At UCLA’s 35th Annual Vietnamese Culture Night, VSU Modern took to the stage in Royce Hall to dance in front of a sold-out crowd of 1,800 people. The hip-hop dance team, formed by the Vietnamese Student Union, performs every year at this event as a part of the major production.
After the show I tried to find out more about what makes this dance team unique – with a little help from social media, of course. The team isn’t active on all social platforms, unfortunately, so I had to imagine how its profiles might be on Twitter, Tinder and Vine. But be sure to follow VSU Modern on its Instagram, @vsumodern.
Name: VSU Modern
Age: 9 years
Location: Parking Structure 7
About VSU Modern:
VSU MODERN! IT MAKES ME WANNA DANCE! Our name is VSU Modern and we love drinking boba, singing, eating, staying up late, turning crowds into mosh pits and using toilets. If we could be any animal, we would be a red panda, because, why not? Just a heads up, if we were to drop a mixtape, it would be called “When.” You can find us chilling out in Lot 4, but we also spend a lot of our time at what we like to call “the holy trinity of Sawtelle Boulevard.” In other words, catch us at MJ Café Express sippin’ on that boba.
Hey, do you salsa? Because you’re spicy.
@VSUModern “I wouldn’t go in there for a couple of days…or weeks.”
If you live on campus at UCLA, you’ve most likely wandered back up the Hill in the evening and noticed a large mass of people hanging out in Parking Structure 7 and blasting music ranging from Britney Spears to Ace Hood. Sporting some swaggy Adidas sweats, Stüssy shirts and snapbacks, these are the fine people who make up UCLA’s hip-hop dance community.
Association of Chinese Americans Hip Hop, Nikkei Student Union Modern, Samahang Modern and Vietnamese Student Union Modern – as well as a brand new team, Foundations Choreography – are the premiere hip-hop dance teams here at UCLA. Being a part of NSU Modern, I have first-hand experience of the struggle that we as dancers face. And let me tell you, although we’re only on stage for six minutes, so much time and work gets put into what we do.
So, everyone, quiet down and listen up.
1. Here’s the real situation. UCLA dance teams have no designated place to practice on campus, so we must resort to parking garages. Unfortunately, there are no bathrooms near our practice spots, so often dancers find themselves sprinting toward Student Activities Center during a “three-minute water break.” Once there, you just gotta shake it out, right Samahang Modern?
2. But the struggle doesn’t end there. When the time comes for a big dance competition, we have “Hell Weeks,” which are, well, exactly as they sound. During these weeks, we have practice every single day, sometimes until sunrise. You end up becoming a zombie in class, if you even wake up for class.
3. Balancing your time is a must being a student-dancer. Practices can range from four to eight hours, and having a midterm the next day is no excuse for being absent.
4. But since we have big teams of 40-something people, study groups with each other become just as routine as rehearsals. Time to rally and pull some all-nighters together.
5. Don’t get me wrong, there are the fun parts of dancing. You’re introduced to new friends, which leads to hanging out, and hanging out often entails partying.
6. And no, just because we’re dancers, it doesn’t mean we just twerk all the time.
7. OK, we might. But we have more talent than that. We can do cool things with our hands, too.
8. So, if you’re ever thinking about joining a hip-hop dance team on campus, do it. When you’re strolling Bruin Walk, you might feel overwhelmed, but go ahead and stick out your hand and grab that flyer for auditions!
9. Being on a dance team will bring out sides of your personality you didn’t even know existed.
10. Like, for example, your inconspicuous inner diva.
What’s that ’90s TV show opening with Jennifer Aniston and all her friends on a couch in front of a fountain? Oh, that’s right. “Friends.” The show’s been in quite the uproar since Netflix announced that all 10 seasons would be available on Jan. 1 – but Netflix didn’t stop there.
Netflix also shortly announced that “House of Cards” (all 13 episodes of season three) would be available to watch on Feb. 27. Yes, binge watching 10 episodes a day with chips and guac by your side is more than acceptable. However, Netflix seems to have bigger plans for the year.
So fasten your seat belts, and get ready to buy some more chips. Here’s a quick guide to what to look out for.
1. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”(March 6)
Writers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock have chosen Ellie Kemper, who played Erin from “The Office”, to star in her new show as Kimmy searches for a new life in New York City after leaving a cult of 15 years. There are lots of limitations for this show, in that it stretches in similar ways as “New Girl” does, as both Jessica Day (“New Girl”) and Kimmy portray naive, bubbly women who have an affinity for brightly colored cardigans, but I trust that Tina Fey knows what she’s doing.
