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by Sarah Wu

Photography by Joseph Lee

“We, on paper, are a competitive dance team, but at heart, we are an experience, and more importantly, a family,” said Eddy Cao (COM ’17), one of the co-directors of Fusion, a hip-hop dance team established in 1993 at Boston University.

In April 2016, Fusion won Best Arts & Performance Group at the Boston University Student Activities Office’s (SAO’s) Excellence in Student Activities Awards, and has shown itself as a leading force in the dance and hip-hop communities in recent months. You can find them performing at MIT, on home turf or at other colleges in the New England area.

Fusion, on average, competes twice and performs at four to six events per semester, according to the executive board. The group also holds occasional dance workshops led by its own choreographers that are open to the public so that anyone can learn to dance, regardless of skill level. All this doesn’t just happen on its own; the executive board spends some nights in five to six hour meetings to execute their artistic visions and ensure the audience has an eye-opening experience. The executive board consists of six members, including co-directors Cao and Stella Park (SAR ’17), student advisor Jenny Kim and three assistant directors, Jonathan Ko (ENG ’19), Gianna Iafrate (ENG ’19) and Annie Wu (CAS ’19).

“I've never experienced anything like what Fusion does; every member on the team brings in their own styles and ideas onto the table to create something unique and pushes each other to grow in different styles,” said Park.

Iafrate and Cao discovered Fusion at Splash, an event hosted by SAO to help incoming and transfer students get involved in student groups on campus.

“Most of our members have experience dancing in studios/leading their hip-hop teams in high school,” said Cao. “Some have even participated in national tournaments.” He was an exception to this rule—he did a little breakdancing in high school, but not on a serious level.

“Incoming members always have a wide range of dance experiences which makes for a very diverse team by skill level,” he said.

All six of the current board members have been on the team since their freshman year, and roughly 80 percent of the other members have followed suit, according to Kim.

Fusion takes the word “family” and makes it their own.

“At the end of the day, we have each others’ backs. It’s for the team; it’s for each other,” said Cao. “A picture isn’t created by one dancer/ a few strong dancers in center, it's created by every single member from corner to front.”

In November 2016, Fusion won first place at Ring the Alarm, MIT’s dance competition and scored third place at World of Dance Boston; the dance team became the first collegiate team to ever place in WOD Boston’s six years. The team credits its approach to hip-hop and dedication to staying true to themselves as artists and choreographers as the group’s defining factors. In their third year of competing at WOD Boston, the team’s focus on members’ own interpretations of dances to find their own meanings contributed to their electrifying performance.

The group heads into competitions hoping to do their personal best, not measured by placings, but rather by how they themselves feel when they walk off that stage and whether they performed to the best of their abilities.

“[The best] means executing every angle we worked on during rehearsal, performing with our bodies and our faces so our dancing isn’t one dimensional, being one with our fellow team members on stage so nobody is dancing alone,” said Cao.

After a busy semester that included their Fusion Friends & Family performance and their big WOD Boston win, the group is planning ELEMENTS XVII, the group’s annual hip hop competition. It’s one of the largest on the East Coast—famous faces have made their way to ELEMENTS in past years, including Kinjaz, who recently performed for the Chainsmokers, and Brian Puspos, who has nearly 500,000 subscribers on YouTube and over 56,000,000 views.

At ELEMENTS XVI in 2016, over 1200 audience members and about 350 performers gathered together in Metcalf Ballroom in the George Sherman Union to put on a powerhouse event. What sets this event apart is that it’s not just for dancers—friends of friends and the occasional curious person show up and return year after year to follow the hype and watch 15-20 competitive East Coast teams go head-to-head. Audience members can expect to see thousands of hours of hard work, passion and creativity wrapped into the giant package that is ELEMENTS XVII.

The group rarely settles, and just because they work on improving themselves constantly doesn’t mean they don’t take risks. There’s a constant feedback loop, but not the kind that you learn about in biology class in high school. They’re honest with each other, developing their skills further and relationships outside of rehearsals and hold themselves to a standard of excellence that have pushed them this far.

“Hopefully, with the building blocks of over 20 years, in 5 years, Fusion will continue being the force that it is today,” said the executive board. “It will be different, but always maintain this standard of excellence and push for innovation.”

One of the team’s long-term goals is to have a voice in the community; in larger competitions such as World of Dance or Prelude, collegiate teams aren’t as recognized, but in 2016, Fusion showed how kick-ass collegiate teams can be.

“Being a collegiate team, we naturally represent that crowd, and it couldn’t make us happier,” said the board. “We’ve received so much support from other collegiate dance teams throughout this process. We want the outside dance world to see that the collegiate community is a force to be reckoned with.”

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