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One Last Time: The Journey of Pixelated

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What started out as a passionate personal project, has now turned into one of UNIS’s most famous idols. Five years ago, Tuan Anh Nguyen founded Pixelated, and from there it has become one of UNIS’s most talented group of dancers. Last month, Pixelated won first place at the UNIS MSHS Talent Show. 

While there have been a few who have unfortunately left after their Senior Year, all former and current members of Pixelated include: Tuan Anh Nguyen, Phong Hoa, Hung Nguyen, Kofi Buahin, Lana Pham, Vu Bui, Phuong Hung Trinh, Anh Duy Truong and Minh Nguyen. Some of their impeccable choreographed dances have been performed at the Talent Shows, a UNIS Choreography Ball, UN Day, and even at the Hanoi Opera House for a Smile Charity Concert. Their presence also reaches social media, and they have uploaded freestyle and choreographed videos onto their YouTube channel called Pixelated Dance.

The group has distinct dancing styles that incorporates various types of music, and each performance is unique in its own way. As a dance group,  their choreography evolved in complexity as time passed, and their skills continued to improve remarkably.  

Talking about their personal experiences, each member has different stories about what inspired them to dance, and how that guided them to where they are today. Duy started off learning Michael Jackson’s moves as a toddler,  but “self-taught dance wasn’t enough for [him]” and he had to get a teacher. Coincidentally, PZ had the same teacher and because of that, they found out about each other’s passion for dance. From then on, they continued to learn and practice together. The two would share with each other choreographed moves they had learnt, or from videos they had found and aim to mirror it, to “have a feel of what it’s like to dance to a professional choreography”. Minh took a similar approach in his practice; he always had an interest in dancing since middle school but “didn’t really do anything about it”, until he was pushed by Kofi and Phong to properly hone his skills. During the summer, Minh began to learn choreographed dance moves from videos he found, and sometimes practised until 2am. And with a stroke of luck, his first performance with Pixelated was during United Nations Day.

Their undeniable talent was picked up by the “older guys” – Hung, Kofi, Tuan Anh and Phong – and they were recruited into the group. All three are grateful to the previous seniors and leaders of Pixelated, who guided them towards their passion, and pushed them out of their comfort zones. At the same time, they cherished the memories with each other; while the “older guys” seemed “intimidating” at first, they did a “really good job at making [them] feel included, like [they] were a part of something bigger”.

After five years of hard work and dedication, Pixelated had its last performances during this year’s talent show. The performance this year was different, however, as they incorporated comedic acts into their dance, and reminded us why we fell in love with them in the first place. Rather than being simply one choreography, the dances ranged from pop music and dubstep to K-pop and so on. Not only did they continue to entertain audiences with their beloved witty sense of humor, some also might have noticed that they also performed routines that were created during their first years, such as “Lucky Strike” or the dubstep song that was “so 5 years ago”. This latter element brought a much-felt sense of nostalgia and a whole new layer of sentimentality to the performance, which truly gratified the excitement of the fans that they garnered over the years. Thanks to all of these factors combined, they received a well-deserved first place in the Talent Show, and members of the High School Senate even shared that the votes for Pixelated won by a long mile. We will miss you, Pixelated!

See the full interview down below:

How did you start dancing?

“I’ve always had an interest towards dance since middle school but didn’t really do anything about it. I remember it was the final talent show with Kofi and Phong that actually pushed me out of my comfort zone. Being part of the audience watching pixelated, I thought to myself how cool it’d be for me to dance like them since I wasn’t particularly good at anything. So that summer I copied two K-pop songs. It was funny, I’d dance and practice until 2 AM some days since you know, I sucked and it was summer. Anyway, the school year started and with some twist in events, I somehow ended in Pixelated and had UN day as my first stage. it was nerve-wracking but a memorable experience.” – Minh Nguyen

How has dance influenced you?

“We feel very glad that we have pursued this path as a dancer. Even though we wouldn’t pursue dance as a career, dance has always been a part of our life and will be in the future when we meet again and reminisce about those goofy practices we’ve had as kids.” – Anh Duy Truong

What was your learning process?

“I started off learning Michael Jackson’s moves when I was a toddler. Self-taught dance wasn’t enough for me and I had to get a teacher. Coincidentally, PZ had the same teacher a while ago and that’s how we knew about each other’s passion for dance. We always share whatever new moves we have learnt or new videos that inspired us. And we copied countless choreos to have a feel of what it’s like to dance to a professional dancer’s choreography. That way we could absorb and learn, even though most of those moves we couldn’t do as well as we would have expected it to be.” – Anh Duy Truong

What were your thoughts when first joining Pixelated?

“Intimidating at first to work with the older guys (being Hung, Kofi, Tuan Anh and Phong). But our older guys really do a good job at making us feel included and make us feel like we’re a part of something bigger. We appreciate that a lot. When they came back as alumni, we were the leading group. It’s like a cycle.” – Anh Duy Truong

Why was it called Pixelated?

“Hmm, it was a genuine name we came up actually. It sounded catchy, so we used it.” – Anh Duy Truong

What was the vision of Pixelated when you first joined?

“We started out mainly because we love dancing, and we love the stage and the crowd. Most of all, we love goofing around and having fun in the practice room. As Duy and Pz joined, they were the smaller members and only wanted to carry out the Pixelated legacy” –  Minh Nguyen

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One Last Time: The Journey of Pixelated