2. “Bloodline”(March 20)
When the black sheep of the family returns home, all the darkest secrets of a once close-knit family surface. Some familiar faces such as Ben Mendelsohn (“The Dark Knight Rises”) and Linda Cardellini take on dramatic roles in this series. Family drama is the best kind of drama and seeing Cardellini back on the small screen since playing Lindsay Weir in “Freaks and Geeks”is weird but cool. I’m keeping a good eye on this one.
3. “Marvel’s Daredevil” (April 10)
This will be Netflix’s first original Marvel series, and it’ll be available with all 13 episodes on April 10. Charlie Cox plays Matt Murdock, the lawyer by day and superhero by night. You can brush up on background facts here.
3. “Grace and Frankie” (May 8)
Written by Marta Kauffman (“Friends”), this comedic series is about a pair of old rivals, played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, who find out their husbands are in love with each other. I can’t wait for how Kauffman’s going to draw out the story line.
I personally have always been interested in topics like narcotics, so I’m crossing my fingers that Netflix will pull through with this series. Based on a true story, “Narcos” draws the international drug market, the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and government corruption together to produce what may hopefully be a more intense follow up of “Breaking Bad.”
5. “Sense8″ (TBA)
Lana and Andy Wachowski, siblings best known for “The Matrix” trilogy, are directors of this new drama that encapsulates the story of eight characters around the world who connect emotionally and mentally, allowing them to see each other’s pasts. With such powers, these characters soon begin to unravel secrets of the world and must act to save humanity while being chased by authority figures. The Wachowski siblings did bring “The Matrix” into the world, so I guess we can give this a try.
If you’re anything like me, a Los Angeles newbie with a bucket list of places to visit before the undergraduate days are over, a concert at the Staples Center will likely be somewhere on that list. So when a friend presented me with an extra ticket to the 2014 Jingle Ball concert, I jumped at the opportunity, and I must say, I learned quite a lot in the process. If you’re new to LA or just haven’t been to the Staples Center, here are a few pieces of advice that I have compiled from the Friday night excursion.
In my particular situation, I found out I was going to Jingle Ball one week prior to the event. Fortunately for me, my friend had already bought and printed our tickets, but I still wanted to prepare myself for the night by looking up transportation routes, concert reviews and my seat location. I decided to do some basic research via Google and found out that the line-up for the event, sponsored by KIIS FM, consisted of 12 artists including Taylor Swift, Sam Smith, Ariana Grande, Iggy Azalea and host Nick Jonas. From the concert reviews, I got a better sense of how much money to bring and how long the event would last. This brings me to my first point:
Do some research in advance.
The Staples Center and its surrounding area have very high traffic before and after major events. It’s helpful to prepare an estimate of how much money to bring for a taxi or Uber ride and to foresee any other bumps in the road.
To save some money, my friend and I wanted to take a bus to and from the concert, but my roommate advised us not to take public transportation back from the concert for safety reasons and because of how late we would be coming home. Getting there, we took the Metro Rapid 720 from the intersection of Wilshire and Westwood at around 4:30 p.m., planning to get off on Broadway and 5th and walk a couple blocks to catch another bus. A woman on the 720, however, overheard our transportation plans and recommended a different route, which we decided to take. She advised us to instead get off the bus on Vermont and then take the red line of the Metro (underground subway system) to 7th and Figueroa, noting that the Staples Center would be just 5 blocks away. Buying the Metro ticket was very easy, and the whole trip to the venue only cost $4.50. This brings me to another important tip:
Makesure you are familiar with where your desired bus stop is located.
If you plan on taking a bus to the Staples Center, it’s important to know that there isn’t one direct line that takes you straight to the venue. You will most likely have to switch buses or use the subway system like we did, and that could include some walking in between. If you’re not familiar with downtown L.A. or where certain streets are, don’t be shy to ask someone who is more familiar how to avoid questionable situations.
One of the perks of arriving two hours early to Jingle Ball was the free holiday-themed carnival that took place outside the Staples Center before the doors opened. Entrance was free, and various corporate sponsors had booths set up where they were giving away samples or showing off new products. An ice-skating rink, ferris wheel and outdoor concert, which included a performance by Meghan Trainor, were also available to the public.
