Redefined Dance Company

Not far removed from the buffet lines of J2, a group of UT students learn the refined techniques of robotic dancing. The members of Redefined Dance Company work to keep hip-hop dancing alive by participating in team competitions with routines inspired by traditional hip-hop styles.  

Redefined Dance Company was founded in 2007 to reestablish hip-hop dancing in Texas. Since then, the group has expanded and won the nationwide dance competition World of Dance two times in a row. In this competition, dance groups of all ages compete against each other by performing a combination of street dancing and new-age choreography.

The group holds auditions each semester, making no spot permanent. Fifth-year nutrition senior, Crystal De La Rosa, tried out for the group during her freshman year and has been dancing with the team since.

“When I auditioned, there were three freshman, and everyone else was an upperclassmen,” De La Rosa said. “There was a lot of pressure, and I didn’t know anyone at all. It was scary.”

Redefined gave De La Rosa the opportunity to make friends and network with other dancers around the nation. Sharon Melnikov, international relations and global studies junior, said the team chemistry was one of the greatest aspects of joining the team.

“I was expecting to join a team and dance — that’s it,” Melnikov said. “Obviously, you make friends at practice, but these are people you hang out with, you go out with and you randomly have lunch with.”

Melnikov said the dance routines tell a story and revolve around a central theme. In order to successfully convey the story, the dances must be exact.

“A lot of Texas hip-hop is very swag [and] hard-hitting,” Melnikov said. “Redefined takes the foundations of hip-hop and incorporates that into our routine. That’s really our drive — bringing back foundation.”

Dance teams are especially popular in Houston and Dallas, according to Melnikov. In these cities, there are official and unofficial dance communities taught by
professional instructors.

Redefined puts students in charge. Fifth-year mathematics senior Ramon Catindig is one of the group leaders who mentors the newer members.

“Dance is kind of like the perfect art style to bond with somebody,” Catindig said. “You’re not only moving to music people may enjoy, but you’re moving together. You’re getting in synced with your bodies as well. Dance is something we love.”

In order to encourage more participation, Redefined offers free bi-weekly classes. These classes are open to anyone interested in dancing, not just
UT students. 

“We want to redefine how people see hip-hop around Texas,” De La Rosa said. “Yes, there’s locking and popping, but it’s not just the hip-hop you see in videos. It’s more.”

Pre-pharmacy junior Crystal Delarosa, Japanese and communication sciences and disorders senior Lilliana Guevara, and dietetics junior Tahlia Sablan perform hip hop moves at the SAC dance studio last Wednesday. The company has recently gained more and more attention as they won the World of Dance competition in Dallas two years in a row.

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

Inspiration comes from everywhere, but for Redefined Dance Company, inspiration comes from music that reflects members’ life experiences. Most recently, the members choreographed their movements based on their own relationships, filling the practice room with staged wedding proposals, partner dancing and backflips galore.

“Work it, betches,” Christina Moreno said as she looked on. Moreno is a 2010 UT graduate and one of three officers for Redefined Dance Company.

As Moreno continued to yell out encouraging words the dancers responded with bigger smiles and even more unique choreography, keeping the room entertained for the duration of the dance.

The Redefined Dance Company has been a registered UT student organization (non-UT students are also welcome) since 2007, garnering more attention over the past two years after winning back-to-back World of Dance competitions in Dallas. The co-ed company strives to increase hip-hop recognition in the Austin community with its “grassroots mentality” and choreography intended to entertain the masses.

“I went from ballet with perfect posture and pointing my toes to getting down and dirty with the boys,” Moreno said. “For me, hip-hop was definitely something I had to work at, but our girls are pretty good and can out-dance the boys.”

The company members attested to Moreno’s sentiments, saying they felt prepared this past spring at World of Dance, but not as prepared as they were for their 2011 appearance. They were unsure if they would be able to defend their title after a semester of rebuilding following the loss of senior choreographers.

“For us that have been there for the whole journey we wanted to keep pushing, but for the newer members I think they assumed we’ve always been this way — that we don’t have to work that hard,” Moreno said. “It was a struggle to get the new people on our level, to want to win again.”

The members noted that in the past hip-hop has been all about hard-hitting movements. But the company’s choreographers have been working to break away from the norm and redefine the hip-hop scene in Austin, hence the name Redefined.

“Part of being a choreographer is learning what the song is doing, interpreting the meaning and letting everything else come naturally,” said Wilgene David, senior RTF major and choreographer for the company.

The dancers know every step of every show, a difficult transition for those who have never taken formal dance classes prior to joining the company.

“We get people for auditions who can do freestyle but can’t remember any moves,” David said. “If you don’t know how to be choreographed you’re just raw movement.”

There have been instances when the choreographers have attempted choreography that absolutely doesn’t match the meaning behind the music. To combat poor choreography before shows, the choreographers meet with each other to discuss the creative direction of each dance.

“When I first joined I was red-shirted because I wasn’t quite polished as a choreographer,” David said. “My work didn’t flow. I’m athletic, but that doesn’t mean my movement felt good [for the dancers].”

Darryl Forney, a 22-year-old Austin resident and three-year member of the company, first heard of Redefined after watching a YouTube video of them in 2009. He auditioned for the company later that year. It wasn’t until last year’s World of Dance competition, however, that he choreographed for the first time to a dub step song, a difficult task for choreographers because of the music’s complicated rhythms.

“I had to make sure that everyone was listening to the same beat as I was instead of hitting the other beats that they wanted to hit,” Forney said.

To find music that the dancers enjoy dancing to, the choreographers get creative by using whatever means necessary to produce a memorable dance.

“You can just be driving and think, ‘Man, I really enjoy this song, all of the beats or the way that it flows,’” Moreno said. “You just kind of start moving and you think to yourself this would look cool here or that move could be awesome for this part of the song.”

The choreography and matching music help make the company’s dances stand out when the members perform and compete, but it’s the effort striving toward perfection and diverse group of hip-hop dancers that make Redefined the back-to-back World of Dance champs. With members who have had years of dance instruction along with avid freestylers in the company, Redefined members said they know what makes a lasting impression on an audience. “You don’t want the dance to do anything the music doesn’t,” David said. “A good dance is an exact copy of music through dance.”

Printed on Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 as: Hip-hop group aims to succeed