Juniors Adam Scott and Wes Ogsbury dance on the football field. Scott, a 5’7” wide receiver for Harvard, sometimes lines up across from Ogsbury, a 5’11” cornerback, at practice. Scott cuts one way, and Ogsbury follows. Movement and response.
The more serious dancing, however, takes place without pads. The nimble duo has performed routines across campus—beneath Leverett Library, on Weeks Footbridge, in front of Widener Library, and in the Harvard Square T station. They’re ridiculously skilled, fluid and fast. A third teammate, junior cornerback Tyler Gray, records with a camera.
These dance sessions pop up on YouTube under an itching-to-go-viral tagline: “Harvard Hits.” The name, Scott explains, is a multilayered pun. A “hit” is something that’s “cool, it’s dope.” But “hits” is also a kind of dance that involves jabs on hard beats. And then there’s the football connotation.
“From the outside world, to many people, Harvard is just a place that’s boring,” Scott said. “This is a platform to show people that Harvard is not only a place of high academic standards but also for hits.”
Scott and Ogsbury are smooth operators. They toy with gravity and time. Limbs become liquid. Air becomes solid. When asked to name the better dancer, Gray gave a sly smile. “No comment,” he said.
And the videos—well, they’re fun to watch. Scott and Ogsbury strut in front of the camera, typically in the middle of broad daylight. Pedestrians walk past. The dancers swivel their feet, roll their shoulders, and thrust their hips.
The scene exudes energy and charisma. Afternoon sunlight fills the screen. These videos belong to hip-hop culture, and you can feel the joy.
Dance, race, and music. Music, race, and dance. The three weave together in complex ways. And Harvard football, a program that loves both playlists and dance moves, is home to many identities.
There are Southern conservatives, Northern liberals, and many players who fit in neither category. More to the point, there are stone-cut defensive ends who listen to alternative rock and lithe wide receivers who blast gospel songs.
The Crimson has struck an impromptu agreement about locker room music. Mostly, it’s first-come, first-served, but Tuesday marks an exception. That day, country lovers take over the AUX as part of “Texas Tuesday.” Clearly, the playlist caters to a certain identity—often white, Southern, and conservative. But categories aren’t so simple. Scott, for example, is a Christian from Denton, Texas, but he prefers hip-hop.
“When they play country in the locker room, we don’t get mad,” Scott said. “We’re a team, so we have to respect that.”
A focus on unity pervades the program’s approach to issues of race and identity. Last week, NFL stadiums became arenas for activism when scores of players knelt down, locked arms, or vacated the sidelines during the national anthem. These protests sparked debates that reached Cambridge, Mass.
On Tuesday, Harvard coach Tim Murphy had a conversation with his team about the many protests. He slammed “neo-Nazis and white supremacists” but emphasized the importance of seeking internal agreement.
“We have a lot of guys from a lot of different backgrounds and with different views,” Gray said. “Even if we don’t agree on something...we try to make it unified. We don’t want any look of division in the team because it’s not [the case].”
Harvard Hits fits into this notion. Scott first learned to dance in church; his mom later signed him up for hip-hop lessons. In part, he and Ogsbury got the idea for the videos after people suggested that the pair looked like Ayo and Teo, a well-known dancing tandem. In this way, Harvard Hits reflects Scott—his background and personality.
“Harvard Hits is also a platform for minority students,” Scott said. “Before I came, I didn’t really know if I was going to have a space at Harvard. This is basically showing that there is a space for you and hip-hop dancing. You’re going to be accepted.”
Yet Scott and Ogsbury have tried to open Harvard Hits to broader communities. On the defensive back’s suggestion, the pair filmed a dance for “Closer” by The Chainsmokers, reasoning that the song would appeal to a different crowd.
So far, Harvard Hits has generated modest interest, with the most popular video topping 1,000 views. Cameraman Gray sees a potential for rapid growth.
“We’re waiting on one video to go viral,” Gray said, smiling again. “I think that it’ll blow up pretty soon.”
—Staff writer Sam Danello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.