English and Drama

Part-time Work

Like a lot of university students, I work part-time. Not only is it great to have a bit of extra spending money on top of my maintenance loan, I think working part time is a really good way to gain professional experience. Also, since I started working, I believe I got better with organising my time. I have to fit work around my studies, and the only way to do this is to manage my time efficiently. Time management is a key skill and I believe it will come in handy in the future, after university.

Nevertheless, always remember: your degree comes first. I would recommend that you find work that’s quite flexible so your education is not compromised in any way. Whatever you do, don’t overcommit at work because then you wouldn’t have enough time for studying and assignments, and might feel overwhelmed. You need to look after yourself first and foremost. You may want to work less during term time and work more during the holidays. This summer I made the monumental mistake of not working. I told myself: ‘I have finished my first year at university so I deserve a break’. I was bored after a week. By the time this realisation hit me, all jobs were gone. I think the best thing to do is apply as early and as widely as possible.

My friend, Dina and I at Campus Tour Training. We run Campus Tours so prospective students can get a better idea about what a university campus looks like.

My friend, Dina and I at Campus Tour Training. We run Campus Tours so prospective students can get a better idea about what a university campus looks like.

I have to admit, I have heard some horror stories from my friends about horrible bosses and rude customers, but fortunately for me, I have never experienced such distressing things. I have had admin jobs before – I am not going to bore you by writing about the exciting world of photocopying! My favourite jobs, by far, are my current roles as an Ambassador for the School of English and Drama (SED), and a Widening Participation Student Ambassador. I have gained a lot of transferable skills from being an Ambassador. It has increased my confidence, improved my communications skills and helped to make me a better team player. I have talked about my job as a SED Ambassador before in this blog, so I will tell you a bit more about Widening Participation.

My fellow Student Ambassadors - Dina and Hanya

My fellow Student Ambassadors – Dina and Hanya

Most, in fact I think it is all, universities in the UK have a Widening Participation Department. Statistically, if you: are someone whose parents did not attend Higher Education; are eligible for free school meals; have parents who are from non-professional occupations; have a disability; are a young carer; are estranged from your family, or have lived, or are currently living, in local authority care, you are less likely to apply to university. The aim of Widening Participation is to address this, and encourage young people from these social backgrounds to consider attending university.

My job as a Student Ambassador is to engage and interact with school students, and to provide an insight into university life. For instance, this summer, I helped run the Year 9 Humanities Summer School at Queen Mary. This was one of my favourite projects! A group of students from our local schools got to spend a week as a university student, attending lectures, workshops, and a theatre trip. My task was to supervise them throughout the day, as well as to take part in Q&A sessions – answering questions about student life. We run lots of events throughout the year, I am going to include a link to the Widening Participation website below so you can check out what we are all about.

Widening Participation at Queen Mary: http://www.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/teachers/wp/index.html

 

 

 

Shakespeare’s Globe

This summer I have been fortunate enough to attend three different theatre productions at Shakespeare’s Globe. All three plays were absolutely phenomenal. The tense and eerie atmosphere in Macbeth, the genuinely hilarious scenes in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the unsettling feelings that The Taming of the Shrew created, stayed with me long after the curtain call.

Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9DT

Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9DT

I have to confess – this is probably a cardinal sin for an English Literature student – but I was not always a big fan of Shakespeare. Studying Shakespeare in the lower years at secondary school was a frustrating ordeal. We spent absolutely ages analysing just one metaphor! I could not engage with the old-fashioned language, and I remember finding it incredibly difficult to concentrate in class. It was especially bad when I had double English on a Friday afternoon. The words just felt dead on the page.

