The Neighbors, pictured above, is a New York City based hi-hop dance team. The Neighbors competed in Stony Brook University PUSO's dance competition and won first place. COURTESY OF THE NEIGHBORS

The Neighbors, pictured above, is a New York City-based hip-hop dance team. The Neighbors competed in PUSO’s dance competition at Stony Brook University and won first place. COURTESY OF THE NEIGHBORS

Three special judges, six competing teams and eight showcase teams visited the SAYAW 2017 Dance Competition and Showcase, an annual event held by the Philippine United Student Organization. SAYAW (meaning “dance” in Tagalog) saw hundreds of students and dance fans gather, eager to watch the performances in the Student Activities Center Auditorium on Saturday, March 4.

The Neighbors, a hip-hop dance team based in New York City, won first prize in the competition for its dynamic choreography and techniques. Synchronic Dance Team, an urban hip-hop team that regularly competes and performs in New York and New Jersey, and Lucy Stoners, consisting of female dancers from New Jersey teams, won second and third place, respectively. The other competing teams were the CASB Dance Team from Stony Brook, and two East Coast teams, Mint Dance Company and Outburst Dance Company.

The event featured eight other showcase performances by teams from the East Coast community and three dance teams in PUSO, including PUSO Ballroom, PUSO Cultural and PUSO Modern. These performances were separate from the competition and were meant to simply show off other teams’ diverse dance skills and techniques. Different dancing styles were shown throughout the event, including traditional Filipino, hip-hop and urban dances.

“The whole East Coast community coming together for shows like this, it’s very important for the growth of the dance,” Vinh Nguyen, a dancer and choreographer of Kinjaz Crew — which was the runner-up on America’s Best Dance Crew season eight — said after the competition. “Everyone always brings something different to the table. To me, it is just like different arts, feelings and expressions that show how you want to dance.”

Instead of just presenting complex movements on stage, dancers also used their choreography to express their feelings and emotions. Each dance featured a theme such as female power, relationships, parties and a passion for life.

The three professional dance judges included Nguyen; Bong Buno, a dancer who taught many workshops and master classes in the United States; and Trevor Takemoto, a dancer and choreographer from Sacramento, California. Each of them gave solo performances at the end of the night.

“[The judges] are very friendly and talented,” Jennifer Celebrados, a senior health science major and a dancer in PUSO Cultural, said. “ I am so glad the three judges took their time to come out to New York, to Stony Brook, to judge our competition.”

A dancing workshop was also held the day of the competition, providing students with a rare opportunity to learn choreography from the three judges.

“The whole show was pretty much excellent and impressive,” Ares Huang, a senior mechanical engineering major and a former member of PUSO Modern, said. “Since many good teams come over and perform with their compelling passion, this makes the show wonderful.”

Takemoto had his 21st birthday a few days before the event, so PUSO prepared a birthday cake and everyone celebrated by singing “Happy Birthday” to him.

Performers appreciated the positive atmosphere of the event and thanked PUSO for hosting the successful competition.

“This time around has been very, very hospitable,“ Marie Damaso, one of the directors of the VEN15 dance team who performed at SAYAW, said of PUSO. “They are very accommodating of all of our needs.”