The Oberlin Stories Project

On starting the One Song Dance Parties in Mudd

Jackie Mostow ’12

“It answered the rarely asked question: why shouldn’t stress reduction and (albeit short) physical activity be fun, promoted, and in an academic space?”

Group of people line dancing

Who would have thought that my never-realized goal of DJing in Mudd has been fulfilled several times over? There are so many options, academically, extracurricularly, and educationally, at Oberlin, and coming in as a pre-med first-year made me a little intimidated by all the possibilities. I spent my first year doing things I “should” do: the required classes, attending the quintessential Oberlin events, making friends and growing as an individual. It was really great, but I was missing direction. By my second year, I got involved as a Sexual Offense Policy Advocate for OSCA and as an HIV tester with HIV Peer Testing. While both of these activities were (and still are) a huge part of my Oberlin life, it wasn’t until my third year, when I began working as a Peer Health Advocate for the Center for Leadership in Health Promotion, that someone asked my about my passions.

While sitting at lunch in the Rathskeller, my boss Lori Morgan Flood — acting 5th-year class dean and the Director of Wellness and Health Promotion — asked me, “What are three things you’re passionate about?” We were just getting to know one another, and she was trying to understand what I would want to do as a Peer Health Advocate. Caught off guard, I didn’t know what to say, but her question really stuck with me. I pondered it for the next few weeks, and came up with my three (tentative) passions. Although I may not stick with them for the rest of my life, they are the little flames that have inspired almost every big decision to date.

1. Youth! I think youth are incredible, all the way from the adorable little kids to us, the passionate college students who have more ideas and dreams than any one person could possibly achieve.
2. Health! I feel that everyone should have equal access to take care of themselves—physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially.
3. Fun! Everything we do should and could be appealing and enjoyable! Why not make it a priority?

Fast-forward a few months. I’m sitting in a staff meeting with the other Peer Health Advocates and I bring up the idea of One Song Dance Parties in the library during midterms. A year prior, I would have never put the phrase “dance party" in the same sentence as “health advocate,” but I did, and it worked! In collaboration with the college, we created an online student poll on the OnCampus page and asked peers to vote on songs ranging from “Billie Jean” (Michael Jackson) to “Blue Da Ba De” (Eifel 65). At advertised times throughout the day, I would blast one song in the Academic Commons — before you quiet studiers tense up, this is the section of Mudd where you can talk, listen to music, and be reasonably vocal about whatever you want — of the library. About 100 people got up and danced, while others watched and just smiled. It answered the rarely asked question: why shouldn’t stress reduction and (albeit short) physical activity be fun, promoted, and in an academic space?

Although participation in the dance parties was nowhere near 100 percent, I hoped that it gave at least a couple people the important opportunity to step back, relax, and enjoy themselves. I’ve learned at Oberlin that although academics and grades are important, so am I, and so are you.

Later that year I coorganized a dance Flash Mob that was “performed” at Crocker Park and in Mudd. A friend and I choreographed a dance to a mash-up of Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke" and Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street.” We posted the dance on YouTube and asked our friends and peers to learn it. The day of the Flash Mob, we had a group rehearsal, and that night we all headed to Crocker Park. It was such a blast!

And if you were wondering, the one-song dance parties continued throughout the year and will hopefully continue into the future. As I enter my senior year, I’ll be coteaching an ExCo called “Practicum in Joy.” Whether or not you can join me on any of my joyful and healthy adventures, I hope you can create your own and take advantage of every opportunity to make your life just a little more blissful!