My attitude began to change somewhat near the end of GCSEs, and it changed completely after I began studying English at Queen Mary. This is because I started watching theatrical productions of Shakespeare’s plays. Reading a play is not enough to understand it. Plays are meant to be performed – it is why they are written. This seems very obvious but it is an important fact that is worth mentioning. When you watch a performance, the physical action of the actors, their tone and mannerisms bring the words to life. Hearing Shakespeare’s words out loud make them feel less alien than they appear on paper. The development of the storyline becomes more clear and easier to follow. For example, Macbeth is about a loyal soldier who becomes seduced by the lust for power. He kills his own King, and all those who get in his way, to take the throne.  The three witches utter one of the most iconic lines in the play, ‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair’. This is meant to foreshadow a sense of confusion, where nothing is as it seems. The witches represent evil and immorality, and they tempt Macbeth to create his own downfall. When you just read the witches’ lines on a page, you cannot visualise their wickedness or feel the sense of danger that they pose to Macbeth. Nevertheless, in the Globe’s current production, initially the actors playing the witches are all heaped together, like a mass of limbs. Then, they disentangle themselves into one menacing, conjoined being. Moreover, the use of prosthetic limbs, coupled with the eerie organ music gives them a sinister presence as they lurk about the stage. For the audience, the threatening evilness of the witches become a tangible reality.

Our £5 yard tickets to see A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Our £5 yard tickets to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Shakespeare’s Globe is my favourite theatre in London. Every time I go there, it feels like taking a walk through the pages of history. It is a faithful reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre which was built in 1599. There is a yard which is encircled by three floors of tiered seating. From a bird’s-eye-view, Shakespeare’s Globe looks like a massive ring doughnut because only the stage and the seating is covered by a thatched roof.

I always get yard tickets because they are the cheapest, costing only £5. The one drawback to getting yard tickets is that you have to stand for the whole performance. For me, however, this is not a problem, because I think the yard is the best place to watch the productions. You are the closest to the stage and the actors constantly interact with the audience. The plays are so entertaining and engrossing that time flies without you noticing. One of the things that I really like about Globe productions is how the plays bring Shakespeare to the twenty-first century by making it relevant to modern audience. For example, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the actors were dressed as Hipsters instead of Athenians. They made jokes about health and safety, sang David Bowie songs, and when Hermia told Helenus about her engagement to Lysander, the two best friends broke into a Bollywood infused rendition of Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’.

The stage in A Midsummer Night's Dream

The stage in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

One reason why I decided to study at Queen Mary is because of its location. Not only does it have one of the best English and Drama Departments in the country, it is also in London. For me, London is the heart of culture, music, art and creativity. Going to a London university allows me to have access to fabulous places like the Globe. Also, there are numerous museums and galleries which are almost always free, and going to these places allows me to enhance my understanding of the contents covered in my course. The West End always has concessions for students and young people and I would encourage everyone to take advantage of that. For instance, the Donmar Warehouse is currently running a ‘Young and Free’ scheme which gives people aged under 25 free tickets to watch their Shakespeare Trilogy. I will include the link for more information below and I really hope I have persuaded you into going to the theatre very soon to check out some Shakespeare!

Donmar Warehouse: http://www.donmarwarehouse.com/mailing-list#xkGeHFHZ0WYEgvX7.97

Shakespeare’s Globe: http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/

Back to reality

Over Christmas I had a really nice break, did a bit of reading, went on holiday and also had a couple assignments too. However, when I came back from Christmas, just like any time when you’re away from work for a while, things got a little bit crazy.

For my course, I had a module pack to pick up, which I needed to complete the first week of reading. I had already done a bit of pre-reading for the first week back – I had read two novels over Christmas, one for my Writing Modern London module and a brand new module for this semester, British Culture in the 1950s. In my blog about self study, I spoke a bit about how it’s wise to read ahead, especially if you know you’re going to have a lot of work to do or you have a lot of reading for that week.

Film Society’s 2 Co-Presidents. Myself (left) and Gemma (right)

I mentioned in another previous blog that I’m co-president of Film Society with my housemate and fellow film loving friend, Gemma. We also had a lot of work to do for film society, as we had the second round of welcome week for all the new students joining Queen Mary coming up. That was pretty hectic too, as we had leaflets to print out, and the fair ran from 2-6, on the day of our first screening. This involved a lot of dashing about and last minute changes, but we pulled it off okay in the end!

