My next post is for me. I’m trying to cope with this separation anxiety and I had to get some thoughts out of my head. And that’s all it is. A bunch of repetitive, hardly organized thoughts with horrible grammar. I wouldn’t advise reading it for those reasons. It’s also very lengthly.
The worst part about senior year is leaving experiences behind. You can keep in touch with friends, you can visit school after you’ve graduated, but you can never really be a part of the experiences that you’ve partaken in during the four years you’ve spent in highschool.
Perhaps the biggest thing for me to say a final farewell to is Granada Hip-Hop Club. I completely understand how hard it can be to play your final game in a varsity sport, or do your last performance as a cheerleader, and I’m sure HHC alumni have hard times leaving HHC after their last performance, but it’s different for me.
Never had I thought that I’d come to invest so much time in a particular extracurricular activity. Academics and INC related things were already time consuming, so I didn’t want more on my shoulders coming into highschool. It just so happened, that dance caught my interest as my highschool career started. I had known people in Granada’s dance club prior to entering highschool, but that didn’t mean I was enthusiastic about showing off my dance skills at the time. But why would I? I wasn’t good. At all. And I definitely didnt want the upperclass pro dancers seeing that. So I kept a distance, sort of. I went to the designated session Wednesdays in the gym, purely for observation. I didn’t dance. Ever. The OGs, all of them graduated now, were a type of inspiration. Their skills intimidated me, especially those of the president at that time. I don’t know why I was so shy and intimidated looking back, they were really nice. Heck, I just chilled with the first president/founder of the club a couple days ago. I should’ve used freshman year as time to grow. But that’s another topic, besides the point.
Despite my virtually growth-less freshman year, I came back just like everyone else did the following year. Except for the founder, he passed his presidency down to one of my very close friends. He asked if I’d be interested in performing with the club for the first time during the Aloha, “Back To School” rally. What he should’ve asked, was if I wanted to teach a whole dance and be front row and center, because that’s what I ended up doing.
We had practice for two weeks at my other friend’s house, and I taught choreography. The choreography I learned wasn’t even mine. I taught it because I didn’t know what else to do, honestly. Fast forward through the practices and formations and deciding what we were wearing, fast forward through all the little kinks of the performance, and fast forward through an important group huddle at ourlast practice and it’s rally day. I remember that day exactly, not so much visually, but how it felt. My chest was so tense, I was so jittery, I could barely talk without my voice quivering. The first thing that left my mouth that day was a scream, when I saw a fellow dancer in the dance who I knew felt as nervous as I did. Okay, well, not as nervous as me, but pretty damn nervous. So much ran through my head that morning. What would people think? Keep in mind this was our first performance to the public EVER, I doubt the student body knew we even existed. Fast forward three minutes from when our name was called to the giant applause after our final stunt, we did it. The first GHS HHC performance down in the record books, and it was amazing.
Somewhere during the preperarion for this rally, in the processes of finalizing offices and constitutions and other official paperwork business, the assumed president asked me, a sophomore at the time, to be his VP. I happily and in a way arrogantly obliged. For the rest of that year and the rest of my junior year we continued to do all rallies, all under my direction I’m not trying to sound boastful, but that’s just how it was. We gained a presence not only on campus but also the community. We did birthday parties, fundraisers, even a community workshop. I made some of my best friends throughout these years, but there was a problem: they were one year older than me. When I was a junior, they were seniors.
The class of 2012 had the best dancers that have graced the floors of Granada, and I was dreading the day I’d have to be president without them. I was VP my sophomore and junior year, and never did I anticipate what would come with being president. I did the fun stuff like choreograph, pick music, and essentially act as the creative director of the club. I never dealt with the boring paper work stuff. It didn’t appeal to me. They graduated, and I was official president of the club. They green backpack that we agreed to pass down the generations of presidents was bestowed onto me. It felt good at the time, but the thought of my best dancers leaving always lingered in the back of my mind. What would this club become without them? They were my front row, my select group, the ones I could ALWAYS count on to go out and perform exceptionally. It just sucked that I wouldn’t have any insurance of such great performers in my senior year.
