Living the life as a Howard University Ooh La La! Dancer

Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline: What does it mean to you to be part of the HU Showtime Marching Band?
Mia Morris: “To march with Showtime is an honor. It means that I am representing a legacy and it is my obligation to uphold the excellence that the band has been achieving for years. Showtime happens to be my family, on and off of the field. I can count on the members in the band for anything I need and I have the most fun when I am around them.”

DJF: Were you recruited to be part of the band?
MM: “No. I walked into auditions as an unknown (a fangirl). I watched the band frequently as a senior in high school (on YouTube and in person) and admired the style, grace, and confidence of the Ooh La La! Dance Line. I knew from the moment I watched the band perform that I wanted to be part of its excellence.”

DJF: What instrument do you play?
MM: “I am an Ooh La La! Dancer. My instrument is my entire body! ( In the past I was a flautist, but dance is my passion).”

DJF: What influence led you down the pathway to get involved in music?
MM: “As a five-year cheerleader and new student at Suitland HS (military family transfer), I always watched the band & dancers (The “Platinum Dynasty”) at our football games. I wanted to be a part of their team, despite only having cheerleading experience. After I made the team the experience was very helpful preparing me to be successful on a collegiate team. I learned showmanship, leadership & professionalism, how to carry myself and work well with others. Ironically, the style of the Platinum Dynasty Dancers often emulated that of the Ooh La La! so it wasn’t a surprise that I and others on the team wanted to pursue the team. My tumbling and jump skills from cheerleading also were very helpful. My lesson learned here was twofold: One, everything you have experienced has led you to where you are now and equipped you for it. Two, do not worry about what kinds of experience others have. Just be willing to learn and ready to outwork them.”

A performance by Howard University's Ooh La La! Dancers
The Howard University Showtime Marching Band would not be complete without the fabulous Ooh La La! Dancers. Photo courtesy of Howard University

DJF: Just attending Howard University, how has that experience changed you?
MM: “Attending Howard University has changed me for the better to say the least! It has cultivated me (and continues to cultivate me) into a goal-oriented leader with a work ethic I couldn’t have imagined. The experience has in many ways pushed me outside of my comfort zone so that I can better myself and motivate others around me. I am naturally an extremely shy and reserved person, but at HU I’ve developed the confidence and competence to pursue challenging degree programs (biology/ chemistry) and assume the roles of scientific research intern, oral surgery & family dental shadowing participant, community volunteer, captain of Ooh La La! and president of my sorority, Tau Beta Sigma. Balancing these opportunities and leadership positions with academics and countless other commitments has helped me to develop time-management, organization, and business skills. I went from literally thinking there’s no way I can possibly get all this done in freshman year to alright, let’s get a plan together to get it all done. Yes, I’ve had extremely stressful moments, but I wasn’t willing to give up my degree/career goals nor the band. I’m just grateful Howard offers so many resources to prepare is me to be successful in the future with necessary life skills.”

DJF: What do people enjoy most about seeing the HU Showtime Marching Band perform?
MM: “People enjoy our passion. When we perform every person can feel our energy from across the field. One of our most enjoyable moments is when the instrumentalists and auxiliary perform a popular music selection and dance at the end of each field show. People also enjoy seeing us dance to our “Neck” arrangement at pep rallies and especially 5th quarter performance. The crowd always gets up and dances with us! I’ve been called a “joyful” dancer and I take it as a high compliment. Doing what I love with the people I love for the school that I love makes me joyful.”

DJF: How is the HU Showtime Marching Band different than other HBCU marching bands?
MM: “Howard is much smaller in size than other HBCU Bands. It’s one of the first things that people may notice about us, however we can’t control that. What we can control is whether each and every member does their job. And we are definitely always going to give 100%. It means you don’t get to hide, and if you make a mistake it will be noticed, which makes us work that much harder.”

Ooh La La! Dancer Mia J. Morris
Mia Morris is a biology major at Howard University. Besides being a section leader for the Howard University Showtime Marching Band and Ooh La La! Dancer, Morris is a National Society of Leadership & Success member. Photo courtesy of Howard University

DJF: How demanding is it to be part of the band when it comes to juggling classes and work?
MM: “Being in the band as a student is extremely demanding. There’s a reason most universities have changed the name from ‘marching’ band to ‘athletic’ band. We rehearse at least 4 hours a day Monday through Friday, plus basketball, football, other sports games and travel. We also have many impromptu performances throughout the season. I consider band a real job. After joining the band I had to get really serious about making sure I use every opportunity to make sure I achieve my academic goals. I know that school comes first and I ensure that I balance it with band by using time management. Lastly, being a member of a band means that I don’t get to a lot of the parties and events on and off campus. But I do have a large group of friends who have become family and a whole different type of fun.”

DJF: What was it like for you the first time you stepped out to perform as a member of the HU Showtime Marching Band?
MM: “The first time was during Howard’s Freshman Pinning Ceremony 2015. At the time I was the only freshman who had made the team, I was nervous as I entered the field in front of the crowd, but once I started dancing I instantly felt like I was where I belonged. My anxieties went away and I was able to thoroughly enjoy myself. The energy I felt from the crowd was exhilarating and something I will never forget.”

DJF: What was the audition process like for you?
MM: “The audition process was not easy. I had to clean up my technique and adjust to a new style in a short amount of time, however it was a great learning experience. It also helped me to step outside of my comfort zone. In auditions dancers are watched from the moment they attend the audition interest meeting to the moment they get done trying out out at final auditions. Because of this, I pushed myself throughout clinics in all aspects: dressing in eye-catching uniform pieces, asking lots of questions, and giving it my all on the dance floor. I knew that what I did during tryout week would translate to how I performed for final auditions. My hard work paid off and I was lucky to make the team the first time I tried out.”

DJF: How does the HU Showtime Marching Band stack up against the other HBCU marching bands?
MM: “As mentioned before, the Showtime Band is small in comparison to most HBCU marching bands, yet we have a big sound. Our musicality is just as great as any other band and our arrangements are very detailed, unique, and fun. We have a style of our own. While our size does not affect the way we sound it does affect our relationships with one another – we are very intimate. Everyone really knows everyone.”

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