The somewhat chaotic Welcome Back Fair

The somewhat chaotic Welcome Back Fair

I also had to begin writing my dissertation, a scary prospect for most. In case you don’t know, a dissertation is a large piece of writing (mine has to be 10,000 words) on pretty much any topic (as long as it’s to do with English!) of my choice. My supervisor, who is someone who helps me through the process, is trying to get me to write it as soon as possible, so I have plenty of time to edit it and look it over. I had to write a first draft of my introduction over the Christmas break too, to hand in when I got back. Although it took me a week longer than I said, I also got that done and now have the next chapter to begin. I’m feeling more confident about the project as a whole now, and am not freaking out too much about the fact it’s due in May!

On top of all of this, there was also the next issue of The Print due, and trying to settle back into a life where my mum doesn’t cook all of my meals and wash all my clothes.

Overall, although there was a lot to do, the work is manageable. I like to make lists of all the things I have to do so I have things to tick off. I feel more productive and this helps me complete all of my other tasks. Other things I’ve found that work are breaking up larger tasks with smaller ones or doing something fun in between, like organising my notes whilst watching a TV show I enjoy. Sometimes things can feel overwhelming but everyone else is in the same boat, and all my housemates have as much work to do as I do. Luckily we own a VHS player and about thirty classic Disney movies so we can all unwind together.

I’m getting back into the swing of university now, so I’m getting back into a regular work schedule again. Plus, even though sometimes work can be hard, I’m really going to miss it. I’m seriously considering the masters degree I wrote about in my previous post. I’ve been doing a bit more research, which shows you that work is never too overwhelming. My best advice is to stay motivated, and if this all sounds a little scary, trust me – these are all skills you develop during school and university. Time management and balancing your work becomes the norm, they’re talents that you can never stop getting better at.

Thinking About A Masters

I’ve never been keen on doing a masters degree and my plans were always to go straight into employment directly after university. For those who don’t know, a masters degree is the next step in education after doing an undergraduate degree and is usually a year long course. However a few months ago whilst walking around uni, I happened to see a poster advertising a masters degree in ‘London Studies’. As I’ve said in previous blog posts, I’m currently doing an undergraduate degree in English, and I’ve studied all the London based modules I could. The subject really interests me as throughout my childhood I always enjoyed reading books set in London the most. This masters degree is joint and run by the school of geography so I would have the opportunity to do modules from both English and Geography.

Poster for the recent masters evening I went to (courtesy of QMUL School of English and Drama)

Poster for the recent masters evening I went to (courtesy of QMUL School of English and Drama)

I was curious and hadn’t done much research into masters degrees because I’d never seen anything I would be interested in doing before. I went to the open evening (poster pictured above) where they talked us through what exactly the degrees would entail, finances and then more about the specifics of the different courses they offer. The best thing about the evening is that I learnt a lot more than I could do online. A really nice lecturer talked me through the course and gave me some really helpful advice, so they gave me a lot to think about and work on.

My next steps are to go and see the advice and counselling to see if they can help talk me through the finances. The government now offer loans for people doing masters, but I would still have to find a little extra money to live on. There are scholarships available to apply for in most cases, but because the one I want to do is run by a different department (school of geography), so I don’t think I qualify. I could also choose to do the degree part time which would stretch it over 2 years, instead of 1. So I have a lot to think about.

Overall, I wish I’d researched all of my options a lot sooner, looking into postgraduate study is worth a look, even if you’re not sure or think you’re totally against it. I’ve got a lot to think about, and not much time to do it in, but I could always come back and do one a few years later! I’m still not entirely sure whether it’s for me, but it’s another option of something to do to broaden my horizons.

