Arts & Entertainment Editor
The second annual Battle of the Schools – African Dance Competition is back and prepared to “blow you away” on Feb. 10.
The competition gathers campus dance organizations from all over North Carolina, to both battle it out by performing Afrocentric-styled dance and raise money for Education for Liberia INC. The organization is a Liberian nonprofit whose mission, as written on their website, is to “bring awareness to the importance of an effective educational structure in Liberia through scholarship opportunities, empowerment programs, and curriculum implementation.”
Steven Tamba, one of the event organizers, said giving back is an important part of the competition, especially when the people receiving the proceeds are part of the culture the competition is celebrating.
The event hosts a maximum of 10 campus dance teams that perform a total of three rounds. Though the first year featured five dance teams, this year seven are performing, including UNCC, UNCG, NCCU, UNC, WSSU, NC State and ECU.
With last year’s winner being UNCG, we had the choice to host the competition or allow the event organizers to find an alternative venue. With UNCG’s venues completely booked, this year’s competition will be hosted at the nearest location: A&T’s Harrison Auditorium.
The Battle of the Schools is strategically organized, with two teams eliminated every round. For the first round, the order that the dance teams perform is selected through a prerecorded drawing made by the event organizers. The second round is selected by the dance teams themselves, and for the final round, the team with the highest score chooses when they want to go in a set of three finalists.
For those that attended last year, some parts of the competition have been improved.
Every dance team must follow a time limit, so the show does not run over three hours. “Last year we had a complaint on the time,” Tamba said. “Dancers said the time was too short.” The event organizers agreed to extend performance time for this year’s competition.
Another issue that came up during last year’s competition was potential bias from the judges. Tamba said the judges are selected based on their knowledge of dance culture and their being an alumni from one of the competing schools. To prevent judges from rating their alma mater higher than other schools, Tamba said a committee consisting of seven people has authority over the judges to keep their votes in check.
“This is our second year,” he said. “We made some mistakes the first year, as we grow, we want to make sure these things are being corrected.”
As for the dancing, all routines are originally choreographed by the campus dance teams. The disclaimer about the routines is that they must use more Afrocentric influence compared to all forms of dance. “It’s about coming out there and being creative and being more Afrocentric,” Tamba said. “You can put some hip hop in it, you can put some tango; however, it just has to be more Afrocentric than any other culture.”
Besides donating the competition’s proceeds to Education for Liberia INC, the dancers and the audience get a lot from taking part in the event. Tamba said the winning school receives a $1,000 cash prize, which they can spend on anything they want, while the audience will learn more about African dance culture.
“We want to continue to highlight African culture because we have a lot of young kids who are in school and who are African,” Tamba said, while referencing the lack of African cultural representation in campus activities. “This is one avenue for people to come together, to have fun and compete.”
Speaking about the dancing, Tamba said this competition is unlike many dance competitions. “The dancing was amazing, the creativity was amazing,” he said, remembering last year’s performances. “So, this year, I know for sure it is going to be even better for the second time, it’s going to be huge.”
Last year, The Battle of the Schools raised $1,000 for Education for Liberia INC, but this year they are hoping to meet their goal of $1,500.
Doors will open at 5 p.m. and the competition will begin at 6 p.m. and run until 9 p.m. To support African dance organizations on college campuses and to donate to Education for Liberia INC, come to the event, but make sure to buy tickets beforehand at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/battle-of-the-schools-african-dance-competition-tickets-42063829045.