Dancing to fight social injustice makes for a performance to remember.
APU’s hip-hop team Variety for One (VFO) did just that with its sixth annual performance last Saturday at the Cougar Dome, where it was jam-packed with barely any available standing room.
VFO’s theme this year is Grounded. “For me, being on this team has been part of what’s kept me grounded,” said allied health senior and VFO team captain Timothy Landicho. “Just having that extra time commitment keeps me more motivated in school, [like just] having a group of people that I can come to and just hang out with.”
According to Landicho, the VFO team leaders’ inception of Grounded was inspired by what the dance team meant to them and what would best encompass the causes they support. The theme was meant to extend the meaning of VFO, such as what has kept the members grounded in their relationships with God, the community and their talent.
“I know the team itself is my family, and it’s been like that since my freshman year [when] they welcomed me to APU, and it’s because of them that I wanted to stay,” junior applied exercise science and VFO team captain April Macadangdang said. “They’re the family—that outlet that I run to at the end of day.”
Macadangdang stated VFO’s Grounded mission statement as: “To gather people, embrace the gift that God has given us, portray that gift and have people see God through [that].”
Landicho added that it does not matter whether people join VFO or another organization on campus. “Ultimately…we hope that students find the thing that keeps them grounded and that will help them thrive [at APU],” Landicho said.
VFO works in close partnership with APU’s Free the Captives and Project Cultivate. “Putting an end to human trafficking is a cause that our team is very passionate about…From its very beginning, [M.A.N.A.’s] cause was to raise money for victims,” Landicho said.
The 14 performances, ranging from dance, singing and poetry, included: an acoustic performance from alumni, Jayce Geesey; Samantha Herrera with her spoken word about domestic abuse derived from personal experience; Pacific Islander Organization’s (PIO) luau-style worship; a duet dance between VFO members Kirsten Capps and Meghan Owen; “Mikey G” with his spoken word about social media; and VFO’s “Bieber Fever” performance.
After intermission, Brianna Moore performed her spoken word about being grounded in dancing; Haley Ballard and Jordan Yee presented their combination song and dance performance; Cejae Kendrick did a solo performance; The Swing Team gave a Pink Panther-themed performance; VFO memebers and brothers Alex and Tony Li performed a duet hip-hop dance; acoustic band Pinoyz II Men sang their own version of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” and other songs; Umoja Step Team performed Bible verses through a step dance and VFO closed the program with a worship dance.
Samantha Herrera, head of Spoken Word at APU, recited her poem about domestic abuse deriving from her own personal experiences as a victim. The poem was structured in different “acts” as if it was a stage play.
“It all seemed so fitting, because being in an abusive relationship seems like one big act, pretending to be happy all the time, acting like there is no problem but hoping that someone notices that something is off,” Herrera said.
Senior youth ministry major Mikey Gutierrez, also known as “Mikey G,” presented the second spoken word about conviction, in regards to social media.
Gutierrez talked about how constantly being on Instagram and Facebook made him feel like his value depended on what his friends were doing.“The story is real,” Gutierrez said. “Social media has killed my social life. Like, I stay home and I wonder what other people are doing…It really kills how I see my value.”
Gutierrez’s target audience is the non-“social media famous,” the ones who do not post because it will not get enough likes. “I hope that people would get that life isn’t how it’s portrayed on social media…I want to show them that they are still important, even if they aren’t praised on social media,” Gutierrez said.
Freshman nursing major Brianna Moore’s spoken word was about being grounded in Christ by expressing herself using her gifts and releasing her struggles through dancing.
“To me, dance is a huge blessing,” Moore said. “It doesn’t only help me release, it refocuses my mind back on the Lord, [on] His goodness to me through dancing and being able to dance. It just brings me a lot of joy, so I love doing it.”
Senior allied health major Cejae Kendrick, who had the only solo performance, added, “Dancing is a part of me! It’s my escape from all the stresses of life!”
Kendrick performed to Charlene Soraia’s “Wherever You Will Go,” and said, “I chose it because no matter where I go in life, I want to follow God. Life isn’t easy, but if I stay grounded in God’s word, wherever we end up will be because God wanted us there.”
For Kendrick, “VFO is a group of people who have a commonality. We love to dance and we love Jesus! We are a variety of people, but have one purpose: to dance for the glory of God! To me, VFO is family.”
Pinoyz II Men member and psychology senior Joben Purificacion has been with VFO for two years and also regards VFO as family. “We all come from different places but we all come here to dance, to express ourselves. [It is] a place for us, after finals and midterms, to relieve stress; an outlet for our creativity.”
In terms of Grounded’s outcome: “It’s really a milestone for our team,” Purificacion said. “From what I’ve seen, over the four years that I’ve been here, the team has grown so much just as a family and as a unit; it’s such a big accomplishment.”
Umoja Step Team’s performance was “built off VFO’s theme of being grounded,” team captain and junior computer information systems Jonell Offray said.
The Bible verses they performed were Luke 2:11, which Offray cites as acknowledging Jesus in all they do: “We step for our Savior.” Their other verse was James 1:19, about being “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger,…which is exemplified in the step we do,” said Offray.
Offray said their steps’ foundation was inspired by the struggles that they all go through. “We’re a ministry team, so we have Christ in all our steps and our routines.”
Sophomore social work major and member of PIO Angelina Salanoa-Sagapolu was there to support friends and had difficulty choosing her favorite thing about the evening.
“The fact that it was so full of God-spirited people, and that there was a lot of variety in it too [was] pretty great,” Salanoa-Sagapolu said. “I love seeing the Step Team, PIO, VFO and the spoken word, because it was like Expressions but God-centered, in a way.”
Undeclared freshman Akoni Faumuina said, “Just the dancing in general was pretty nice, [and] the atmosphere of it being related to Christ. I was just here for everybody that was performing.”
Audience member and seventh-grader Joseph Garcia was there for his friend “Mikey G” and said his favorite performance was the tap dance.
This is VFO’s sixth annual M.A.N.A. Admission was free, and all donations went to Free the Captives and Project Cultivate.