A roaring “Brooms Up!” thunders across a field of crouching West Virginia University students.
At the sound, the muggles – otherwise known as the non-magical humans – “fly” toward the middle of the field on brooms, dodging other team members and fighting for the Quaffle (well, it’s actually a volleyball) to throw through one of many colorful hula hoops attached to plastic piping.
Welcome to a meeting of WVU’s Quidditch Club, one of the myriad of clubs and organizations across the campus which contribute to the broad experience of feeling at home in Morgantown.
If you’re not into Harry Potter and Quidditch, do you enjoy playing a small plastic kazoo? Kazoo Club. Dancing? Caving? Walking on a thin piece of line? Breakdancing Club. Grotto Club. Slackline Club.
No matter what a student’s interest, there’s likely a place to explore it, perfect it, and join the likes of others who share a similar passion.
Muggle club brings to reality Harry Potter sport ‘Quidditch’
Back at the Quidditch match, students clad in blue and gold belong to the house of West Virginia University, as opposed to the Hogwarts’ houses Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw.
The WVU Quidditch Club brings to life the fantasy game of Quidditch in the bestselling Harry Potter series. The game is a mixture of several different sports, but it involves participants flying on brooms trying to score by throwing balls through hoops. Though it may be rooted in fiction, Quidditch has been realized through hundreds of universities across the country.
"Some universities have the club sport of Quidditch as one of their most successful club sports on campus," said club President Jeff Stevens, a fifth-year senior mining engineering and civil engineering. "As we recruit more, we plan to become more competitive and it's been catching on more and more."
The club currently has about 15-20 members who act as chasers, beaters, keepers and seekers. Each team has about seven players: three “chasers” try to score by throwing the Quaffle through hoops, two “beaters” use dodgeballs to knock players off their brooms, a “keeper” who defends his/her team’s hoop and a “seeker” whose goal is to catch a “snitch,” which is a tennis ball in this game and when captured, ends the entire game.
The club began four years ago as an Honors Hall floor activity. Stevens said most of the members are Harry Potter fans, though it’s not necessary for everyone to have read all the books or seen the movies. who are serious about the sport.
In between plays, those members discussed their favorite Harry Potter book; the third book in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, came up often. One member read that book 27 times in one summer. The club has expanded and evolved and is now even part of the Three Rivers Conference, where it plays other Quidditch teams in the area, including University of Pittsburgh, Grove City College and Carnegie Mellon University. The governing body, the International Quidditch Association and its affiliate United States Quidditch, oversee rules and regulations for each campus's club.
“We want to stay competitive in our conference and just have fun,” Stevens said. “Hopefully we can move further up the regional ladder.”
Student kazooists buzz to the beat of a different drummer
The kazoo is a small, handheld musical instrument that adds a sort of “buzzing” sounds to the musician’s voice when the kazoo player hums into it.
Often, what’s heard is a “doo,” “rrrr” or “who” sound. But if you stop by the Creative Arts Center on a given Friday, you might hear the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” CeeLo Green’s “Forget You” or maybe a funny – or punny – ballad from The Lonely Island.
“We typically do pop music,” said William Kichty, a music education and mathematics senior who also serves as the musical coordinator of the club. “That’s what I chose for the first couple of arrangements, and I have a few ideas for new songs as we moved forward.”
The Kazoo Corps began as an inside joke amongst the Pride of West Virginia, The Mountaineer Marching Band. During a rank rehearsal – where groups dress alike and perform some small skit—one group performed a kazoo set playing “Hail to the Chief.”
After that performance, members would joke after each rehearsal that a kazoo club would meet at such-and-such time.
“But after a while, we thought ‘why not become official?’” Kichty said. “We turned it into a real thing and started having some rehearsals. People might actually want to do this. It spiraled from there.”
The Kazoo Corps has had one performance during halftime of the Brass Bowl, an annual football game played with the trombone and tuba players.
“It’s sometimes difficult to get interest,” Kichty said. “Most people are surprised it’s an actual band, so rehearsals and performances can sometimes be challenging.”
The club currently has about 10 consistent members – most of whom are members of the Pride.
While the skill set required for Kazoo Corps members is minimal, the club is really a vocal ensemble.
