Bay Area’s Best Dance Crew: Dance Through the Ages, hosted by the Black Women’s Collective (BWC) on Feb. 12, brought the Mills and Oakland communities together in the crowded 250-seat theater of Lisser Hall.
Bay Area’s Best Dance Crew was hosted by senior Trevina Caldwell, a member of BWC. The night began with a rendition of the Black National Anthem by San Francisco R&B artist Siaira Shawn and a dance documentary made by BWC member T’Sendenia Gage,
a Mills sophomore.
The documentary, which ran more in the form of a music video, showcased the evolution of different types of swing, jazz, and hip-hop dances, as well as African dances. Different African-American singers, dancers and choreographers were featured, performing or explaining the significance of the song or dance to the people that identify with it.
“When I was making the video, I realized how fortunate I am to know my history and the stories behind various dances…today I don’t have to hide my dance,” said Gage.
The dance show had two parts: part one featured a spoken word piece by senior Mical Asefaw, a moving solo dance to Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” by MFA candidate Sheila Coleman, and a performance by her Dunham Technique class, which blends Afro-Caribbean styles and ballet.
Part two was a dance competition among students from Mills and the East Oakland community. Three judges critiqued the performers when they finished their dance. One of the judges was Sonya Delwaide, head of the Mills dance department.
“I’m speechless,” said Delwaide after the winning performance of The Turffeinz (Dead Silence), a turf dance crew from the East Oakland youth development center, Youth Uprising.
The Turffeinz, six young men aged 15 to 20, stole the show with their “turf” performance. It involved popping, break dancing and some physical theatrics. As the winners, they received a check for $200.
“[The Turffeinz] came prepared with various songs to perform, they were very excited before the show even began…it got me even more excited,” said Paige Gardner, senior and president of BWC.
After every performance, Caldwell had the DJ play an upbeat song and asked the audience if anyone wanted to show their moves. Several students and staff from Mills took advantage of the opportunity. “I heard Dr. Joi wanted to come up here,” teased Caldwell. The crowd began to chant for Joi Lewis, dean of Student Life, to come onstage. A minute later Lewis was dancing to Beyoncé’s song, “Crazy in Love.”
As she, Caldwell and a competitor from BWC’s “Single Ladies” danced, a boy about 10 years old ran up and showed off his skillful hip-hop moves. Right after him a teenage boy also took the stage. The crowd, whipped into a frenzy, joined the dancing.
“Next year I will ask the DSL staff to perform a stomp routine with me.this is my thing,” said Lewis.
Bay Area’s Best Dance Crew connected the Mills community to the Oakland community as well.
“I loved the turfing act. It was cool to see students from our community coming to perform, they were so outgoing,” said junior Yuritzi Gomez.
E-Ninja, a member of The Turffeinz, said the group has performed in an E-40 music video and in huge dance battles at the Oracle Arena representing the Bay Area against crews from New York and Los Angeles. He said they would like to come back and perform at Mills. “This show meant a lot for us. We were very nervous about it because we didn’t know if we were going to get a high turn out,” said Gardner. “It was the best turnout I have seen for our shows.”
“It inspired me to dance,” said first-year student Becky Lara.