Chaotic 3: It’s “bigger than dance”

A Close Look at USC CASA’S Unique Family

USC encourages students to get involved with on-campus communities and organizations to cultivate the ultimate university experience. Whether if you live an hour away from campus or are an international student, club involvement will widely shape our experiences by the people we interact with and how we choose to interact with them.

Dance, specifically, is a unique form of community that builds a powerful form of unity and belonging. With a variety of both faculty and student-run dance organizations on campus, students have an overwhelming amount of options to explore.

Rehearsing three days a week in the parking structure behind Lyon Center is one of USC’s hidden gems. Housed by USC’s Chinese American Student Association (CASA), Chaotic 3, or C3, is a premier competitive Hip-Hop student-led dance team. Acting as a cultural outlet for students to meet and learn from one another, C3 uses dance as a tool to unite students together from all diverse backgrounds who share a passion for this cathartic method of expression. 

C3 presents riveting performances at exhibitions and competitions throughout Southern California. The team gains inspiration from some of the greatest dancers around L.A. while fostering that same passion amongst their own team. Famous dancers like Tarn Cheng and Sorah Yang, Yang being a USC Alum, work closely with C3 to reinforce their vision of igniting inspiration to all students through dance workshops and movement training. 

Hosting various dance opportunities on campus, C3 invites USC Kaufman student dancers and along with other dance organizations to learn and grow from one another. Through student-run workshops, strenuous practices, and prestigious dance competitions, C3 immediately forms a bond amongst members that grows beyond their interests in dance.

“Most people don’t know that we’re a competitive dance team that will practice from 7 P.M. to about 3 or 4 A.M. while rubbing our bodies on this dirty parking garage floor,” says team member Kara Lee. She added that it’s because of these long practices that connect the team together. “You can’t help but look back and laugh.”

Focusing on one’s individual skill for the purpose of contributing to the team’s competitive performance can have the power to cultivate a community like no other. Mae Liu is a perfect example of how this community shaped her university experience. Liu just started her first semester here at USC as an abroad student. She said that she was worried when she first got to campus because of the drastic cultural difference. 

Entering the college experience as an incoming student is always a challenge. It’s easy to grow lost and confused as our identities and roles in society itself begin to mature from pre-university mentality, or simply pre-USC. 

“Dance is basically a part of my life, and I’d like it to be embedded in my identity,” says Liu. “I didn’t know a lot of people, but I knew that dance is a major way to form a community. There was such a culture difference when first coming here, so it was hard to adapt. C3 gave me a sense of belonging,” says Liu.

The focus dance style of C3 allows students to communicate with one another in an expressive and freeing way, according to Liu .

That is what makes C3 so much more than a mere student organization on campus. According to team member Dominique David, C3 is her family. “I feel like I found an environment that keeps me coming back,” David says. “The one way I know how to experience college is through dance. The dance community can be so nurturing. I can go to C3 for anything.” She added that her friends at C3 are the ones she turns to when she needs to talk or a shoulder to cry on. 

“Dance started as something that is conversational and expressive; it’s very free,” she says.“Meeting other people and dancing with them is very much communicational for me—to see how other people express themselves. You can learn a lot from someone through watching people dance; you form connections without speaking.”

Pushing dancers outside of their comfort zone each week through specific focuses of movement training, C3 challenges their bodies to move in different ways to garner a sense of creativity. Their practices emulate that free form of artistic expression in itself. 

The implicit aspects behind the group are what these students find so special. Cultural and community-centric programs can reinforce student voices in each owns unique and diverse way, empowering individuals through forming connections of shared passions and interests. 

“Dance is the one thing that brought us all here, but it’s not what keeps us here,” David says.“It’s definitely bigger than dance.” 

For more C3, check out their dance routine at Fusion XVIII 2018 here.

—Photo by Sarah Alegre and Chaotic 3