By Thalia Lauzon
Boston University News Service
Over 400 competitive dancers from across the country gathered in Boston University’s Metcalf Ballroom on Saturday, April 1, for Elements XXI, hosted by BU’s Fusion Dance Troupe. The 21st annual competition brought together 20 dance troupes to network and compete.
This year, Liv3lihood, a Rhode Island-based crew, won for the second year in a row. The troupe won the top spot in 2022, the first year after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. In addition, Elements 2023 saw New Jersey team Project D win second place and Boston dance team N/A take home third.
“Elements is a competition. At the end of the day, people want to win it, but there’s something about Elements that makes it feel a little bit healthier,” said N/A dance director Eddy Cao, a BU and Fusion director alumnus who ran Elements before graduating in 2017. “It feels like healthy competition. Different teams are there supporting each other. It’s not super cutthroat, and people are cheering everyone on.”
Elements center on community, Cao said. The event brings together dancers from beyond the New England area to create a larger community, unlike other Boston-based dance competitions.
The two-day event had both competition and master classes in which dancers and audience members could participate.
Day one featured 24 competitive pieces and exhibitions from different teams and three individual headliners who served as the night’s judges. The headliners served as the dance teachers for the workshops the following day.
“It’s an extremely, extremely professionally run event,” Cao said. “I think when you go, and when the audience goes, like there’s no way that college students put this on. There’s no way. Like how does that happen? All the teams feel taken care of. The exhibition acts feel taken care of. It’s a great experience for the audience.”
Liv3lihood dance director and choreographer Nikki Gyfto says regardless of the fierce competition, the “outpour of support” between the teams and production backstage, and while crews are performing create an encouraging environment not typically seen in a competitive setting.
“It’s really about just showing everyone how much we appreciate being able to share the stage with so much talent,” Gyfto said leading up to the weekend’s competition. “The show is always so intense and full of so much talent that it’s just an honor to be on that stage.”
Liv3lihood focused on pushing its artistry and strengths over winning while preparing for “the highlight” of the crew’s year, Gyfto said. The high-quality production value, lighting and event planning all helped teams be more excited and creative.
Cao said the scale of the competition and its performers help put Boston on the map for the dance community.
“It’s not that common for people to think of Boston as a dance city,” said Julia Vondrak, a second-semester Fusion member. “I really want them to know that Elements is here, and a lot of people are choosing to go to Boston over New York competitions.”
ThaHomies, based in Denver, Colorado, made its Boston competition debut at Elements.
“It’s always exciting for us to come to new competitions with new faces and teams that we’ve never heard of and have never heard of us,” ThaHomies dancer Aabriti Shrestha said. “We got something to bring to the table. Even though we are small, we are mighty.”
“We really just try to have fun, but through movement,” ThaHomies co-director Joshua Glenn said. “Regardless of placement, we just want people to enjoy and remember what we did.”
TheHomies performed a narrative set inspired by Red Riding Hood before intermission while BU’s Fusion opened and closed the team performances.
“I already want to plan next year’s Elements,” Vondrak said.
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