“It’s essentially just singing,” he said. “You just put your kazoo to your mouth and hum. It’s just singing and making a much more obnoxious noise from it – but singing on pitch.”
And while the club does not currently have a performance lined up, it is looking to practice more songs in order to be ready.
“It’s fun, it’s informal, and laid-back. We have a good time, and we like to share that with others,” Kichty said.
For more information on the Kazoo Corps, check out its website at https://www.facebook.com/groups/204235483075346/.
Slackline Club creates ‘tight’ community
A long line strung between two trees on the Downtown Campus beckons “slackliners” near and far.
Students, and non-students, approach the thick strap that has been strung taught between shady trees near the College of Business and Economics, asking how difficult it is and if they should wear shoes or not.
Stephen Khoo, a senior industrial engineering student and president of the WVU Slackline Club, entertains their interest by encouraging passers-by to get up on the slackline.
“Try to focus on a point in front of you,” he said. “And put one foot in front of the other.” Most of the members of the club are newcomers and aim for getting both feet up onto the slackline – just a few feet off the ground – while maintaining balance. They then, arms typically flailing on both sides, make their way to the end of the rope, as others cheer for a new personal goal.
Khoo helped create the club last fall after discovering the hobby on TV one summer day.
“I thought ‘oh! I want to try this’,” he said. “So I started watching Youtuve videos and later that week, I went out to buy a slackline.”
The slackline is typically made from nylon or polyester and is strung from two anchor points – often trees. It isn’t as taut as a tightrope, though, as it allows for some stretching and bouncing similar to a trampoline.
Though it took Khoo quite some time to “get up” on the slackline without falling, he can now perform bounces, jumps and even share the line with another slackliner.
Now, Khoo teaches anyone who approaches him. "I give them tips, encourage them; it helps when they can see others doing it," he said. "When I did it, I was alone, so there was no one to help me out, but it's a lot easier when you have others helping." Some slackliners perform yoga poses on the line, while others use high lines – which can range from 8 feet high to across large gorges. (Harness optional.) There are also very long slack lines that can go for hundreds of feet. Khoo typically sticks to between 15 and 100 feet.
The slack lining community isn’t contained to West Virginia University, as Khoo has discovered friends in slackliners in Australia and other places he has visited.
“Slackliners are generally pretty friendly. We’re just excited to share this with others and hope they get the same enjoyment out of it that we do,” he said.
For more information about the WVU Slackline Club, visit its Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/WVUSlackline/.
Grotto Club gets beneath the surface
While the rolling hills of West Virginia are what attract many to the outdoors, it’s what is hiding underneath that interests Cassandra Mosley.
“Just the view – it’s spectacular,” the junior civil engineering major said. “There’s just something awesome about rappelling into a 200-foot pit and seeing the sky but still surrounded by rock. It’s like you’re finding a secret room 200 feet below the surface.”
Mosley, the president of the WVU Grotto Club, seeks out caves around the state to explore with her fellow club members. The caves, which are mostly found in southern West Virginia, are full of formations such as stalactites (which hang from the ceiling) and stalagmites (which rise from the floor).
“As a freshman, I didn’t even know it was a real possibility to go caving in a hole in the ground,” she said. “I thought you had to go to commercial caves with the manmade walkways; I had no idea all these amazing things existed underground. Once I saw that, that’s what really pulled me in.”
The club hosts vertical climbing practices weekly on Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Student Recreation Center or sometimes visits Coopers Rock on other weekdays to practice skills they will need in caves. And to put those skills to work, the club of about 40 organizes trips almost biweekly over weekends to travel to caves and explore.
Mosley said her group explores two types of caves: horizontal and vertical. For the horizontal caves, old clothes, shoes, a headlamp and bag for food and water are necessary. For vertical caves, additional specialized gear is required – and the club can provide it – to rappel down a rope into the cave.
“For some horizontal caves, the entrances are wide and everyone can walk in at once, but others have very tiny entrances,” she said. “Vertical caves are much more difficult to get into, and only one person can be on the rope at a time.”
The Roof Rocks at Coopers Rock are some of Mosley favorite vertical climbs. The group rappels off the 40-foot cliff and climbs back up.
