After watching the 909 Hip Hop Dance Troupe perform and practice, one word comes to mind: passion. It is this exact passion that shows the people on this campus, this community, and the dance world that this team means business, and is serious about representing who they are and where they come from. As the the team went through the dance moves to “Cater to You” by Destiny’s Child, there was a spark in each and every one of the team members. All of the members were very excited to be practicing together. Knowing that they would be working on technique, syncing in to place and moving for about three hours, they all still had smiles on their faces. The reason for their smiles was the fact that they were doing something they love with friends who share that same love.

Director of 909, James Calma, approached me while as I was observing and asked me if I was there for the workshop and, although I refused, the fact that they encouraged anyone to come and dance was heart-warming. Calma explained how the members of the team help and support one another, making them a genuinely tight-knit family unit. There are indescribable connections that form among the team members because of the fact that they are all working towards the same goal. He went on to describe how he was still in contact with 909 alumni (including the founder of 909) and how many of them come back to choreograph routines for the new team. The most surprising part was that these alumni are not asked to come back; they volunteer to come back.

Calma went explain how the audition process works and how new team members are chosen. 909 Hip Hop Troupe looks for anyone, as long as they have the potential to grow as dancers. “If you exhibit the energy and have a clean cut performance, you may be chosen,” stated Calma. Each audition, they usually have 60 to 70 people trying out but only about 25 new members are chosen. They take on a wide range of people—culturally, racially, academically, as well as dancing background, training, and technique. The team is all about diversity and making an impact.

First-year biology major Moises Garcia said that he was very fortunate to have joined 909 because he saw so many people auditioned that he felt were better, more skilled, and more experienced than him. Nonetheless, Garcia is excited to be a part of 909 and “cannot wait to witness how the team’s hard work will eventually pay off.” Garcia said, “I’ve never done something like this before, but I can already tell that it will make a big impact on my life.”

While watching the team dance, anyone would wonder comes up with all these intricate dance moves. That is when I was introduced to the artistic director of 909, Matt Montillano. Right off the bat, I asked how long it usually takes him to choreograph a competition worthy dance; he replied two to three days. That is a very short amount of time to come up with so much choreography, but it demonstrates just how passionate and committed the members are to the team as well the art of hip hop dance. Montillano plans to choreograph the dances to underground music and stay away from anything that is on the top 100 chart. His inspiration for the choreography comes from the music itself. “Music drives our dances,” said Montillano.

The 909 Hip Hop Dance Troupe is a dedicated and committed group of students who want to inspire the rest of UCR, and to spread the message that if any student has the drive to dance: come out and give it all you’ve got.

909 Dance Troupe practicing outside the HUB
taken by Wesley Ng