Studying English

I spoke a little before about the best bits of studying English at university – the trips and all the choice, but in this post I wanted to talk a little about what an average teaching session is like. Over my university years they have changed a little bit – in first year the lectures were all really big, because everyone takes the same modules (specific topics for teaching). So, for example, everyone studied Shakespeare and so we had huge lectures that everyone attended, where a lecturer (like a teacher) stood at the front and told us all about the topic, play or book for that week. After that we had an hour seminar where everyone discussed the points brought up in the lecture and any other points you might have thought of yourself whilst reading. In seminars your seminar leader might also assign you a mini task, like reading through a bit of the play and talking about it in groups. This all changes again in second year as everyone gets to pick their modules, and there are so many options that the lectures become a lot smaller. The seminar groups however tend to stay the same size – roughly between 10 and 20 to a class. Then in third year it all changes again! Most of the time you don’t get any lectures at all, and instead you get a two hour seminar. It means that lots more of the work is down to you, so when you read the texts you have to think about possible points you could raise in the seminar and any questions you might have.

I’m going to describe what my ‘Writing Modern London’ teaching session on Monday was like, as it gives a sort of example as to what all this really means!

The reading for the week, image courtesy of: https://novelinsights.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/lonely-londoners.jpg

The reading for the week, image courtesy of: https://novelinsights.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/lonely-londoners.jpg

Above is an image of the reading for the week. We normally have a week to read the texts for the following week, however if you have a lot to do or are really prepared, it’s advised to read ahead so you don’t get behind. As it was a fairly short novel, only about 150 pages, we were also advised to start our reading for next week – a novel called ‘Absolute Beginners’ as that is about 350 pages. The lecturer and seminar leader expects you to do the reading so you can understand the content but also contribute in the seminar afterwards. Also in our coursework, we are usually expected to write on quite a number of the books, so it’s best to be prepared.

For ‘Writing Modern London’, we usually have a double seminar, and sometimes we have a lecture and seminar, however this week it was a lecture followed by a seminar. We sat in a fairly large room, as there is about 30-40 of us on this module, and our lecturer delivered her presentation. Normally this a combination of them talking, powerpoint slides and sometimes small video clips. This lecture opened with us watching a clip of some of the people who emigrated to Britain from Trinidad in the 1940s and ’50s. It served as a good opener as the book ‘The Lonely Londoners’ is all about people from Jamaica and Trinidad who came over to Britain. It was really interesting and we looked at a lot of history, and then the lecturer linked that back to the book. The lecturer also linked all of her presentation back to the overall theme of the module – London, and during this we all made notes. She then also told us a bit about the book for next week as the two books are quite similar.

The notes I took during the lecture.

The notes I took during the lecture.

Sometimes you’ll need to write down quite a lot all at once, so it’s quite demanding and you always have to be listening. Afterwards we had a seminar where we began by discussing a few of the themes from the lecture and then were given a task. We have an assignment coming up where we have to relate some critical literature to a few of the novels we have read, so our seminar leader gave us a task to prepare us for this. We were given an extract and then we split into pairs and talked about how it related to a section of the book. Everyone then gave feedback and we made notes about it and talked as a group through all of these.

Our seminar handout, with my annotated notes.

Our seminar handout, with my annotated notes.

After this, we are left to go through our notes at home as it’s always best to read them again to make sure you remember as much as possible.

This kind of learning is very different from school. Quite often you have to get involved and contribute a lot more and a lot of what you get out of the module is down to you. As a said in my previous post, this is all about organisation and as you go through university this is something you get used to – don’t worry, they won’t throw you in the deep end!

Back to university

Although university classes started this week, last week was ‘Welcome Week’ which meant the uni held a whole bunch of events to welcome all the new students, and ease the returning ones back in. I thought I’d start my blog with the biggest and busiest event – the ‘Fresher’s Fair’, aimed to help freshers (first years) see all of the clubs, societies and sports groups the uni has and choose which ones they want to join. For me, this was a particularly busy time! Me and my house mate are this year’s new Co-Presidents of Film Society, meaning that we are in charge of the running of our society, including organising our booth at the fair. We had also just moved into a new house and so everything was all quite panicked, but we managed to pull it off!

