Members of UCI dance team Level V Origins perform at a winter-quarter showcase held in the courtyard outside Murray Krieger Hall.
Members of Level V Origins perform at a winter-quarter showcase held in the courtyard outside Murray Krieger Hall. Brian Sagi

In the evenings at UCI, when classes are out and the interior building lights are off, a symphony of synchronized footsteps and electrifying music fills the air. In the open yet secluded spaces on campus – down the steps between Murray Krieger and Humanities halls, in the hollow area outside the Social Science Tower, under the hanging lights near the Social and Behavioral Sciences Gateway – there are students laughing, chanting and dancing in the moonlight. From over a dozen recreational dance teams at UCI, they help make up the self-described Irvine Dance Community.

“It’s so hard to describe what it’s like to be a dancer in the IDC,” says Henry Van, a third-year biological sciences major and 2022-23 co-director of Level V Origins. “I think it’s different for everyone; you just have to experience it. I wasn’t able to explore dance teams in high school, but I knew I wanted to try dancing in college, and my UCI experience would not be the same without the dance community.”

LVO is one of the many exhibition crews at UCI. As a beginner team, it doesn’t require auditions and is open to anyone interested in dancing. Many students join LVO with the intention of gaining a strong enough foundation to try out for another group in the IDC. Van and his co-directors strive to make that happen.

“Our team consists of people who have danced before and people who have never danced before, because they find LVO to be a safe space to always return to whenever they feel lost in their dance journey,” says Katelen Maas, a fourth-year public health sciences major and another 2022-23 LVO co-director. “We grow together, and it’s always nice to see that.”

Van and Maas, along with a third 2022-23 co-director, fourth-year environmental engineering major Kristeen Truong, have led the expansion of their team from 22 members at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year to 80 members by the end of spring quarter. As directors, it’s their job to ensure that everything is running smoothly and that LVO remains a welcoming and accessible environment for everyone.

Many of the IDC shows are coordinated by freestyle break dance team B-Boys Anonymous.

“BBA are really the ones who bring the dance community together through these sorts of events,” Maas says. “Recently, we had the Spring Quarter Dance Festival on campus, which featured the whole IDC. It was pretty cool to see what everyone had been working so hard on.”

The entire B-Boys Anonymous crew poses at the Spring Quarter Dance Festival.
The entire B-Boys Anonymous crew poses at the Spring Quarter Dance Festival. B-Boys Anonymous

This year’s Spring Quarter Dance Festival was one of the biggest events in IDC history. It was hosted May 12 in the Pacific Ballroom at the UCI Student Center, and more than 300 dancers performed. Spectators quickly reached the 800-person capacity.

“It’s called the Irvine Dance Community, not specifically the UCI dance community, because we have such a wide network of people from other schools and even alumni who are still able to come and involve themselves with the community,” says Nathan Fang, a fourth-year chemical engineering major and a public relations manager for BBA. “That’s the reason why it’s so big, because you can reach out to people from the past and find really good mentors in the community.”

Fang has been break dancing for five years and has known about the IDC since high school through two friends who are BBA alumni. While the Irvine Dance Community has a significant presence, many incoming UCI students aren’t introduced to it until they begin life on campus. This was the case for BBA President Minh Nguyen, a fourth-year computer science major who started break dancing in his senior year of high school.

“Coming to UCI, I didn’t know that the dance community would be so big. I got involved with the IDC through B-Boys Anonymous because I wanted to continue breaking, but then I learned about all these different types of dance teams. There are over 12 right now, which is insane,” Nguyen says.

There are project-based, exhibition and competition groups, and some members of the IDC are involved in more than one. Fourth-year computer science major and BBA public relations manager Alexandra “Sasha” Andrianova is also a dancer with Kaba Modern, one of the active competition teams at UCI.

“I think the IDC has a lot to offer for anyone, and it has a lot of variety in terms of teams and goals that you’re looking for,” she says. “Since I’ve joined, I can really see the community growing, and I hope it just continues to get stronger.”

The Irvine Dance Community performs in many venues outside UCI, especially within Orange County. This year’s Spring Quarter Dance Battle, a quarterly IDC event facilitated by BBA, was hosted at LMNL Space, a dance studio in Orange. Such off-campus events are big contributors to the community’s prominence.

“The IDC is a space for people to find a new way of movement and pursue dance as a hobby but also a space where they can meet other people – whether they’re students at UCI, alumni or from other colleges. I think that’s something very unique, because it not only connects students but also the generations before them,” says Yana Moon, a third-year international studies major and intern at BBA. “We really push growth more than anything, and it’s nice to have such a large community so supportive of that.”

Maas echoes that sentiment: “Dance is something everyone is capable of doing, and it’s not just LVO that makes it accessible to everybody. The IDC is a really great place to grow. It’s a space to remind ourselves that it’s okay if you don’t get something the first time. You’re part of a team that wants to help you improve, so as long as you’re having fun, that’s all that matters.”

Irvine Dance Community teams
B-Boys Anonymous
Chinese Association Dance Crew
Common Ground
I-11 Dance Crew
I Never Stand Alone
Kaba Modern
Konnect K-pop Aspiring Performers
Level V Origins
Modern Completely Insane Anteaters
Nikkei Modern
Project Renegade
Square One
Unique Representation of Movement