The Good Old Days: Bro Dances Pt.II – Practice

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Many know me as a libertarian. A select few know me as a leader, and I run a tight ship. 

I made it very clear in Part 1 that dance is a part of who I am. The thing that sticks out most to me about my college fraternity experience were the opportunities to compete via dance.

In Part 1 we reviewed the dances themselves. I mentioned in that post that we often spent two weeks practicing for our routines. Some may credit that to Delta Sig being the first fraternity with a prominent gay caucus at Stetson; who am I to argue others’ perceptions?

We took these dances seriously, had fun and won, so here are some fun stories from the practices leading up to amazing performances like this one:

Preparation

Themes on themes on themes. With weeks to go, we would learn the theme of the event in which we were dancing. At Stetson, there would be the “Airwaves” performance in the fall and “Greek Sing” performance in the spring.

From the themes we’d try to build a storyline, creating some level of continuity throughout the routine. The performances in which we lacked a story were performances in which we were average (plebs as the youngins call them nowadays).

Take the video above as an example. The theme for that Greek Week was “Superheroes” or something like that. Our organization was given “Captain America” and we built our routine around him even though we didn’t have to. Why? Because I wanted to prove that Captain America wasn’t some bland, super strong super hero (but for real, super strength is overdone).

So we decided to incorporate a USO dance routine (more on those lovely ladies later), weave America’s budding rivalry with China into the mix, and incorporate a commercial segment for “Frat-Formers,” a play on Transformers, to make it seem like we were watching a TV show.

It was a dance competition and watching choreographed fight routines is a terrible experience unless you’re Jackie Chan, so we had Captain America and Captain China compete via their ability to conduct robot dancers.

Did I say the storyline needed to make sense? No. I said there needs to be a storyline. Throw whatever you want in there.

Also, I’m sorry the transformers routine didn’t come out in the video. As you can tell by my choice of music and the audience response, it was a real “had to be there” moment. And you really had to be there, because you can’t see it in the video.

Assigning Parts

Everyone has an ego.

In my early years, we split the routines between a few established dancers, then allowed brothers to choose which dances they wished to be a part of. The formula was to have a few different groups of people who then come together at the end for one big finale.

That was important, as the number of people you had on stage was, for some stupid reason, a category. Let me just make one thing clear: If you want a good routine, having a bunch of people around limits that opportunity. It’s okay, I’m over it, really.

As time went on, it became: Nik has taken over the entire routine and Tom (who shared my big brother with me) choreographed 1-1.5 minutes of the 5 minute routines. A smaller team of leaders allowed for those storylines to develop, which I think took our competitiveness to a new, unique level at Stetson.

In any case, everyone wanted to be a girl and everyone wanted to be the star. Some brothers had big personalities and wanted some type of a solo and some brothers didn’t want to be there at all, but were willing to help us get on-stage credit. They were also typically intoxicated on the day of the event.

It typically worked out well, and you’ll notice other organizations had one lead guy who was at the front of every segment of their performance. That’s stupid. Show off your membership.

All of this said: I think I was a fair selector of parts. Dance ability matters very little in this, it’s all about the passion. . . which brings us to:

Delta Sigma Phi’s Drag Race

I have never in my life encountered so many straight men desperate to dress up as women for a very public routine. Now it was pretty clear that the most applause and laughter came out of the cross-dressing segments of our routines, so perhaps these roles are reserved for those who, as Lady Gaga said on her bomb of an album, “live for the applause, applause, applause.”

Honestly though, these were the most fun routines to choreograph as they typically incorporated partner dancing, sexy movements and a chance to throw up sorority letters, which was also a “requirement” for points and huge applause line (fraternities are noticeably less likely to get excited when other fraternities threw up their letters – perhaps because we usually depicted them as “less than.”)

In any case, our early routines incorporated one drag superstar. By the time we got to my senior year, there were at least five men-as-women in any given routine. The best part? We didn’t really have wigs, only these ridiculous hair pieces from Claire’s or something that made it look like each of the “women” were mid head-shave.

“Do It Again” & The Crowd Meter

My big brother was a staple of our practices long after he had graduated. Rather than choreograph, he served as a heat-meter the day of the routine. He’d watch our practices and move his arms in the formation of an odometer to express his pleasure or distaste with the performance.

It worked out well, he encouraged many a man “go for it” and not worry about looking cool. I on the other hand preferred sticks to carrots.

We’d practice. If someone messed up mid routine, we’d start over. People’s arms, hands and legs were positioned and angled appropriately throughout practice. Have you ever seen Abby Lee’s Dance Academy? I’m worse.

The results were fantastic. We were as lock stepped as a bunch of left footed private school kids could be, and it was always impressive.

Share your favorite experiences from practice or your favorite routines in the comments. OR! Share a video of your favorite routines from your collegiate experience.