By Eric Moore | Contributor
Early last spring, as Airband began to take over First West Wengatz, I was asked the fateful question: "Hey Erwok, do you want to do Airband with us?" Call it a lapse of insanity or divine inspiration, but I said yes.
Now, one year later, I have the unusual (and exhausting) honor of being one of the only Master of Higher Education (MAHE) students who has danced full Airband routines while in graduate school. Despite some blisteringly busy days, I couldn't be more thankful for the time spent dancing with the men of First West.
As a fresh arrival to Taylor for the MAHE program, I heard rumblings of a must-see lip-sync competition that this university took very seriously. I grew up immersed in the arts, so a competition involving music and dance seemed right up my alley. Like many men with similar backgrounds, however, my younger years were haunted with name-calling and stereotypes for being artistic. I was intrigued by the idea of Airband, but I was also hesitant of what the culture might be on campus.
Imagine my surprise when I found myself living on First West, surrounded by men passionate about Airband. Initially, I was befuddled by the wing's excitement for this Taylor tradition. Growing up, I was often one of the only guys in my school participating in the arts, and it seemed bizarre that a men's floor would be invested in a dancing competition. The wing's excitement was infectious, but my past experiences also spurred some fear and nervousness.
Thankfully, my worries were quickly assuaged by the welcoming and encouraging tone First West set. Everyone on the wing, no matter the skill level, had a chance to participate, but everyone was expected to give their best in practices. I learned this lesson very quickly: I was placed next to senior Nathan Mortenson last year, and my options were to either give 110 percent every practice or get stomped on by Mort's unmatched energy and extra-long legs.
Though tiring and time-consuming, practices became a cherished time to unwind. I appreciated the exercise, social atmosphere and creativity of practices. In addition, Airband became one of the few experiences in Wengatz where I was a follower, not a leader. Mitchell Mays ('17) whipped together a majority upperclassmen group of spooky, scary skeletons last year, and senior Max Partain passionately led a majority freshmen crew of wolves this year. Together, First West worked hard, laughed a lot, shed some tears and grew closer together as a wing.
In addition to learning the main dance routine, I found my niche as a set painter. Though I was initially timid to admit I was good at painting, I volunteered to paint the sets and this became a unique way for me to give back to the wing. All those art classes I took growing up suddenly came in very handy, and I got to paint Pandora's Box (#GoBox), dancing trees and a ton of wolf faces. These opportunities to express my creativity proved to be a refreshing change of pace from grad school papers, and they also allowed me to demonstrate important gifts God has given me.
My time in Airband with First West proved to be a highlight of my MAHE experience. Thanks to their support and encouragement, First West helped banish many of my fears and insecurities. I learned how to loosen up (both literally and figuratively), embrace failure and be more authentic in my creativity. Those lessons were well worth the hours of sleep I lost from practices, and I am grateful for the love and community I found with First West during my time in MAHE.