First, on a personal note:
This moment made me teary eyed, especially when the rainbow flag went over my head, and later, around the stadium. Everyday, I fight for acceptance and there is still a long way to go for us to enjoy equal rights. Thank you, UP Pep Squad, for joining the fight with us.
If this tweet, among the hundred others, would translate to, not just tolerance and acceptance, but also positive changes, then it’s mission accomplished.
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A lot has been said on news sites and social media about UP’s ‘equality’ theme, most of which are better written than what I have to say on the subject, so I won’t delve into it.
I’ve been highlighting UP’s role in promoting gender equality since 2011, with its Madonna routine,
While previous UP Pep Squad routines emancipated us from female-male stereotyping, this year’s Madonna routine exposes our straight-gay biases. It was almost hostile (to conservatives, at least) in its reproach: as the men were pouting their lips and fluffing their hair, they were lifting and tossing the fliers in a show of stability and strength.
… 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…
… Nevertheless, and as always, UP mixed up gender stereotypes by highlighting the girls’ strength (last seen in 2009 through Anna Cruz’s partner stunt), while the boys took the front row in the dance segments.
… so this year’s particular stunts (female bases for beefcake male flyers) may be new, but I’ve long admired the UP Pep Squad for what they now publicly embrace as their advocacy. If anything, it is even more pronounced now. I’m glad the message is clearer and has spread to a much larger audience.
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As UP’s message of equality has been heard loud and clear, allow me to make case for something else: cheerleaders are athletes; the UAAP Cheer Dance should be included in the league’s medal tally as recognition for their hard work.
It’s important for the UAAP to recognize this, now more than ever: the cheer dance competition has never been this competitive. All schools leveled up. Barging into the top three is a feat in itself—after more than a decade of having the same universities rotate the championship and runner-up titles among themselves, it’s now harder to predict which schools will end up on the podium.
This is the year we saw a much-maligned school reclaim their storied past:
This is also the year we saw Adamson Pep Squad inching 0.50 points ahead cheer dance heavyweights FEU Cheering Squad to settle at fourth place. (Scoresheet)
UST Salinggawi’s story in the video is true for all schools: they undergo months of backbreaking rehearsals, which include gymnastics and strength training, among others; and endure injuries to perform a five-minute routine that is so unforgiving, just one major error may cost you the win and also earn the harshest criticism from the audience and social media. (On a related note: I wish the audience—and this goes for all schools—would stop celebrating the misfortunes of others. Though to be fair, the audience is maturing each year.)
I will not compare cheer dance to other UAAP sports, but the bottom line is, these cheerleaders train just as hard as athletes in other disciplines do.
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Of all the images, I find this the most striking:
For the women out there: Yes, you can build those muscles; yes, you can be tough; yes, you can and should kick our asses.
To the UP Pep girls: a rousing standing ovation.
And for the boys out there: Strength doesn’t mean acting oh-so-tough 100 percent of the time.
To the UP Pep boys: Damn, you’re all so hot. #UPPecsSquad 😀 (I guess equality may also mean we’re allowed to objectify male cheerleaders, yes?)
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To NU, I’ve long admired your spirit and have always rooted for you being the perennial underdogs in the league, and for this year, let it be said: #youalready.
NU – I was impressed when I saw their routine live, but now that I’ve watched an amateur video, I’m less complimentary of their routine. Ironic as it may sound, iba pa din yung linis ng mounting, technique, and stability—and yung grace—ng UP Pep. But nevertheless, it was a deserved win, in my opinion.
And did you bring it. Even with their stunts last year, I didn’t feel threatened by NU until I started noticing their cleaner techniques during their halftime performances this season. At the end of their CDC performance last Sunday, I willed my brain to think that UP would get first place, shutting out the thought that it was another NU year, but alas, it is.
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In many respects, the UP’s Equality routine is also a tribute to its previous performances, which is a UP Pep Squad fan’s dream. Their costumes are a hint themselves: you’ll see versions of their 2001, 2007, 2010, 2011, and 2013 uniforms, which have been reworked with rainbows. (My take: It shows off their great physique, but I’m not a huge fan primarily because of the distracting display of corporate logos.)
Their cheer mix began with Daft Punk’s One More Time. I may have missed the earlier references, but here are the ‘throwback’ stunts I got, with the added difficulty in their mounting and having, again, female bases for beefcake male flyers—note that the UP Pep guys aren’t exactly lithe.
Here you’ll see elements of their 2009 Swedish fall pyramid:
This 3-3-4 pyramid, also from 2009 (to think this was already their finale pyramid back then!):
1-1-1 from 2010 and inverted split hanging pyramid from 2012:
This hitch pyramid from… well, there have been various variations of this pyramid through the years, but I could only go as far back as 2006—I’m not sure if there have been earlier versions. But as a first, here’s their 2014 hitch (center) with all-guy flyers:
The tumbling to catch series in 2009 that became a trend in the UAAP in succeeding years:
There was also the full up to A-frame pyramid from again, 2009 (4:28 in the 2014 video), but I thought nothing was new, and that this was one of those precious seconds in the routine that could have been further improved.
Those new stunts—and here, I have to thank the @uppexsquad for helping me out with the terms—are the ‘fast-forwards,’ which are the opposite of ‘rewinds.’ (Here, the base and flyer face each other as the latter is flipped to second level.)
Five sets of full around to cupie, two of which are unassisted:
The oblation tosses, which may have baffled the foreign judges due to lack of reference (and that it’s not too high in difficulty).
A set of four 1-1-1 addicts/attics (?—does anyone know the term?):
Not too many as in previous years. UP may have had to sacrifice executing other new and tougher stunts because of the role switching, which is a tough stunt in itself.
I also think they need to upgrade their tosses. This year, they had two kick doubles, two full twists, and a double full in the opening—plus two male toe-touch tosses (among others not included in this clip), and they were not enough: the squad placed third to the last in the tosses category.
Loved their dance though (this year, they went full-on street dance mode), especially during the Run the World segment, and their use of a Spice Up Your Life remix!!! Aaaaaaah!!! *fanboy moment*
And this delicious jazz from the boys (Update: Patrick alerted me to say that this move is called, shablam. Thanks!):
In another salute to their 2009 routine, they again used The Dawn’s Iisang Bangka; with that soaring electric guitar riff, it is one of UP Pep’s most emotional ending yet.
UP may only be laying the foundation for what it can do in succeeding years. Toppling NU would be extremely challenging, but not hopeless.
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There has been discussion on cultural appropriation (or misappropriation) in reference to NU’s Native American theme. Here’s an example from Pinoy Exchange: (You may check those links because I don’t want to quote a few sentences here and take anything out of context.)
And here’s an interesting tweet:
This is an interesting question, which I don’t know the answer to. Did I find NU’s routine offensive? No, but I am no Native American. I like fashion editorials that feature those beads, fringes, and feathered headdresses, but which Native Americans find offensive. (I’ve actually more issue with the China tributes given pervading geopolitical issues, but then the schools who did them could argue for the Filipino-Chinese community or god-knows-what, but in the interest of #freedom and #equality, I won’t judge them for it.)
I’ll chalk it up to Pinoys’ naiveté, such as when we call anyone black ‘negro’ without the intention of being mean, and lack of—ironically—global exposure. The good thing is that we’re now discussing it and we can educate ourselves on the matter.
My concern, though, is how politically correct should the UAAP Cheerdance be? Ah, ignorance is bliss.