SF State's FUSION: Fusing Students with Dance
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A sweaty fog bathed the walls of the gymnasium, as a group of 15 dancers followed the choreographer’s lead, moving, swaying and stomping, creating a rhythmic undercurrent on the wooden floorboards.

"Five, six, seven, eight… Boom-Boom-HA! Step-to-step-HA! Turn and step! Ta-ta-ta-TA!" yelled F.U.S.I.O.N. choreographer Arlen Sarte, 19, during a practice at SF State last Thursday night.

"We're gonna do it over and over again until we get it right," said F.U.S.I.O.N. director and senior mechanical engineering major Edward Dizon, 26.

F.U.S.I.O.N., or Funky Unique Styles in One Nation, a SF State based dance group, had rehearsed for four weeks before performing in "Collaboration 2007," a two-day event held at the Vacaville Performing Arts Center on March 31 that boasted nearly 30 world class hip-hop dance groups from throughout the state.

The co-ed dance crew is the largest at the university, comprising of 50 undergraduates, alumni and high school students from the Bay Area between the ages of 18 and 26.

As the lights faded from yellow to red, magenta, then orange, the dancers took the stage, sliding, twisting and bouncing uniformly to the sounds of Justin Timberlake, Sterling Sims, Ryan Leslie, Young Joc and Lady Sovereign in front of a crowd of about 100 people who were nodding their heads to the beat.

"I like the beats, how they sound, and how there's that little background beat you can't really hear, but can bring out with a dance move and will get the crowd going," said Sarte.

From quick and choppy steps to slow creeping gestures, the dancers took command of the stage as they demonstrated swift, whipping movement while their feet and torsos bent in unnatural ways — shaking, leaning, two-stepping and squeaking against the floor with gritty intensity.

"Their style is really different from everyone else. It’s hard-hitting," said Michael Conol, 21, who performed later in the evening with Funkanometry SF, a Bay Area dance group established in 2002.

"Other groups are so hardcore, but we just have fun and take it easy. We aren't here for the fame, we are just here to do it," said F.U.S.I.O.N. member and freshman biochemistry major Eunice Panganiban, 19.

Formed in 1999, through the fusing of three individual dance groups, F.U.S.I.O.N. has become a well-known crew in the Bay Area dance community, in what Dizon labels as a mesh of hip-hop, underground, street-jazz, b-boy, and house dance.

Although the original group disbanded in 2001, they re-emerged in 2002 as a hub of artistic exchange, trying to encourage dance within the community by including more bodies in the collective fold.

In addition to performing showcases, F.U.S.I.O.N. offers free classes to SF State students every Monday night at 7:30 p.m. in Gymnasium 124 for dancers of all levels, where students can learn routines choreographed by the members of the group.

The classes are geared for those who just want to groove to hip-hop music, dance for a more competitive setting, or meet new people.

“It’s more about getting to know each other and becoming friends,” said F.U.S.I.O.N. choreographer Henzel Mijos, 19.

Over the years, the group has extended its efforts to the community, through youth mentoring programs to provide young persons with lessons on leadership, communication and teamwork, while also offering a junior division of F.U.S.I.O.N. for dancers in the Bay Area between the ages of 14 and 17.

Dizon, who has been with the group since its inception, feels that if F.U.S.I.O.N. can convince one young person to dance instead of doing drugs or getting into trouble, the group will have fulfilled its mission.

“I want us to the best that we can be but with a positive message," said Dizon.

Last year, Dizon and other F.U.S.I.O.N. members established a nonprofit organization to raise money for cancer research to honor family members and friends who have died from the disease.

"Even though my parents always thought dancing was a waste of time, I've always seen it as personal enrichment," said director of operations Debbie Amogan, 26, who graduated from SF State last spring with a degree in Asian American studies.

The dance crew has raised over $3,000 for the American Red Cross, Leukemia and
Lymphoma Society and the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund, but is currently looking for sponsors from businesses and other organizations to donate decorations, prizes or food to help fund the banquets and other events to raise money.

"Most people don't agree with dancing and think it doesn't get you anywhere," said Dizon. "But dancing can actually mean something — it can launch you into a better place.”

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PHOTO
Jack Stephens | staff photographer
Kyle Gutierrez (front left), 18 and a student at June Jordan High School, Debbie Amogan (back left), 26 and a 2006 graduate of SF State, Liana Huie (back right), 24 and a 2005 graduate of UC Davis, and Jose Manlangit (front right), 17 and a student at June Jordan High School, practice their dance routine for the dance group they are in called FUSION.

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