I never thought of giving up though, I mean I had done too much for this team already to not continue it. Plus, our school expected us to perform now. Most highschools usually count on cheerleaders and a dance team perform. Our school looked forward to cheerleaders, a dance team, and Hip-Hop Club (aka break dance club, bboy club, etc.) I find the “akas” incorrect by the way. We focus on urban choreography rather than bboying. Oh hey here I am going off topic again…
OKAY so senior year arrived, and I was trying to find dancers. Dancers to replace my amazing front row of dancers that had graduated the year prior. I thought it’d be impossible, I thought our club would go downhill, and I was in no way ready to fill our prior president’s shoes. His fashionable, eloquent, natural born leading shoes. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The incoming freshman, whom I’ve heard about during the summer and casually met at freshman orientation, were amazing. All the newbies were passionate, interested, and had an appetite to learn. Along with all of the returning members, we went to work. People or may not have noticed, but our performances successively better. I knew from our first performance of the year, that things were different. I took a risk and made hard choreography, with more complicated formations and transitions (I had used simple run off/onto the floor to dance transitions and 100% linear formations in the past). That performance made me realize, I could make better choreography, and I didn’t have to hold back. I could direct whatever performance came into my head and we would be exceptional. For some reason, the newbies this year inspired me so much. They were so driven and ready to learn, both like and unlike me as a freshman. They also danced fine, like they weren’t uncontrollable, awkward dancers.
Not only did I push the individuals of this club as dancers, but the whole club in general pushed me as a choreographer. They also pushed me as a leader, like Hitler or Lucifer or something (I’m very intense and dictator-like and a bit of a control freak…)
The year was successful. Each performance had successively gotten better, and I’ll confidently say that these performances are better than any that we have done in the past years. We became more of a team this year, with more serious practice schedules and interactions with the rest of the school. We even had the opportunity to organize a collaboration performance with our school’s dance team, a dream of the OGs.
Before I begin to explain how I began to plan the last performance of the year, and the last one forever for the team’s seniors, let me give you some background first. It’s common tradition for all rally performances by the school performance teams to do a set with fast, hype music to get the crowd, well, hyped. It’s the point of a rally, and we’ve done that successfully. However, I’ve always visualized a certain performance that we could never do at a rally. A conceptual piece about love that used neo-soul, R&B, more chill hip-hop music. It would never be appropriate for a rally, but luckily we were nominated to perform at the Bankhead Theater for Reach For The Stars 2013, an art showcase that raises funs for school art programs. It would be our last performance, and I knew it’d be the perfect time to pull out that dream set. So I made the choreography, turned in the music, and set up a practice schedule.
Practices were a disaster. They stressed me out. No one came to practice when they were supposed to. I had to cut too many people. From and average of 20 people per rally, this performance had 15. Really, my last performance was going to be a disaster. That’s what I really thought what was going to happen. Such a dissapointing way to leave this club I had put so much time and effort into.
In spite of these thoughts, I still had to push. Somehow we finished the set, and we had a couple days before the performance. In the days left before the showcase, we had designated practice in a studio. We never had a studio, and could never use school facilities without and advisor according to school regulations. For this art showcase however, we pulled some strings and were able to use it. We had two days of six hour practices to utilize the studio. There, we bonded like crazy. Like, more than any other time. And we actually did WORK. Like bootcamp intensive practices where they listened and actually made corrections and gave it there all. It was amazing. I guess people realized how important this performance was to me, so they got their act together? I honestly don’t know what got into them.
The night of practice before the big day I decided to do a speech, and we did a group huddle. It’s funny how parallel the preparation for this performance and the preparation for our debut three years earlier are. When I finished the speech we did a big “H-H-C” to break the huddle. It was then how much I realized this club meant to me, and how much I’d miss it.
