UP Cheerdance: Eyeing a 3-peat
MANILA, Philippines - If you’ve got moves like Jagger, the stamina of an athlete, and enough pep to warrant your own Disney show, then you might just be good enough to try out for the University of the Philippines cheerdance squad.
Cheerdance has increased in exponential popularity in recent years, both as a participatory and spectator sport. Whether you’re belting out your alma mater’s school cheer from atop a human pyramid, or joining in the chorus from the stands, the energy of the sport is undeniably infectious.
And it rings most true in the UP campus where cheerdancing is not just a sport, but a source of pride -- where students have developed a cultish obsession with the superstars of their hardworking and intense internationally recognized squad.
Not just a team, but a family
For many cheerdancers, the team commitments are as demanding on their schedules as it is on their bodies. Daily rigorous training is not just an expectation, it’s a lifestyle.
“Basically it’s my life now. I’ve been doing it for five years now, and every single day we’ve been training,” said Irish Planes, co-captain of the UP Pep Squad.
“I really don’t have time for a social life anymore, so my friends are my teammates as well,” she added.
Atop a regular university student workload, Pep Squad members are expected to put in extra hours closer to competition day.
They are, after all, student athletes.
Gone are the days when cheerleaders were relegated as a sideshow. With sponsors as big as Samsung wanting a piece of the publicity, the world of cheerdancing is highly competitive with each year seeing more intricate maneuvers and creative antics than the last.
“I get to fly, and that’s something other teams can’t do. Other people get to kick balls, or get to shoot balls, but here you get to toss girls and lift other people up,” said Planes.
Top secret theme
Pep, rhythm, and vocals are only the basic fundamentals of the sport. Cheerdancers must equally demonstrate their athleticism and their showmanship, with highly confidential themes tying the performances together.
While maintaining a strict fitness schedule and staying in tip-top shape is a given, cheerdancers have also been known to go the extra step for creativity points on performance day.
Last year’s Madonna-inspired theme had the UP Pep Squad don the Material Girl’s signature blonde locks, earning them a first place finish. As always, the squad refused to give any hints on what their theme this year will be, and instead emphasized their team preparations.
“We really practice hard. We focus on the smallest details,” said Trixie Segundo, co-captain of the UP Pep Squad.
“Every year, everyone's getting better and better, but what we do every year is focus on ourselves rather than other teams.”
According to the UP gymnastics coach, Cesar Gatchalian, this year’s Pep Squad has high chances of a first place finish.
“Compared to last year, this team’s really strong,” said Gatchalian. “More twisting and group tumbling” have been team priorities, areas where they’ve typically lost marks in previous years.
With the UP basketball team lacking in recent successes, it’s the Pep Squad that has been expected to rally school spirit as they vie for their third consecutive title at this year’s UAAP Cheerdance competition.
The UP Pep Squad is one win away from tying with UST, who holds the reigning title of most first place standings. -Rappler.com
This article is the second of a series of cheerdance stories, as part of Rappler's coverage of the UAAP Season 75 Cheerdance competition. Rappler will liveblog the UAAP Cheerdance event on Saturday, September 22.
Read Part 1 about DLSU cheerdance here.