“It’s a good place for beginners because if they get scared or tired, they can walk down or climb up around the side,” she said.
As for her favorite cave, it’s difficult to choose.
“I like so many of these different caves!” she said, not able to decide on one from the multiple caves throughout Pocahontas, Greenbrier and Pendleton counties. “I really can’t pick a favorite. But Piercy’s Mill has fantastic formations; it was the second cave I went to, and it was beautiful.”
The club, which has consistently grown since the 1980s, is always accepting new members to explore everything that lurks beneath the surface of West Virginia.
“It’s just amazing to see these giant places underground and all the different formations. That’s what does it for me,” she said.
The WVU Grotto Club meets on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. in Room 125 of Brooks Hall. For more information, visit http://caves.org/grotto/wvusg/.
Breakdancing club has culture rooted in old-school hip hop
Hip hop has a rich culture made up of four key elements: DJing, graffiti, MCing and breakdancing. These 70s era concepts dictate what can and cannot be part of the culture as to not dilute it.
DJing stays true to those who still use vinyl and scratch, graffiti stays alive through those who practice the art, and emceeing lives through those who rap to the beat of music.
And then there’s the core: Breakdancing. One WVU student organization keeps the hip hop heart of the culture beating through their dedication to the set breakdancing curriculum.
The WVU Breakdance Crew – also known as Sus Crew, short for “styles upon styles” – can be seen in front of the Mountainlair doing headstands or windmills.
“It’s not twerking, it’s not doing the Dougie or the Soulja Boy. None of those fads,” said Brian Chen, a medical student at the University and secretary of the club. “We want to stay true to the culture in this area.”
There are set movements considering to be old hip hop, though it's constantly evolving. But all moves fall into four primary categories: toprock (standing positions), down rock (footwork), power moves (speed moves) and freezes (which are suspended movements).
“There are the core movements, but there are new ones constantly being added. We stay true to the tradition, but in a second generation way by expanding movements,” Chen said. “Like in basketball, there are always new ways to pass and shoot, but you still don’t kick the ball into the hoop. You keep true to the confinements and boundaries.”
Chen, a Morgantown native, attended Princeton for his undergraduate degree. There, he learned about the hip hop culture’s roots. The culture, which was born in the Bronx, had a heavy influence on Chen during his time in New Jersey. He learned about it starting around 1974 with block parties in the Bronx. He learned about the culture blowing up to a phenomenon in the 80s and 90s to the point of eventual exploitation, then its slow resurgence underground. He fell in love with the culture and made connections.
“When I came back to Morgantown, I wanted to bring some of what I learned with me,” he said.
While there is the Hip Hop Team at the University, Chen said he was interested in creating the breakdancing team, which is traditional old hip hop. “There is definitely a cultural divide between new and old hip hop, but we often work together and do some of the similar things.”
Chen began recruiting those interested in learning breakdancing, which ultimately led him to receiving his breakdancing name “Dr. Professor X” – a nod to X-Men because he seeks out breakdancers around campus and brings them together.
Currently, the WVU Breakdance Crew has about seven members, but Chen is hoping to have upwards of 20 by the end of next year.
“We accept members of all ranges – those who have never breakdanced before and others who are very experienced,” he said.
The group attends battles where it shows off its moves.
“The whole community goes, and someone wins and takes home prizes,” he said.
To prepare, the group memorizes nearly 1,000 songs – any of which could be chosen at random for which the breakdancers to perform.
“The Jackson 5 song ‘I Want You Back’ – just about any breakdancer would know that,” Chen said. “It speaks to the origins because any pop song from the late 70s to early 80s is in the breakdancing repertoire. When breakdancing was invented, it was the dance you did to pop songs.”
Chen said the group plans to attend more tournaments and rap concerts in the area.
“We just want to represent our culture in this area; many don’t know or realize our culture is deep-rooted,” Chen said. “We’re absorbed by breakdancing. It’s not just another dance – it’s like our alternate identity. That’s when we’re alive. During the day, that’s what we do to just get to breakdancing in the evening.”
For more information, contact the club at email@example.com.
Story By Candace Nelson
Photos by Greg Ellis, Brian Persinger,
Niesha Shafer and Erin Irwin
CONTACT: University Relations/News
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