Performance day came and I was dying of nervousness. The only other time I had felt that was the day of our debut (again with the parallels). We arrived at the beautiful Bankhead Theater, and we looked legit for once. We didn’t have our raggedy, kind-of-matching outfits that we usually had, but instead, we had official shirts and matching sweats, and we just looked like as much of a team as we felt we were. The experience was amazing. The docents and organizers of the program were great. We had an official dressing room to ourselves, with a bathroom and vanities and everything. When we were taken to the “launch pad” that signaled we were next to perform, we had one more team huddle. I probably gave the most emotional, heartfelt speech to the team. And that’s A LOT coming from emotionless, cold, heartless, ice-king Dictator Justin Lucifer Hitler Soleta. I could never repeat the contents of that speech. It would make those moments less significant and real, but let me tell you, that’s when it hit me, hard. It hit me that this was my last performance, and that after today, I would be leaving the family I had grown to love (and hate at most times) after this performance. The thought of it all added to my already nervous self and tensed up my body. Getting from that point to side stage is a blur, but I got there.
Side stage I said a prayer asking God to bless these moments, and for him to enjoy my work that I constructed with the talent he gave me in the first place. I opened my eyes and the act before us ended.
Six minutes flat. The set was six minutes exactly. The performance was based on The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, my favorite album of all time. I used the intro and interludes from the album to set the story of a class talking about young love.
The song list:
- P.D.A. - John Legend
- You Know What - N.E.R.D.
- Doo-Wop (That Thing) - Lauryn Hill
- Suit & Tie - Justin Timberlake (I REALLY wished I hadn’t picked this song. Oh well.)
- Lost Ones - Lauryn Hill
- Baby - Pharrell Williams
- Ray Charles - Chiddy Bang
The music started off with a school bell ringing. We took our places.
That six minutes went by too fast. Probably because I wasn’t in my own head. I let go honestly, and just let everything out. All the stress, sadness, happiness, proudness, and excitement I had over the course of the preparation of this performance came out in my dancing. When the final beat was hit, I had no regrets. That performance was perfect, regardless of ANY criticism. I created my dream set, I was doing what I love with my family for the last time, and I was glorifying God. It was perfect. I couldn’t have had a better last performance. I’m glad it was the biggest performance we’ve done, in the most prestigious venue for an amazing program, with a blueprint that I had dreamed of doing for so long.
The whole year I’ve heard things from club members and non-members like “‘this club will never be as good as it is now,’ ‘what are they going to do without Justin,’ ‘HHC might disappear after this year,’” etc. That’s not true. I know that because that’s exactly how I felt when the OGs left. They’re scared and nervous but they’ll pull through, just like I did. The club is in good hands. Many, many, good hands. I trust them.
People forget we aren’t an actual sport treated team, that holds auditions and has a coach. We’re just a bunch of kids. None of us are professional dancers with years of experience, we’re all growing. People need to realize that. We’re not as clean or sharp as competing teams, because we’re still learning. Maybe we’re not perfect technique wise, but I could care less how people see the club. This club was made to share the passion of dance, and to learn and grow. Any other things we gain out of it are just a bonus.
HHC is my family. I’ve pushed them as dancers, but they’ve pushed me as a dancer, choreographer, and overall leader, and because of that we’ve grown so much. No matter how much sleep I’ve lost, how many times people don’t come to practice or mess up in performances, and no matter how worried/pissed/annoyed/depressed/hostile/threatening I get, we’ve always pulled through. From our debut, to our DT collabo, to our (and my last) peformance at Bankhead, every performance successively got better, and I’m proud. About 90% of the stress I had in high school was from this club, but I NEVER compromised it.
Thank you Hip-Hop Club, for letting me share my passion. However far I go in dance in the future, HHC will always be my roots.