Great Skills Lead to Beautiful Arts: The Showcase

By: Fernando L. Reyes, Jun X Ma Cao, Edwin Martinez

Rafael “Rafy” Villegas, one of the UPR-Rio Piedras Dance Team coaches; (right) holds the second place trophy. “Hard work pays off all the sacrifices done.”

Type of Format: Colorful


It was interesting to see the amount of people gathered at a single event involving both the Fine Arts and sports, specially the Cheerleading scope. Even more amazingly is the fact that, more or less, most people were there because of the Dance Team competition rather the Cheerleading one that like we all know is an audience magnet. People of all ages, especially college students from all of Puerto Rico gathered around in the “Juan Pachin Vicens” Auditorium at Ponce on April 20th, to watch their University compete in the prestigious competition, “Liga Atlética Interuniversitaria (LAI)”; hoping that their university would win a trophy and bring pride to their respective university.

The audience crowded the place early to witness the talent, strength and determination that these young men and women had to demonstrate to the world. Early in the day you could see everyone looking for a good parking space, calling their friends to know where they were going to meet up and of course the enthusiasm of each of them for the competitions to start. The place where the competition was presented was crowded and it was difficult to walk around, you could barely move. Everyone was excited because they could see how their respective university was going to be represented. “It feels very exciting to cheer and be proud of your university, it gets you motivated and boo other universities,” said Idaliz Ortiz, who assisted the competition.

The Dance Team Competition was part one of what promised to be a night filled with excitement, tears, joy and hype. As the hour to begin came closer, the euphoria began to build up and the tension could be cut with a knife. The loudness of the people cheering and screaming in support of their University spread around onto the people who kept arriving at the place becoming an uncontainable disease among the present.  The event began right after the telecast gave “cue” to their live coverage of the event with the presentation of the first Dance Team, the “Crocs” of the Metropolitan University (UMET).

Right off the bat, some miscommunication between the announcer and the members of the team led to the early entering of the squad into the main stage, when they were not supposed to enter yet. The “Crocs”, being professional before all, situated themselves in their positions waiting for the music to start. Since they were not supposed to be there, they had to get up, leave the stage and enter it later when the time was right. These types of misunderstandings could be nerve wrecking to those participating, but it can also be used to in their advantage as a catalyst of nerves into power, and this was exactly what happened. The “Crocs” devoured their way into a powerful opening performance that was accompanied by the statement saying “we are here and we are going to be taken into consideration.”

Following the UMET, came the UPR-Carolina “Jaguars” and the Sagrado Corazon “Dolphins”. The “Jags”, stood out among the favorites, while the “Dolphins” have always been strong competition. As expected, their presentations were up to par with what they were expected to bring to the competition. Organization and uniformity characterized both the teams. The Sagrado “Dolphins” male team members all had the same color hair and their uniforms were consistent with the girls’ outfits. The Ponce “Lions” and the Rio Piedras “Gallitos” also were among the favorites, meanwhile the worst presentations were from the UPR-Cayey and the U.S.  Virgin Islands. The best left for the ending, and that was the UPR-Bayamon who put up a commanding performance showing everyone why they have been crowned champions for the past years.

After a great night of talent showcase, one Dance Team had to emerge victorious and that champion was the UPR-Bayamon for another straight year. In second place came the UPR-Rio Piedras and in third the UPR-Carolina.

Rafael “Rafy” Villegas, assistant coach for the UPR-Rio Piedras Dance Team seemed really happy with the prize they got, but obviously they wanted the championship. He reacted saying: “This stage is one of the main stages in the dancing scene here in Puerto Rico. It puts a lot of pressure on each Dance Team and Cheerleading Squad at the time of presenting themselves. Confident? It all depends on how hard you work in the path in achieving the maximum goal in the competition. But on this night I felt extremely confident and secure that we were gonna shine and that we were gonna be in the first three places, because we had worked hard for about 5 months for this very moment.

