If you think that cheerleading is the All-American sport, you haven't seen the UAAP cheering competition.
What Is the UAAP Cheering Competition?
UAAP stands for the University Athletic Association of the Philippines. Every year, the UAAP holds a cheer/dance competition for its member universities. There are several differences between what you would see in the Philippines and cheerleading competitions in the United States, but don't be fooled into thinking that US cheerleading competitions are tougher or more stringent.
What Elements Are Part of a UAAP Cheering Competition?
There are many similarities between cheerleading competitions in the US and the UAAP cheer dance competition. However, there are also some very distinctive elements reflecting culture and their respective communities.
In the United States, cheerleading competitions are generally no more than three or four minutes - if at least that much. The routines are short bursts of high energy "cheer sprinting" if you could put it that way. However, routines in the Philippines are about five to six full minutes. You will find that parts of the routine are slower, but not so slow that six minutes isn't impressive. Philipino cheerleaders have to be in top condition in order to compete and maintain that kind of stamina.
It Is a Cheer/Dance Competition
You'll find similar elements in US routines, however, Philipino Pep squads seem equally focused on cheerleading dance (short, precision movements) along with others types of dance. If you watch an entire routine, you will see elements borrowed from hip hop, ballet or jazz, martial arts and just about anything else. There is much more of an emphasis on dance moves.
Boys Dance Too
In the US, you would generally not find male cheerleaders on the dance floor dancing alongside their female counterparts, but you certainly will in the Philippines. Men on the squad also perform precision dance moves including those that mirror ballet, jazz or hip-hop. In the US, college-aged male cheerleaders are often getting ready to spot for a stunt or tumbling, and while they may perform some of the more cheer-like dance moves, you are not likely to see them pirouette their way across the stage.
Reminiscent of Japanese cheering at a baseball game, it's generally not the cheerleaders who do the cheer element during their routine. It's the audience. All schools that are competing reserve one part of their routine for the school's most popular fight song. While the cheerleaders perform stunts and a routine to the fight song, the audience cheers the words. That makes sense; it would be difficult to cheer after having danced for five minutes!
Each team begins by running the "Samsung" flag (Samsung sponsors the televised competition) around the arena and performing a three member dance routine to about one minute of disco music. Presumably, this is to rev up the audience.
High Flying Stunts
Apparently, the regulations for stunts are much less restrictive. You will see "around the world basket tosses" (a basket toss from one set of spotters to another), three high pyramids, and similar stunts that are generally not done in the United States for safety reasons. It's interesting to note that these are all done on a regular hard gym wood floor.
One thing that's interesting to note, especially since there is debate in the US about the length of cheerleaders' skirts, is how many teams have the exact same spandex suit for both women and men. In the US, the argument is that the cheer skirts should be a tad shorter to allow for safety, but here, it appears they've fixed that problem with spandex-type body suits suitable for dancing, stunting and tumbling. You will see cheerleaders in skirts as well, but it is much less common.
UAAP Cheerdance Competition in Action
It's worth taking a look at these high performing, daring cheerleaders. You will find their routines posted on You Tube. Note the length of the routine, the type of stunt and the seemingly different emphasis on different parts during the routine. You will generally find:
- A section with slower music where the cheerleaders are dancing in a more classical tradition
- Emphasis on precision
- Impressive tumbling
- High stunting
University of Santo Tomas
UST has won the most championships out of any university involved in the cheer/dance competition, and it's easy to see why. Note the element of precision floor work in their fight song routine.
University of the Philippines
UP is the current defending champion. They have won the second most titles since the competition began. They are especially noted for their difficult stunt work and tumbling.
Far Eastern University
Far Eastern University is the only other university since 2003 to land in one of the top three spots.