Roman Bezrukavnikov has never had much experience with failing grades. Now an MIT math professor specializing in representation theory and algebraic geometry, he says he cannot recall having received a D in his academic career.
Apparently, his dancing career is something of a different story.
When the music faded and the bespectacled pedagogue took his leave after competing in Round 7 of the first annual Harvard-MIT Valentine’s Day Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) competition—pitting members of both schools’ math departments against each other—Ds were all that were showing on the screen behind him.
According to the professor, he wasn’t competing for the grades.
“I’m actually missing a seminar for this, but I decided to sacrifice it,” Bezrukavnikov said before the competition started. “Something about dancing on Valentine’s Day attracted me. I thought it was something I should try.”
Organizing the event were Andrew Lobb, a fifth-year Harvard graduate student specializing in algebraic topology and geometry—“particularly seven-dimensional laser calculus”—and Ronen Mukamel ’05, a first-year MIT grad student with similar research interests.
According to MIT’s Mukamel, a showdown between the math minds had been in the offing for a while.
“There’s a long-simmering feud between our two departments,” he said.
The Harvard man Lobb—who had earlier barbed Mukamel by asking coolly, “Is that your team? You should have got some of your robots to take part...”—began to reel off the reasons for the friction, but didn’t get past Harvard’s flare for poaching MIT’s faculty before being interrupted by his combative counterpart.
“I don’t know if you know this,” Mukamel said. “But the Harvard math department is full of crazy people.”
Crazy or not, Harvard fared well in the competition, winning by a comfortable margin in a format that pitted ten dancers from either side in a series of one-on-one duels, with the first team to reach six wins ruling the day.
Among the key players in the affair were Harvard’s Valentino “The Humidifier” Tosatti, a third-year grad student of Italian lineage who keeps two DDR pads in his office, and two more at his home in the Mediterranean, but nevertheless noted that he is “very much out of training.”
“In the summer, when I’m at home I play every day for one or two hours,” he said. “But I don’t want to waste too much time here.”
But concerns over wasted time did not stop Tosatti from taking his DDR pads out of his office for an impromptu practice session with his Harvard teammates yesterday afternoon before the match, according to solidly built fourth-year grad student Dawei Chen.
One acknowledged participant in that session was the five-foot tall Suh-Hyun Choi—one of the few female competitors—whose slight black boots fell like thunder on the mat in a sixth-round win, and who was asked by Lobb to participate in a special two-mat showcase exhibition at the end of the competition.
But even Choi was no match for MIT’s ace, a skinny fourth-year grad student by the name of Ching-Hwa Eu, who said that he specialized in representation theory, but—with bulging calves framed between Nike running shoes and Adidas shorts—looked every bit the dancer who, to this point, has released four YouTube videos.
Asked whether he had garnered dates with his dancing prowess, Eu responded, “I don’t really think that girls are looking for only this.”
—Staff writer Christian B. Flow can be reached at email@example.com.