Me (left) and my house mate assuming our Co-President roles at our booth.

It was personally very important for me to make sure our booth was as good and welcoming as it possibly could be, because when I first came to the Fair, two years ago, I was very nervous. I had been too shy to go to any events before the fair, and my flat mates were all very private people so I didn’t know many people, apart from two I’d already met from my course. I mainly shuffled around the fair with my head down, only looking up occasionally and not talking to many people. I finally caught the eyes of two guys at the Film Society booth, who had a very modest stall, and they told me about their society. It was very causal and you just had to come along on a Thursday evening, and they would just watch a film and then go and socialise afterwards. It sounded perfect and incredibly low commitment, in case my studies got in the way, so I pinned their flyer to my pin board and waited until the following week.

It wasn’t the only society I joined, as each year I join new ones, and new societies are made. However, it was Film Society that became my favourite part about university, the two guys running the stall turned into two of my best friends and I met so many more people and friends through the society. When I made a couple of other friends through my course and other events, friends who I am now living with, I introduced them to the society and I soon had a big, very close-knit group of friends. In my second year I was the society Secretary, meaning I was in charge of all the emailing and then this year me and my house mate decided to split the Presidency role.

The best part about the Fair is that everyone is always very welcoming, they even have a quieter hour at the start of the Fair for those uncomfortable with large crowds, and there is always a lot to get involved in.

Harry Potter Society, one of the most popular societies on campus.

Harry Potter Society, one of the most popular societies on campus.

One example of this are the social societies. Film Society comes under this title, but others include the Harry Potter Society, as pictured above. I joined this society last year and they run events like a Sorting Ceremony at the start of the year and a Slug Club once a month. They also have Quidditch tournaments between the houses which are so much fun! Other social societies include: Lego Society, Game of Thrones Society and Baking Society, among many, many others.

There are also faith societies and academic societies. These include a very wide range of faiths who also organise their own events, and the academic societies have groups for all the courses taught at the university. There are so many societies, you’d never be able to join them all, or even hear about them all! There are also recreational societies which tend to either do more specific activities or use their time to make or create things. Pictured below is the Knitting Society, but there is also a Medieval Re-enactment Society and Games and Video Gaming Society and a Parkour Society.

The Knitting Society making their own table blanket.

The Knitting Society making their own table blanket.

There are so many types of societies, I could go on all day about them. And the best part is that if, even among all these societies, you can’t find the one for you then you can set up your own! The Student’s Union, who work with the students at uni to improve our experience will help you out and it’s so easy. Some new societies this year include the previously mentioned Game of Thrones Society and also a Disco Society who kept us all energised through the fair with their non-stop music and dancing.

The Disco Society dancing their way through the fair.

The Disco Society dancing their way through the fair.

In addition to societies there are also sports to join, and these are so varied you will undoubtedly find the sport you enjoy or love. I got involved with Archery a bit last year, but have decided that this year I’m going to become a full member and turn up to practice a lot more often. There are also ways to do sports without joining a club which is more casual, or ways to sign up to clubs and leagues and compete and train a lot – it’s entirely up to the individual. Outside classes and studying, the freedom university gives you allows you to choose which ways you want to spend your time.

Overall the Fair is chaotic and overwhelming but undoubtedly one of the most important things I attended when I joined university. Inevitably I signed up to way more societies than I could have ever possibly attend but that doesn’t matter. You get to meet a massive range of people of different ages, cultures and courses and, like me, these people can end up being some of your best friends.

