The Project dances to a hip-hop remix, including artist Denzel Curry, and brought life to the stage with smooth hits and hard beats. Photos by Alonso Hernandez.

Dance is a transmutation of energy. It’s a release of pain and anxiety through the catharsis of movement. UC Santa Cruz hip-hop dance troupe Haluan presented “En Route Showcase,” providing dancers space to demonstrate the vulnerability of humanity while celebrating the beauty of art and community.

“The idea of choosing your own family gets really important when you leave home,” said Haluan co-coordinator Ajani Thompson. “It’s really important to choose the right people to surround yourself around. Haluan is my family.”

On May 4, Haluan hosted its fifth annual “En Route Showcase” at the Cabrillo Crocker Theater. The show featured 12 dance teams from across the state and is one of the few showcases where dancers can just dance to dance. While other showcases charge entry fees for teams, Haluan does not. Its showcase instead focuses on creating a space where family and creativity pervade all aspects of the show.

“Haluan is a friendly community where people like to dance, it feels like family. The atmosphere is energized and alive and there is a strong sense of support,” said Haluan member and first-year Luisana Rodriguez.

Haluan was one of the only female-centered dance groups in the showcase, Rodriguez said. Its closing performance resembled a slumber party scene from a ‘90s teen romantic comedy and the team danced to the song “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls. 

An electrified crowd provided another dimension to the dance routines. A chorus of oohs, aahs and loud applause fed the dancers’ spirits with inspiration.

Closing out the night, Haluan performs a remix of the classic ‘90s song “Wannabe.” Quick style and mood switches put a fun twist on a crowd favorite.

The routines at “En Route” were nothing short of eclectic. Many performances combined other aspects of performing arts, such as theatre, film and breakdancing, into their routines. Teams often incorporated dialogue between dancers and used movement to convey strong emotions.

“We strive to be different in all ways we can,” said Sacramento team The Project’s creative director Anthony Cha. “The Project’s style is slow motion like a sloth, we especially pay attention to textures, waves and percussion.”

The Project dancers wore coordinating black and white striped outfits with white face paint, resembling characters from Tim Burton’s “A Nightmare Before Christmas.” Their routine started with the group on the ground as if resurrected from graves. Ominous music played in the background. With zombie-like movements, the members came back to life as the bass dropped and delivered a tension-filled performance. Their routine evoked a sense of fear. Through dance, the team conveyed a story of  resilience.

Although routines last no more than 10 minutes, the amount of practice that goes into the final product often goes unnoticed. Most dance teams have more than 10 members and coordinating a routine with so many people is no easy task. Dance is a delicate and precise craft — the final product a result of countless hours of failure, frustration and persistence. To overcome such a monumental challenge you need support, you need family, said V3 dance team member C.J. Lanon.

During the weeks leading up to the event, Ajani Thompson worked around 25 hours per week practicing and organizing. With a beaming smile, she said even though she was hanging on by a thread, it was all worth it because of the beautiful community atmosphere the showcase brings. 

At the end of the event, all 12 teams went on stage for a dance cypher. This was an opportunity for the different teams to dance together and capped an evening full of mutual love and admiration for each other’s craft.

“Dance is a universal language,” Lanon said. “It can show love in ways that words can’t.”