The Ontario Universities Competition for Hip Hop, popularly known as OUCH is an initiative to bring together students from across the province and encourage them to showcase their talents on stage. Founded by UWaterloo Alumni, Raymond Mendoza, OUCH has been running annually for the last 16 years. This year, our very own UWaterloo Competitive Hip-Hop team, Origins, competed and bagged quite a few awards, namely, 2nd Place, Best Male Dancer, Best Improv, and Best Mix.
I had the opportunity to see them perform live and this team nailed it; from synchronization to energy, groove to expressions, choreography, formations and use of the stage, they left the audience wanting to watch them dance even more. And the judges had nothing but praises for the Origins. A total of 11 teams competed and they were followed by an improv battle between 1 dancer from each team. Tanjot Panesar represented the team and not only won the improv battle but also the Best Male Dancer award. Here’s how Tanjot feels about winning these awards: “Humbling. I know of all the talent in the post-secondary scene. To be seen by judges that I look up to, and by peers and be selected for the award was nothing short of craziness. I will say though that I manifested it by putting in countless hours on improving my skills of projecting my dancing to the audience and understanding the roots of the music in the set in order to portray it through my facial and body language.”
Tanjot Panesar (2B SYDE) and Hajung Yu (3A Sociology & Legal Studies) are the co-directors of the group. Every term, they hold an audition for the team and an interview process to learn more about you as a dancer and what unique perspective you can bring to the group. They usually practice for 7 hours a week but also put in some extra effort to ensure they’re perfect. Of course, school comes first and they decide when to prioritize dance and studies as a team.
When asked about their teaching style, Hajung said she follows the law of superposition, breaking her choreography into smaller parts, and bringing it all together at the end. This way, dancers are not overwhelmed by the amount of information thrown their way. Similarly, while cleaning a routine, she tends to pipeline information and package it in smaller chunks to help the process become more efficient. For her, it’s about finding the right balance between overloading the mind of dancers and pushing them to their true potential. Tanjot, on the other hand, gives his students something to chew on or to sleep on when they go home. More than learning choreography, which is something that can be easily done over time, he focuses more on encouraging his dancers to observe and find different techniques behind the movement, whether it be textures, dynamics or swagger.
Origin’s motto is to “Remember Your Roots”. They chose this motto because sometimes dancers might lose sight of their passion and fall out, so it’s important to remember where, how and why you started dancing. When practicing, they ensure that they’re putting in as much into it as they can because one person’s energy level travels to the other dancers. Keeping in mind this Zen effect during practice is extremely important for them. They are branching out and performing at a non-post secondary competition called Final Stretch this term. They also plan on competing at Academy and Prelude in Winter and in the future, internationally.
The team also won the Best Mix award. They chose a Kanye West theme based on his album “Life of Pablo”. Tanjot says hitting the criteria for the judges, with some tolerance due to art being subjective, is the key. They chose songs from the album that would instill a roller coaster of fluctuating emotions, to keep everyone engaged. Hajung, Revati, and Tanjot experimented with distorted sounds, guitar, bass lines and ‘beat kills’ that would enhance the original tracks and compiled the track, allowing them to be more creative.
Being able to manage studies and competitive dancing is not an easy task and is quite commendable. Nina Yan (4B Biology) says that dance has impacted her in so many ways, both good and bad, serves as her creative outlet, taught her how to step up as a leader. The strong sense of community that dance builds has supported her throughout her undergrad experience. Though, the commitment required limited her free time to study and took a toll on her physical health as she had to undergo knee surgery. Overall, the good definitely outweighs the bad.
Origins feels grateful for the platforms that are provided in the scene for them as an emerging crew. Waterloo is home base, and always will be. The Waterloo dance community will always be the fuel to their distance. As part of the community myself, I feel it’s a place that helps you relieve your stress, make new friends and form a family at university. It is a one-of-a-kind experience and it feels so wholesome. So if you love dancing, be a part of this culture.