Summer has FINALLY come to London

So I wore shorts today for the first time since…last August. Not exaggerating. I have a new appreciation for why Brits have the bad rep of being extremely pasty (sorry for the people I blinded today). In conjunction with my personal understanding of the pale Brit stereotype, I also have a new awareness of how precious the sunlight here is. Brits (and all of us expats, too) cherish their sunny days and squeeze what they can out of every ray of sunlight. Which means the 7-day forecast for a heat wave has put a summer spring in my step, not the least because 4th of July is in that 7-day forecast. I’m really interested to see what the 4th is like in England…it’ll be an experience, I’m sure. 🙂

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My heart on the 4th. Thanks, Zazzle, for the accurate depiction.

One thing that has become increasingly charming for me since moving to London is to just enjoy an afternoon in the park. It’s a very European (or rather, non-Midwestern) thing, I think, because in the Midwest usually the only people you see lounging on blankets in a park are families enjoying a picnic. But here, if the weather is above 60F/15C, you’ll see all sorts of people lounging in the park–families, couples, friend, and even people enjoying some solitude. I think it’s due to various reasons: perhaps because yards are much smaller if not non-existent, the weather is much more mild so when we get a nice day people want to enjoy it and on the other side, it almost never gets unbearably hot here, people are allowed to enjoy adult beverages in public and the legal drinking age is 18 (hellooo Sunday funday), there is a significantly higher number of parks in London than anywhere else I’ve lived, and people simply live in much closer contact here than in the Midwest so getting together with friends isn’t necessarily the drive-across-town production that it can be in the States. And for me, spending time in green spaces is a way for me to feel closer to home when I’m missing the Heartland.

Whatever the reason, it’s one thing that didn’t make sense to me when I first moved here but after a year I fully appreciate the charm of a day spent lounging with friends in the park. And now that the sun is here to stay, the park is calling my name. 🙂

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Enjoying St. James’ Park. And studying. Also, didn’t know you had to pay to sit in those chairs. Word to the wise: bring a blanket for your lounging pleasure, those are free 🙂

Takeaway Tidbit: London teaches you to appreciate the finer things in life, on so many levels.

Entrepreneur boot camp and fun at Hampton Court Palace

I spent Saturday with my LUIP Ambassador friends, first at Kingston University and then exploring Hampton Court Palace. Our time at Kingston was wonderfully impelling because we were led through an entrepreneur boot camp by Dr. Martha Mador, the head of Enterprise Education Strategy. Dr. Mador began by explaining the entrepreneur process:

  • A successful opportunity for entrepreneurial pursuit can occur at any point on the continuum of discovery, evaluation, and exploitation;
  • In order to be successful, there must be a healthy balance of creativity (the generation of new ideas) and innovation (the successful exploitation of new ideas–ideas being accepted in a marketplace);
  • Dr. Mador further clarified that innovation is not just a product or invention, and it’s not necessarily a new idea nor a ‘light bulb moment’. It is a combination of finding novel solutions to peoples’ problems.

After her thought-provoking explanation, we spent the next hour or so working through the entrepreneurial process ourselves. We split into groups, were given photo cards, and told to brainstorm a list of problems based on the pictures we had. The pictures were quite nondescript– a woman running through a field, a row of wind turbines, a person helping another climb a rock–but from those pictures we generated 10 general problems that could be fixed.

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We could even write on the tables…I was awed. English majors don’t get to write on much, other than notebooks.

After generating a list of problems, we chose one and brainstormed solutions to the problem. From there, we created a viable solution and developed and pitched our service to the group. My group decided to focus on the lack of work-life balance for many professionals. We developed a company called Stress Less, a consulting agency that businesses could hire to help convert their offices so that they promoted a more healthy work-life balance. Our pitch even had a jingle, set to the tune of ‘Call Me Maybe’. We won the ‘Best Brand Name’ award…go Team Stress Less!

After boot camp we headed over to Hampton Court Palace, the palace of King Henry VIII (the one who created the Church of England, and had 6 wives in his attempts to have a son. He also fathered Queen Elizabeth I, who is by far my favorite English monarch.). The palace was beautiful, but I was much more enamored with the grounds. The gardens were absolutely stunning, especially the ones along the bank of the Thames. And I was impressed by how successfully lost we became while wandering through the maze. Most of all, I couldn’t have chosen a better group of friends with whom to spend the afternoon.

