers to steady themselves; I find it unsightly.)
|Impressive sequence: the alternating inverted split hanging pyramid and handstand pyramid|
Some of the upgraded stunts include the two 2-2-1 flatback pyramid (2:20) which was mounted through a full twist; the three tumbling passes that went straight to assisted rewinds (3:55); and the highlight of all stunts: three toss-mounted 1-1-1s (4:21 in the full video) featuring a rotating arabesque-scorpion-arabesque sequence, which then transitioned to an alternating handstand and inverted split hanging pyramid. (Adding to its difficulty is that it allowed no room for error—if any of those partner stunts fell, it would be almost impossible for them to catch up to the sequence; see clip below.)
(Regarding the “triple cupie” as I called it on Twitter, I am now not too sure upon reviewing the video. The weight of the outside flyers seemed to rest on the assistants’. However, visually, it does look awesome.)
|Not quite sure if it’s a legit triple cupie but it’s still visually arresting|
Speaking of the bird front toss, that began the dance sequence (5:25) that would become my favorite part of the routine. As blank templates who have abandoned individuality (selfhood), they then embody the symbols of all UAAP schools beginning with the Archers:
|The Maroon Archers launch an ‘arrow’ into the air|
… followed by the Eagles, Bulldogs, leaping Tigers
(medyo di ko pa gets kung ba’t lumipad yung tigers, unless sila si Tigress from Kung Fu Panda, lol), Tamaraws:
|The Maroons form FEU’s tamaraw logo|
… Falcons, Warriors, and finally Maroons. (In the video, look closely for the transformation of the flyer—from arrow, to bulldog, and to tiger—just fantastic!!! I also love the voice over and the music, ang lakas maka-Hans Zimmer!)
I highly doubt other UAAP teams can pull off representing all schools in cheerdance with justice 🙂
For the final stunt, they then form a 1-1-1 pyramid, similar to their 2010 pyramid, although from one, they have four this time. Alas, the group that was supposed to carry the UP colors fell in an unfortunate miscalculation. Nevertheless, that error was not enough to cost them the championship. With this minimalist but extremely difficult routine, they were simply on a league of their own.