A Discourse Community Gee defines discourse communities as a are form of life which integrates words, acts, values, beliefs, attitudes, and social identities as well as gestures, glances, body positions, and clothing (484). According to Swales, there are six characteristics that make up a discourse community. They are common public goals, mechanisms of intercommunication among members, participatory mechanisms to provide information and feedback, utilizing one or more genres in communication, a specific lexis, and a threshold level of members with a degree of relevant content and discourse expertise (471-473).
I decided to look at the Rukus dance team because they rely more on movement and performance to communicate rather than accumulating knowledge. If you do not know the six characteristics of a discourse community, one way of joining is “mushfaking”. I particularly wanted to focus on a newly recruited member of Rukus because she used “mushfaking” as a way to join the dance team. In order to really understand that the Rukus dance team is a discourse community, I had to go to the practices and interview two of the members. I went to the dance practice on a Tuesday from 9:30 to 1:30 at night.
I wanted to interview an old member and a newly recruited member to contrast their perspectives on how the discourse community, Rukus, operates. In order to be on the Rukus dance team, you either have to try out in the fall, or get recruited in the spring. You cannot just decide to be on the team and show up to a practice, as it is not a club. In my interview with Lindsey, she told me all about the auditioning and recruiting process. The auditioning process is a stressful two day event, where you are learning new routines and showing them to the judges.
The recruitment process is a little more relaxed in which you learn three dances and at the end you can either audition for those three dances or not. Gee borrows Mack’s definition of “mushfake” which is making do with something less when the real this not available (490). When I interviewed the newly recruited member, Christina, she told me that she has never had a dance class in her life compared to the members on Rukus who have been dancing all their lives. She did not know how to memorize dances before she tried out for the Rukus dance team. The only experience she had was she knew how to freestyle, which is very different compared to choreographed dances. She had to “mushfake” her way through the recruitment process.
Christina has to work harder than most of the other dancers because she has to learn choreographed dances. Everyone has to audition for each dance. Once a person is on the Rukus dance team, everyone learns the dances and then tries out for them because it is hard to have all 50 members on stage at a time. When I went to the Rukus practice, everyone was in comfortable clothing so it would make it easier to dance. The choreographers talked the words of the song that they were dancing to without music. They talked out the song as they were teaching the steps of the dance, so the dancers would know the timing.
They would also say words like cat, pow, and tat in order to show a step. When I interviewed Lindsey, I asked her about words or phrases that the team would use that no one outside of the team would know. She said that they would use percentages, like “go 75”, which is almost giving it your all. Also she said that they would say full out when they wanted people to completely perform.
They also call dances “mixes” because it is mixes of music. Christina had to quickly understand these terms. Sometimes, a choreographer would forget a dance move, and one of the other dancers would say how to do it. Christina could pass off her ignorance as a mistake because she has never had a dance class prior to joining Rukus. The Rukus dance team communicates through Facebook which is operated by the E-board, which consists of the president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. The Facebook page is private and it has what time practice is and the upcoming events. The president of Rukus also sends out mass texts to everyone on the team.
The E-board is very easy going; it is not all official on how people would think it should be. Everyone on the Rukus dance team is in college, so everyone is in the same age group. Everyone on the team attends the University of Central Florida, Full Sail University, and Valencia College. There are no issues of authority because everyone respects what everyone does and they all are like family to each other. On the back of one of the members shirt was the definition of Rukus. It read “Rukus: the act of getting crunk; best described as high energy, MAD flava, and the moves that make you groove.
Doin’ it since ’03.” I think that is the best way to describe the Rukus dance team. Rukus is recognized as being talented by performing. They perform at University of Central Florida events like Skit Knight during homecoming week and other events such as Kanvas Showcase in Tampa. The Rukus dance team is very successful at being a discourse community because they use their body as a way to communicate with others through performances.