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The English love their roses. Especially those Tudors. 🙂

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Kim and her band of merry ambassadors. Photo Cred: Divi

Being guided through the creative process of identifying and developing a business was unexpectedly motivating. I left boot camp feeling like I could actually create a viable business–on paper, anyway. I started brainstorming ventures I would be interested in and that might actually work. However, after my original elation wore off, I realized I would have some serious work to do on the numbers side of developing a business. Let’s be honest: although I find an odd satisfaction in getting the correct answer on a math problem I am nowhere near confident enough to trust a business’s finances to my numeracy skills. Creates a nice opening for a partner, though. Any takers?

“The moves may change, but the groove remains”: Old Men Grooving and the Joy of Dance

I seem to exist in two utterly different worlds. My name is Bret Jones. I am a PhD student in the Drama Department at Queen Mary. I am also a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent with the dance group Old Men Grooving (OMG), a group of older guys who are reclaiming dance and getting back our groove. This was not a designed career move. We had been put together for an internet commercial for Christmas jumpers for a national retailer. The next thing I knew, the video had gone viral. Something about the incongruity of older guys – ‘dads’ – doing a form of Hip Hop seemed to have resonated. The decision to go on Britain’s Got Talent was unexpected. One of the original guys became injured, and we got a new member who was a friend of one of the existing group. We all had some kind of dance background, in clubs, or competitions, or a bit of performing. Some of the group danced in Hip Hop clubs in the 1980s and 1990s, when many of the moves you see in these young dance crews were invented and developed. What is often missing is what we can bring – the ‘feel’, the ‘groove’. We dance because the music tells us to. The groove is who we are.

Of course, Britain’s Got Talent plunges us into the very depths of popular culture, but what is clear is just how complex and rich this culture – musically, kinaesthetically, and emotionally – actually is. It has been three weeks since our audition was broadcast, and the YouTube video has reached over 15 million hits:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggswWVZ8zKA

We’ve had to jump on board the Facebook wagon to help spread the word. After all, Britain’s Got Talent does require audience support. The ‘feel good’ factor that seems to be very much a part of the response is actually a connection to something very profound within people. The younger audiences seem to like ‘Dad dancing’ done by guys who actually can dance and know how to express our own groove. The older audiences seem to identify with that love of dance that they once had, but that never really died. It’s still there. We’ve even created a little ‘Dad Dance’ that people can learn and join in with us:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzHiZM7GCmY&feature=youtu.be

The Anglo-American culture seems to relegate dance to the young, but this is not true in other cultures. We, in OMG, remember what it was like to dance in clubs and what that dancing meant to us as individuals, but also to the larger community. Dancing can help bond us, as well as be a means of personal expression. We have at times been humbled by the responses. We recently had a comment by a woman who lives in chronic pain, but who said that we had helped to lift her spirits. Yes, we are out there to have fun, but to have our dancing touch people in profound ways has been very moving.

My own dance background is in older forms like American rhythm tap and Lindy Hop, Swing, etc. However, this is directly related to later forms of African American dance, such as Hip Hop. Still, it has been a learning curve as a dancer. As hard as that has been, it has also been a joy. That, I think, lies at the heart of it. We are reclaiming dance as part of who we were and as part of who we still are. The moves may change over time, but the groove remains. We feel as young as ever when we dance, and so do the people who watch us. Unlike some of the young dance crews, we don’t dance at the audience. We share our joy with them; and they share their surprise and joy with us. We are both equally validated. This has engaged both body and soul, and although the body may ache at times, the soul is soaring. We need the support of all people, young and old, so that we can continue to reclaim dance for everyone, to make dancing part of our own continuing development as human beings, to embody and to share joy. In the end, it’s about joy.

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