So, when attending a concert or game at the Staples Center, don’t forget totake advantage of freebies.
Oftentimes, there will be similar outdoor festivities with free handouts for other events where you can have some fun before the show.
Once we showed our tickets and entered through the doors, the Staples Center was really quite easy to navigate. Signs very clearly direct you to which section and row your seats are in, and ushers and other personnel in each section are available to guide you as well. Each floor had plenty of restrooms and fast food eateries, so our basic needs were definitely covered.
My last piece of advice is, if possible, to leave a couple minutes early to beat the rush of people exiting the building.
If you’re planning on taking an Uber or Lyft, you might want to walk a block or so away from the Staples Center for pick-up, but there will definitely be plenty of rides available. And don’t be surprised if the ride is a little bit on the expensive side.
Going to my first concert at the Staples Center was definitely a learning experience, but as a newcomer to L.A., the experience was truly amazing.
Amid the much needed rainy week, I had the chance to sit down and interview a new, up-and-coming band on campus, Apollo Soul. Consisting of four first-years – three studying ethnomusicology/jazz studies and one studying theater – Apollo Soul is bound together by members Jack Bastian (keyboard), Matt Saunders (electric guitar), Cole Brossus (bass guitar) and Ellington Peet (drums). When asked how the band name came to be, they all told the story of how after a conversation about the movie “Rocky” and the character Apollo Creed, they subsequently began talking about band names. Knowing they wanted to incorporate the word “soul,” the members chose “Apollo Soul” and a band was suddenly born. Apollo Soul brings a new front to neo-soul and jazz, and their songs present a versatile medium that can be listened to while enjoying a Cafe 1919 gelato or celebrating at a post-final party. Although the members are first-years, being in a band makes them less relatable; thus, I’ve asked some quirky questions to get to know the members on a more personal level. Here’s what I found out:
They Sing in the Shower
To get technical, two out of the four members sing in the shower (well, if scatting counts). Brossus immediately said that he did, while Saunders and Bastian said they didn’t. Peet amusingly revealed that “sometimes (he’ll) scat.”
They Have Self-Proclaimed R@pp3r N@me$
I asked what their hypothetical rapper names would be, and they all seemed to know without hesitation. As Bastian and Peet dubbed themselves the duo, “Big Poppa & the Love Doctor,” Saunders claimed the name “Jojo Diamond,” and Brossus labeled himself the “Prada G.” All in all, I give them props for thinking of good rapper names that don’t have their first initial tagged in front of “eazy” or “dawg.”
They Live On the Edge
“Living on the edge” can vary from person to person and here, we see no difference. While Brossus excitedly told the story of how he once got on a plane to Germany, went to a punk/rock and roll club with a friend, hit a German version of a piñata and was referred to as “the American” all in one night, Bastian concisely yet nonchalantly said, “being born” was the edgiest thing he’s done. Saunders shared the story of how he took a spontaneous trip to South Korea and went to a night club, where he was threatened by a gangster for dancing too hard. Finally, Peet proclaimed “getting into UCLA” was the coolest thing he’s done, but something tells me it’s creating his own record label company, Brewing Thoughts.
They are Human
Movies are made to make you think, laugh and discuss, but some are just meant for you to cry. After some thought, Peet mused 50/50, the mislabeled comedy, featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, made him cry. Saunders claims to “lose it” while watching Aquamarine, the film about two teens befriending a mermaid and Brossus chose Mr. Holland’s Opus, a movie about a musician who takes a high school teaching job. Just like you and me, the members of Apollo Soul have their teary moments – but oh wait, what about Bastian? His answer: “I never cry.”
They Have Theme Songs
A theme song is a song that reflects your personality or life, but simply put, it could just be a song that makes you want to dance. Brossus’ theme song is “Street Joy” by White Denim and Bastian claims his to be “Stonecutters” by Flying Lotus. Peet threw it back to the late 90s, as he chose “All Star” by Smash Mouth, and Saunders humorously mentioned, “Hyrule Field, that theme song from Zelda.”
Ultimately, in the trek to creating their own path, the members of Apollo Soul are hoping to record some songs and launch a “school circuit,” or a mini tour around other local universities in the future. If you want to check out this band for yourself, you can attend its next gig this Friday (location TBA). This band is one to keep your eye on throughout the years.