It’s been an eventful past few weeks for Cornell Dancer’s Alliance! After countless pirouettes, sweat and nonstop video editing, the group emerged victorious as the 2018 winners of Red Bull’s Bracket Reel competition.
Created in the efforts to foster creativity across a collegiate dance community, the competition has garnered notable attention and many audition entries from schools across the country. Only 16 dance crews of the hundreds which auditioned were selected to compete in the 5-week long dance-off. Cornell University’s Cornell Dancer’s Alliance (CDA) and North Carolina State’s Fusion both progressed to the final round, with the former claiming the title.
Organized in a bracket-styled fashion, competing teams were given a new song each week along with various challenges that had to be incorporated into their dance. Cornell Dancer’s Alliance and fellow competitors were tasked with submitting a choreographed video that showcased not only dance skill but various artistic and cinematic elements in hopes of advancing to the next round. Submissions were judged on a holistic basis as opposed to in direct comparison to competing teams. This year’s judges included Galen Hooks, Kash Gaines, and Valerie Ramirez, all notable for their substantial careers in the world of dance. Winning the competition was no small feat, as the prize included an all-expense paid trip to Los Angeles as well as the opportunity to work with the three judges on a large scale production music video with a Red Bull artist.
Sitting down with Kyle Avory Muna ’21 and Afsaneh Faki ’20 of Cornell Dancer’s Alliance, the team captains discussed their joy regarding the outcome of the competition and what’s next for CDA. It was the team’s first time competing in the Red Bull Bracket Reel competition, but that didn’t stop them from pushing their creative boundaries and challenging themselves as a collective unit.
“We’ve never been challenged to produce choreography that came with thinking about how it’s going to look on camera or what kind of formatting to use. Performing in a different medium was very exciting for us,” Muna said.
CDA is an umbrella organization for all dance opportunities and groups on Cornell’s campus with the specific goal of providing resources for those interested in dance as well as uniting dancers socially, creatively and artistically across all domains. The group features members from BreakFree Hip Hop, The Assorted Aces, LOKO and other on-campus dance groups. Many dancers within the organization are trained in contemporary and urban dance, which led to the incorporation of these two main dance styles within the choreography of their videos. Each week the team worked hard to ensure that the premise of both the choreography and overall videos were story driven, often to songs that were different than what they were used to.
“We really made it a point as choreographers and directors to make sure that from the first part of the choreography to the last, it all made sense, and there was a bigger purpose to it. That was the biggest challenge in using music that we usually don’t dance to,” Muna said.
Movements such as tutting emphasized strength and power while the use of strong visuals and force helped to convey personality. Juxtaposed with the powerful nature of urban dance, the addition of contemporary prowess incorporated softer movements within the choreography. Movements included jumps, turns and pirouettes, which helped add detail and definition to the structure and subdue the harshness of the hip hop nature. Various parts of the routine featured sensual and sultry movements that added to the fierce nature of the team’s display. The combination of all these effects, both physically and visually, enabled the team to climb the ladder of success, eventually emerging on top.
In terms of styling and plot, both Muna and Faki served as Creative Directors, organizing costume choices, filming locations and desired visuals. Styling played an important role in the team’s success as it was important to understand the characters and what they were trying to demonstrate on a visual and conceptual level. Without dialogue these concepts needed to be clear to display the framework of the story. It was the collaborative ideas and effort of all team members that ultimately made the experience both gratifying and successful.
The captains regard the competition as a whole as being surreal, as none of them had previously competed nationally on such a large scale. The experience of watching it live was rewarding and evoked a number of emotions from the weeks prior, a reflection of the hard work, time commitment and overwhelming feelings of achievement that occurred throughout the process of the competition.
In regards to what’s next for the victorious team Faki says, “we have a lot of new videos that we want to do with our videographer Taehwan Kwak. Right now, we’re really interested in the ‘concept video’ scene, and beyond that we want to find different mediums to challenge ourselves as choreographers and dancers, perhaps through other competitions. Before we started the Red Bull Bracket Reel competition we had our own personal project in the works, and it’ll be great to return to that. We also want to leverage CDA more and take advantage of what a great organization and resource it is to express yourself outside the confinements of a team.”
Both Muna and Faki expressed pride at being able to represent Cornell nationally. The live stream of the final round that aired November 30th on Red Bull Bracket Reel’s YouTube Channel exhibited a large crowd of Cornellians there to support to dance group. The energy was powerful and enthusiastic. It is this support that the CDA notes as being a driving factor in enabling the team to progress to the final round and ultimately win the competition; it’s the same supportive community that the team was so proud to represent on a large scale.
Be sure to keep an eye out for Cornell Dancer’s Alliance as they continue on their road to success and victory.
Isabelle Philippe is a Senior in the college of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]