Olugbenga T. Okusanya ’05

Rooming with a choreographer/dancer extraordinaire can be disorienting. “Sometimes I walk in here and there are like five guys dancing in the common room and I’m like, what is this, Club Awesome?” says Joe Z. Bress ’05, describing life in Kirkland with Olegbenga ("Gbenga") T. Okusanya ’05. Yet is has its perks too—blockmate Brooks R. Powlen, ’05, gets free dance lessons from Okusanya, who has been a director of Expressions, an on-campus hip-hop dance group, since his sophmore fall. “It’s kind of his community outreach, to teach a white guy how to dance,” says Powlen.

According to Okusanya, his blockmates have Harvard to thank for his dancing dexterity. “The dances I made in high school were essentially me piecing together moves I’d seen before,” Okusanya says, “but that didn’t let me actually ever really choreograph a four or five minute dance. So Harvard, when I got here and saw what everyone else was doing on campus...it was like wow, I didn’t know I could do that!”

Okusanya leans back in his desk chair in his garret-like single, littered with cast-off clothes and books, explaining how Harvard’s environment was the key to unlocking his love of hip-hop dance. Being at Harvard “definitely, definitely encouraged my creativity,” he says, citing the broad range of talent as part of his inspiration. “There is a certain motivational drive that people have here that forces them to be really good, if not great, at whatever they have to do—it’s just a pool of people who are highly committed, so if they aren’t the most talented, they’re definitely willing to work.”

Inspiration for his dances does not only come from his fellow students. “My muse is the music. I can always tell if I’m about to choreograph something once I hear the music. If a great beat hits my ears, I can see the dance...I can imagine how bodies fit to each element of the music. The positive competition of the dance world at Harvard also keeps Okusanya “challenged to do a little more.” He calls the atmosphere “competitive good-everyone’s always on the eye out to see how far people are pushing it.”

Yet Okusanya feels more than just adulation for Harvard’s artistic community. “The dance space issue,” he says somberly, “needs to be dealt with.” He complains that limitations on studio space hinder undergraduate creativity by forcing groups to cut back on the numbers of dancers they can accommodate. “The dance space issue creates a situation in which not everybody or anybody who wants to gets an opportunity to be expressive. It’s just a total logistical nightmare.”

While Okusanya has made dance a priority throughout his undergraduate career, he will not be choreographing this semester. A higher calling—MCATS, to be exact—takes precedent this term. But he doesn’t seem to regret his decision to trade in his dancing shoes for a stethoscope: “Dancing came along later for me. Medicine is definitely for me, and you can only be a dancer for so long because bodies can only sustain so much.”

At least his lucky med school roommate will learn some new movies.