Cheers erupted from the crowd as the curtains drew closed on glittering lions, flying Irish kicks and a breakdancer flopping into ‘the worm.’ These were the last few seconds of Illuminate, a dance showcase that spotlighted student dancers across a spectrum of styles in the sold-out Performing Arts Center (PAC) Feb. 22. 

The second annual event was hosted by Urban Movement, a non-audition group which welcomes genres ranging from breakdance, swing, salsa and contemporary. 

The Chinese Students’ Association (CSA) dance group Take Out Kids performed a dance. Kyle Calzia | Mustang News
The Chinese Students’ Association (CSA) dance group Take Out Kids performed a dance. Kyle Calzia | Mustang News

The entire production is student-led and student-run, with performers’ dance experience and dance styles ranging widely. Illuminate showcased 200 dancers, and sold out the PAC with 1,300 tickets. This was the first year the event was held in the PAC. Last year, it was held in Chumash Auditorium, which is currently closed for renovations. 

“Dance can be a way to escape everything going on in our lives,” Urban Movement co-president and civil engineering junior Olivia Weinbaum said. “It’s really incredible to see all the talent and different ways people love to express themselves.” 

Partner-based dance group Cal Poly Ballroom performed as well. Kyle Calzia | Mustang News

Illuminate’s purpose was to “unite the numerous dance communities of Cal Poly onto one stage, bringing together a diverse set of people for a night of artistic and creative expression,” according to the Cal Poly Ticket Office website.

Illuminate featured 16 student dance clubs: Hui ‘O Hawaii, CP Salsa, KASA Dance Crew, Ballroom, Irish Dancing, Swing Club, SLO Breakers, Take Out Kids, Bhangra, Imagen Y Espíritu, Tap, Lion Dance Team and Urban Movement. 

Polishing choreography can take weeks or even months for dancers and choreographers, according to Urban Movement member and business sophomore Devin Hilario.

Hilario choreographed a dance to the song “Attention” by Todrick Hall, because he said he wanted to challenge the stage presence and stamina of his dancers. His process began with improvising to songs, allowing his body to express how the song made him feel. 

Urban Movement member and business sophomore Caroline Maher said ideas for choreography come to her randomly, which she then stitches together, always while keeping a specific song in mind.

Video by Sofia Silvia

“It’s so cool watching a vision I’ve had in my head grow into a complete piece, and all the hard work pay off,” Maher said. 

Maher said she included “big, crowd-pleasing visual effects” into her choreography to the song “Like This,” by Jack Harlow.

“I have such a huge appreciation for everyone on the team and all the hard work they put into mastering mine and others’ choreography,” Maher said. “Seeing that hustle from everyone is so inspiring.” 

In Urban Movement, choreographers audition a short piece during a Choreography Projects period. The club’s board members select what will be showcased. Anyone can learn their favorite pieces during “Workshops,” before choreographers choose dancers to perform in the show later on. During what dancers call “Hell Week,” practices are held every night until 2 a.m. 

“[Hell Week] is wild,” psychology sophomore and Urban Movement dancer Sophie Mason said. “I know that everyone on the team is willing to drop everything to help one person and will always cheer them on in dance and in life.” 

Many of the clubs welcome aspiring dancers with little-to-no former background in dance. Ballroom dancer and history sophomore Megan Sintef said she only began ballroom dancing as a freshman and competes with the Cal Poly ballroom team regularly. 

The Chinese Student Association Lion Dance team performed with colorful costumes. Kyle Calzia | Mustang News Credit: Kyle Calzia | Mustang News

“We love collaborating with other groups on campus whenever we can. We’re all backstage like, ‘You’re so amazing, no you’re so amazing,’” Sintef said. 

English sophomore Taylor Eldridge said she was most impressed by Hui ‘O Hawaii’s hula performances and ballroom’s performances.

“One was so mesmerizing because it was calming, and the other because it was electric and I couldn’t tear my eyes away,” Eldridge said. 

Architecture engineering sophomore Jay Skaff said the showcase made a lasting impression.

“It made me want to get up and dance. Everyone looked like they were having so much fun,” Skaff said. “I’m for sure going again next year.”

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