The preparation process is very tedious and sacrificed; in other words, you have to love what you do and feel proud about representing your University. It doesn’t matter what happens, give everything you got and put the name of your University sky high.”

After the Dance Team portion of the competition, came the time for the Cheerleading Squads to do their thing. Misael Martinez, coach of the cheerleading team of the UPR-Humacao, agreed to give general information of how the cheerleading competition of “Las Justas” runs.  Misael stated that in the cheerleading competition of “Las Justas” the total of universities that go to compete always varies, but the average total of universities is usually 12. There is only one competition in the “Liga Atletica Interuniversitaria” (LAI) every year for this category.  Teams or universities do not have to qualify for this event; they just go and compete the day the event is performed. The main rule for a college cheerleading team to compete is that the team must have at least 17 members.

All the teams performed their routines the best they could, but for Samuel Gomez five of them rise among the others. Samuel Gomez, an ex-member of the UPRH team, said that the five top performances were made by the UPR-Bayamon (UPRB), the UPR-Mayaguez (UPRM), the UPR-Rio Piedras (UPRRP), the UPR-Humacao (UPRH) and the UPR-Carolina (UPRC). After asking him what prediction for the winner he had, he said that the three first winners in order were going to be the UPRB in the first place, the UPRM in the second place and the UPRRP or the UPRH in the third place. This is the first time that Samuel doesn’t compete in this competition in three years. Samuel said that for him the nerves are more being part of the public than competing, because you don’t have control on the outcome as a spectator.

Guillermo Calixto, member of the UPRH Cheerleading Squad, said before the competition that he did not know how the performance of his team was going to be. This was the second year Guillermo participated in this competition. In 2011, when he competed, the team took the second place following the UPRB that finished first.  This year he said he did not feel the team was as prepared as the year before. Almost everyone on the team was new, so they did not have as much experience the last year’s team.

The cheerleading team of the UPRB has been winning the first place for eight year in a row and this one was not the exception. The UPRB won the first place, followed by the UPRM with the second place that, before last year, had won the second place for seven years in a row. The UPRH team finished in the third place, last year they finished second, the year before third place too, according to the coach of the team Misael Martinez. The first two places were obvious, but the third place gained by the UPRH was something different. “Their routine was very simple and had lack of difficulty compared to the others but their dedication and motivation was what gave them that third place,’’ said Misael.

It was a high energy environment, everyone shouting and cheering for their university; watching the impressive skills and performance that each university group had to offer. But with an environment like this, where people get crazy and excited leads to a higher percentage of occurring conflicts between people of different universities. Necessary safety measures and security were present to keep everything in order, especially when all the competition ended and most of the crowd went to “Las Calles del Centro Urbano” at Ponce.

The UPRH’s Cheerleaders Squad performing a Liberty Stunt at the competition (LAI). They ended up third place.

Police officers were everywhere; they had everyone checked before they could enter the streets. Once you entered “Las Calles” youcould immediately hear the music coming from a long distance and a different kind of environment. A lot of people dancing and drinking with their friends, college students taking their break off to relax and hang out with their friends was the main mass. “I am not really into the competitions, I just came to celebrate with my friends, because in these times it is difficult to see everyone or most of them in one day, so I just took the opportunity to meet up with some old friends and see who I could meet up during the event,” said Amy Landaburú, who assisted the event.

Interview Questions:

Edwin A. Martinez Moreno

  • How confident were you before going into the main stage of such prestigious competition?
  • How was the preparation process for the competition this year?

Jun Xian Ma Cao

  • How was your experience at “Las Justas 2012”? What was the most that you liked about this event?
  • What was your purpose to come to “Las Justas 2012”? Why?

Fernando Reyes Tirado

  • How does the cheerleading part of the event runs?
  • What does teams have to do in order to compete?
  • What have been the positions in years past?
  • What do you think of your team’s performance?
  • Which were the best performances?
  • Who do you predict are going to bethe winners?
  • How do you feel now that you are not competing?
  • What do you think is going to happen today?
  • How prepared is the team?




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