We looked at the past decade of dance and boiled down the best performances that didn’t place at nationals.
2010 - UCB Azaad
If you look back at any routine from 10 years ago, chances are you would be a bit confused. The circuit was much different back then and it is noticeably different than what we know today. Like I said, if you looked back at routines from 10 years ago it would be pretty weird, unless you were looking at UCB Azaad. This routine feels way ahead of its time, with its high energy Hindi-Fusion Dance (HFD). Azaad's take on the classic Romeo and Juliet is energetic, fun, and filled with impressive stunts that make this a routine to remember.
2011 - UCLA Nashaa
This is an all around fun set to watch. The intro is so bubbly it perfectly encapsulates the Disney feeling they went for with their routine. The person recording actually laughs throughout the routine just because of how animated these dancers are. My personal favorite part is a section in the piece where the magic mirror creates two identical dances happening simultaneously with one another. The stage is split as the two leads explore this peculiarity. It’s an interesting idea that Nashaa pulls off very well, along with the rest of their routine.
2012 - UCI Zamana
Zamana’s set from 2012 was absolutely carried by their girls, which is ironic because about halfway through their routine they display the words, “Girls will never be as good as guys” on the projector. Their performance highlights their strong female dancers, who have numerous all girl sections throughout their dance. Their contemporary pieces in particular remind me a lot of UCD Lashkara’s routines in the past couple of years in that the dances showcase their immense understanding of the nuances and technicalities of this style of dance. The routine is dominated by the girls who take on nearly every style of dance throughout the routine, except for one goofy all boys section near the middle that is sure to make you smile.
2013 - Broadstreet Badshaaz (BSB)
This BSB set is one of the few routines that I have watched and actually believed. Everything about this routine works so well: the set, the costumes, and the choreo all create this beautiful illusion that you are actually on the Titanic. The dancers do a wonderful job of embodying the choreography and bringing a youthful spirit to the stage. Not only this, but it isn’t your typical all boys routine. It doesn’t rely on bhangra and hip hop to get the crowd involved but still manages to keep you entertained and engaged throughout. There is also a very intense EDM section of the routine that, whether you like it or not, is definitely worth the watch.
2014 - Broadstreet Badshaaz (BSB)
I know that I have BSB on this list already, but both of their routines deserve a spot. In 2014, they gave a wonderfully cheesy performance that is so goofy and over the top that it works quite well. In both 2013 and 2014 BSB had routines that looked like they were as much fun to dance as they were to watch. The bubbly energy that the dancers have on stage is contagious and makes you go even crazier for some of the wild stunts that they pulled out this year. This performance works on every level and is hard to watch without smiling.
2015 - Michigan Izzat
Izzat has put on some truly memorable routines, but this one takes the cake. This performance is particularly special because it breaks the mold of a typical boys team routine. Izzat plays to their strengths and delivers a set with beautiful and well-executed contemporary sections that are hardly ever attempted by all boys teams. It’s hard to find any other boys group that attempts this and executes it as well as Izzat does in 2015.
2016 Michigan Manzil
This has got to be one of my all time favorite routines. When I first came into the circuit, this is the video that I would watch over and over again. Manzil puts on an electric performance that makes you want to get up on stage and dance with them. The team won Best Choreography for their performance but fell just short of placing. Their theme was Wolf of Wall Street, a story hype enough in itself but Manzil managed to make it pop even more. One of my favorite parts of the routine is a contemporary piece about halfway through the dance to a slowed acoustic version of Hotline Bling that somehow works really really well (starts at 4:18 in the video). This routine was no doubt one of the best of 2016, but because nationals only gave out first and second place at the time, this one fell just short of placing.
2017 - SLU Shakti
2017 was arguably one of the most memorable years in the circuit. Top routines included Anubhav’s Life of Pi, MOD’s Dragon Ball Z, and UCLA Nashaa's piece, loosely based on Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Among these phenomenal routines was a SLU team that quietly climbed the rankings to become one of the best teams in the country. As far as we know, this is one of the first routines to utilize numerous different leads (seven to be exact) as opposed to the traditional one-to-three lead format. The routine explores a man about to die, having his life flash before his eyes. He guides you through important milestones, getting your first job, the innocence of childhood, losing a loved one. The result is a beautiful routine that showcases the strong lineup of dancers that SLU has, as well as the variety of different styles that SLU is able to execute so well. Most notably the routine has a very beautiful silhouette sequence utilizing lights and costume changes.
2018 - Chicago Adaa
If you’re familiar with the circuit, chances are you know all about this routine. Adaa’s performance of the Theory of Everything explores the life of Stephen Hawking, who is phenomenally portrayed in the routine. The elegant choreo is fluid and precise, making it impossible to look away. There are a number of sequences that are powerful enough in their own right, but they become even more impactful as the dancers let out audible screams that really add to the overall effect of the show. One of the things that sets this piece apart from others is the music choice. The mix is upbeat and energetic during the highs of the routine and powerfully somber when it needs to be. The performance Adaa left on stage still gives us chills and will no doubt continue to be a routine to remember for years to come. Coupled with the emotions that came with Stephen Hawking's passing during the season, this is undoubtedly one of the best tributes ever made. Although it didn’t place at nationals, it is important to note that Adaa was the only team during the regular season to beat OSU Genesis, who would eventually go on to win Legends.
2019 - UC Dhadak
How can you not love UC Dhadak? I was tempted to put their routine from 2018 on this list too, just because this team is so much fun to watch. Their set from 2019 didn’t place at nationals, but it still had some of the most memorable sequences in the entire circuit that season. Who could forget the giant bhangra jump rope, the human chain doing the worm, the two people doing a backflip off of someone, and the hilarious jab at judges for saying that Dhadak shouldn’t do bhangra. The routine is exciting, captivating, and innovative with their choice of music. Any team that can somehow pull off a segment to the tunes of Beethoven has an automatic spot on this list in my opinion. This routine is truly something special, regardless of whether or not it placed.