It’s hard to stand out among the many dance groups within Boston University, but the Unofficial Project dance team has become increasingly recognized in different ways.
Beginning in 2005 as a side project for nine dancers who just wanted to have fun, they decided to make their dancing a more serious collaboration.
“[We’re] called Unofficial Project because it really started off as an unofficial project,” said Eunice Han, a junior in the School of Management. “They were just dancing for fun and then it escalated from there on and became a hip-hop dance crew and that’s where we are today.”
Students changing style
What distinguishes UPro is that they were formerly seen as primarily an Asian styled dance team.
“The students are all from different backgrounds,” said Edwin “Eddy” Lee, BU alumnus. “At first, they just wanted to make an unofficial project, but then it started getting serious. They were a part of the Fusion dance team, who said that their members couldn’t be on both teams. That’s when the founders of UPro made a more decisive commitment to their unofficial project creating more of a team.”
“I guess the reason why it started was because all these people had an interest for dancing to other kinds of music, like Asian hip-hop,” Lee said.
Now, however, UPro has changed their vision. It has become less of an Asian-based hip-hop dance group, and transformed into an American hip-hop group, members said.
UPro still acknowledges their roots as an Asian hip-hop team and incorporates Asian dance styles at least once or twice a year in their sets, but they have become more focused on a hip-hop style that everyone can relate to.
“I know that for such a long time, we promoted that we were an Asian hip-hop team, but at this point we’re trying to expand our scope to say that we’re not just Asian, we don’t only do Asian music, we don’t only want to have Asian dancers on our team,” said Christine Cerrada, a senior in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.
Diversity of background experience
UPro is open to anyone, regardless of any professional dance experience, members said.
“I was never formally trained,” Cerrada said. “I would just dance with family members when I was younger. I did a little bit of ballroom, so I had very, very minimal experience.”
Members also contribute a variety of dance skills to the group.
“I was a cheerleader in high school for four years, and then when I got to college, I decided I wanted to try something new,” Han said. “Cheerleading is kind of like dancing and gymnastics, so I decided I wanted to do hip-hop because I thought it was something I can make a change to.”
Positive side effects
After surpassing the nerve-wracking audition process, prospective dancers found a love for dance that they weren’t aware they had, they said.
“Dance is an art of expression,” Lee said. “Like any other art, like singing or drawing, it’s a way to show yourself, but to use your whole body and to connect to the music spontaneously. You can transfer emotion just by movement and you don’t have to really say anything.”
Dance provides an outlet for stress and helps members find a release from their stressful days, Han said.
“I use dancing as an outlet,” she said. “After a long day of classes and team meetings, it’s my way of letting go. Not thinking about school for two hours, just going, dancing and practicing is really fun. You have to keep a good mindset so practice doesn’t become just another thing in your schedule.”
Other students said dance allows for inner reflection.
“It is that outlet that I can portray a character that’s a little bit different from myself and kind of show another side of me,” Cerrada said. “I’m kind of awkward and I fumble my words a lot. Once I get on stage, that person is not important. It’s the person I am playing on stage. That’s my favorite part because you can escape from reality and do something else.”
As students, it can be difficult to take on more than school, internships and work, so adding an extracurricular can be a challenge, members said.
“You have to balance creating a family bond with your team, as well as being with your friends [outside of the team],” Cerrada said. “Sometimes you can’t always spend time with them because you’re trying to bond with your own teammates, so it gets a little troubling at times.”
The dancers of UPro manage to maintain good academia, dedication to dance and preserve a social life, they said.
“When I did go to class, it was definitely stressful on my social life,” Lee said. “Your social life, I feel, if you take [dance] really seriously, it’s mostly within the dance circle. I know that a lot of my other friendships suffered.”
UPro understands when it comes to academics, that time management is crucial, Han said.
“The main thing is to be organized, [have] time management and prioritize. It definitely becomes tough, but you have to always refer back to that,” Cerrada said.
UPro’s members said that they consider being a part of the team to be a very high priority, although it leaves little time for other extracirriculars.
“I always took dance to be really, really serious, so I would plan my work around my practices, opposed to vice versa,” Lee said. “Since I mostly focused on dance in school, I didn’t try to focus on any other clubs outside, it wasn’t too hard to budget, but there were definitely some hell weeks that coincide with school and dancing.”
Dance can relieve stress, but it can also cause stress. When that occurs to the UPro dancers, friends and family are used as support.
“They [my parents] like that I’m staying active and that I am a part of a team and I’m doing something with less possibility of getting hurt [like in cheerleading],” Han said. “I was a dare devil.”
Some parents, who were concerned about the dance team affecting studies, were won over by the dedication and performances, students said.
“[My parents] actually came out to one of my shows last year for the first time, and they said ‘I’ve never seen you move like that. You really look like you’re having fun up there.’” Cerrada said. “It changed their minds.”