A UCF-based amateur dance crew, Fresh Off the Beat, is fresh off a win after placing first at Def Talent Jam XXIII last Saturday at the University of Florida.
Formed in 2004, the Filipino Student Association at UCF’s team has been competing in the Jam for the past 10 years, always placing, but never winning first until this year.
"As a coordinator for this team, there was a lot of pressure from predecessors and friends to win first. We had won second the year before and third the year before that, so a lot of people would tell us that we had to win first this year," co-coordinator Garrey Agustin said.
Through the pressure, Agustin and the team wanted to just focus on giving the crowd a performance and a good time, rather than worrying about winning first place.
"We decided that the most important thing that we wanted to get and provide the team with this semester was the best experience they could have, and for all of us to put on the best show we could," the junior electric engineering major said.
The hip-hop crew competed against FSAs around Florida and Georgia, including ATL, FSU, USF and FIU.
Each year's Jam operates under a different theme that each competing team has to adapt to. This year, the theme was called "Dead of Night," which consisted of a "dark and creepy" topic to dance around.
Co-coordinator Tevin Jones said the team decided to revolve the dance routine around patients in an insane asylum, who proceeded to break out of their prison and wreak havoc on the streets.
"It was a lot of fun and it gave us a lot of breathing room to put as much variety as we could into it," the junior said. "Oh man, winning first is probably one of the craziest experiences in my life. ... I think we all knew that we were capable of it, but to finally get the gold is truly an unbelievable feeling."
With a strong choreography, a can-do attitude and dedication within the team, the dancers were able to pull the win.
Although official practices are three days each week, choreographer Jessica Reyes says the dancers are so dedicated that they often rehearse outside the practice times.
"This work ethic and initiative is what takes our team to the next level," the junior said. "FOB has built itself around the idea that anyone can become an amazing dancer when they work hard and have passion for dance."
Reyes said winning first place still seems very "surreal" to her, but notes that the team has really been improving each year when it comes to choreography, execution and overall performance.
"I think our strongest quality this year was our balance among our leaders and especially our team," she said. "This season's coordinators and choreographers came from various backgrounds in dance and leadership, which allowed us to incorporate different styles throughout our set."
As for what's next for the winning crew, the team will be working on workshops, which consist of free dance classes, for the rest of the semester before getting back to preparing for competitions in the spring.
"We encourage anyone even remotely interested in dance to audition. If you have dedication, passion and the amazing support of the FOB family, you can go places you've never even imagined," Reyes said.
Marina Guerges is the Editor-in-Chief at the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @marinaguerges or email her at MarinaG@CentralFloridaFuture.com.