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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Campus Spotlight: Puso Modern

    The PUSO Modern dance crew performs at B-ball Madness for the chance to show off their moves at Madison Square Garden. (Max Wei / The Statesman)

    Eager to begin, pumped full of adrenaline, the dance crew prepares themselves for not just any ordinary performance, but for the exhilarating opportunity to perform at Madison Square Garden. The booming voice of an announcer introduces PUSO Modern as a cacophony of loud cheering voices from the bleachers at Pritchard Gym fill the air in response. The group of dancers, decked in Stony Brook red, anxiously dash onto the gymnasium floor, flailing their arms out at the excited crowd before uniformly taking their places upon the stage. The excitement escalates, once more, as the performance finally begins.

    Sharp, explosive movements purely fleshed with attitude burst out.  The full bodily investment on the parts of the dancers sets the audience on fire, in constant anticipation, as the cheer of the crowd continuously reenergizes the already powerful and alive performers.

    In mere minutes, it’s over. Although exhausted and drained, the dancers appear flooded with a resonating feeling of accomplishment, as illustrated in their perspiration laden faces full of smiles. They take a final bow before prancing off the stage. Still ablaze from the performance, the excited audience slowly cools down after the truly crowd-pleasing spectacle of PUSO Modern.

    PUSO Modern branches off of the mother organization of the PUSO (Philippine United Student Organization) general body at SBU. The word “puso,” meaning heart in Filipino, seems a fitting title for an organization that embodies the preservation, celebration and awareness of Filipino culture while molding unity with its many members involved in its various subgroups.

    Although a vast majority of the people involved in the general body are of Filipino descent, PUSO Modern offers a slightly more diverse crowd of individuals, despite its origins as the Filipino exclusive Phillippine Dance crew (PDC), founded by Ann Marie Cariaga and Melissa Ortiz in 1995.

    Carlo Limbog, an undecided major, recently elected as Freshman Representative for the general body, admits feeling hesitation and nervousness before trying out for Modern this fall. He had the expectation that everyone would be “amazing,” but the majority were beginners with limited formal training, he explains.  Now that he’s in, he has been enjoying it immensely. “I love it. Everyone is generally friendly and nice,” he comments, smiling.

    Freshman Justin Armamento, also an undecided major, describes his mindset at the peak of the audition as one of indifference, attributing his confidence to his experience in singing, before noting how some of his own friends “chickened out” early in the auditioning phase.

    Monique Shen, a junior psychology major, explains how, last year, she had neglected to meet the expectations for full membership when she first auditioned as a sophomore. PUSO Modern, however, was willing put her in an apprentice position where she could still attend practices in order to refine her skills for future inclusion in performances.  She has become one of the team and she deems PUSO Modern her “favorite part of campus.”  “It’s such an art form, and I love being a part of it.”

    Stylistically, Modern’s choreography focuses on a wide range of hip-hop movement influenced by five different choreographers who control specific “sets.”  “When it comes to style, this team is very diverse,” says the current director, senior Derek Gamboa, a humanties major. “That’s what makes the team great.”  From simple observation, the choreography certainly stands out as unique, blending popping, isolations, provocative hip swirls and aggressive gestures.

    Popping stands out as particularly engrossing to watch in the context of PUSO Modern. Harnessing the subtlest tension in one’s muscles and rhythmically pulsating them to the beat seems simplistic on the surface, but it truly requires extensive concentration and control for beginners and even some of the flustered,  but determined, senior members.  What makes it entertaining is the apparent ease in which the moves are presented in performance.

    The voting based competition to perform at B-Ball Madness for the chance to perform at Madison Square Garden was extremely short notice. Modern was only aware a week in advance.  After debate, they decided to bring back the set performed at the Homecoming Showcase, adding on more choreography and new members.

    Things tend to get hectic in the preparation process, with the members broken up into multiple groups intent on perfecting separate components of the choreography to potentially different songs.  Meanwhile, PUSO members on the sidelines await their turn, leisurely conversing in the background.  However, when Derek speaks and demands quiet, the room instantly falls silent in obedience.  As much as they are apt to enjoy themselves, they recognize when it’s time to focus. To ensure they function to the fullest, a mutual contract and syllabus encourages cooperation each season. This contract is essential considering the many hours of dedication necessary in preparation for performances. The normal practice schedule is on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 to as late as 11 p.m.

    On Tuesdays, the intensity is accelerated with the Ballroom Dancing Team sharing Modern’s new, regular place of practice, Nassau Hall.

    Needless to say, tensions between the two groups are evident, yet entirely expected and natural, partially due to the determination, on both sides, to succeed in the competition. Both organizations were handling a large amount of members and frantically attempting to create the best products possible for the impending performance.  The confusion was heightened when the ballroom team arrived on one Tuesday and Modern was obligated to transfer all of the members, belongings and equipment to the other smaller room.

    “It wasn’t the most organized thing,” explains information systems major Yelena Mirsakova, a junior who is the president of ballroom, citing the discrepancy as “communication problems,” while firmly upholding the position that the plywood floor, exclusive to the bigger room, was necessary for the shoes needed in ballroom practice.

    In order to eliminate petty drama, Gamboa channeled feelings of rivalry into enthusiasm on the dance floor  to rouse team spirit and unity among Modern members at practice prior to the competition. “When it’s fair game on the dance floor, kill ‘em!” Gamboa had instructed.

    While the results of the contest have yet to be announced, Modern’s entry at B-Ball Madness, two days later, appeared to do just that; their intensity and passion vividly reflected in their movement.

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