When it begins, all you hear is the call that pierces the still summer air: “MA-IA-HII, MA-IA-HUU.”
For ears new to EXPLO, it sounds bizarre and unusual. Even so, you can’t help but heed the call — it’s sheer curiosity. As the music continues more familiar sounds spring forth — hands clapping in time, delighted shrieks, and a swell of voices accompanying the cacophony of sound.
And then, all of a sudden, you see it. A whole sea of people airplaning their arms through the air, twirling and dipping and skipping in time. It is mesmerizing and magical. It is also sort of silly looking.
This is the Numa at EXPLO.
Ask a staff member or a student at EXPLO to describe the most quintessential memory of each summer and you are likely to hear “the Numa” over and over again. The Numa is at once a celebration of the ordinary and the extraordinary. It is a dance during an ordinary Monday morning — a reminder to smile, let loose — and it is also a dance during more “momentous” occasions such as Carnival Night or Final Party.
It is a dance during an ordinary Monday morning — a reminder to smile, let loose — and it is also a dance during more “momentous” occasions such as Carnival Night or Final Party.
The Numa, at its heart, is about tradition.
When former staff member Becky Fleps brought the Numa to EXPLO 12 years ago, she didn’t imagine that it would be something that is still carried on today. Inspired by a viral video, a friend of hers in college choreographed a dance that Fleps then modified and taught to her floor when she was an Instructor and Residential Advisor at EXPLO in 2005. “The Numa has evolved since then,” Fleps said.
In so many ways, it is quintessentially EXPLO. Like EXPLO, the Numa is a place where you can be the unique individual you are, while also feeling like you are a part of a wider community. When the Numa comes on, it is permission to be anything you want to be. It’s an opportunity to make friends with the person next to you as you do-si-do together. Emery, a 4th grade day student who was new to EXPLO in 2017 caught on to the spirit of the Numa quickly, “The Numa is just a really great way to all connect because we have all these people doing the same thing,” he said. “So I feel like without the Numa, EXPLO just wouldn’t be as much of the social place that it is.”
It doesn’t matter who is watching or even if it is a stranger you are dancing next to. What matters is that you are free from judgment, that you have permission to be as silly as you want to, and that even in this moment of complete silliness, you are a part of something that is bigger.
It’s Okay to Get Excited!
The Numa teaches our students that it’s okay to be excited about something and to show that excitement to the world. Whatever age you are, the tangible silliness of the Numa is too hard to resist.
“The fourth- and fifth-graders are always willing to jump in without inhibition,” Fleps says. “The sixth- and seventh-graders are moving more into that “cool” phase — trying to decide whether or not to be silly in front of their peers. The Numa totally bridges this. Even the coolest seventh-grader can’t resist. Dancing and being silly is just too fun for everyone.”
The Numa totally bridges this. Even the coolest seventh-grader can’t resist. Dancing and being silly is just too fun for everyone.
In the moment, the nervousness of it all drifts away; there is suddenly something beautiful about existing and moving and just being in a space that is free of judgment.
For our returning staff and students, the Numa is a reminder that you are home. And in turn, these returning students help lead our new students as they step into the dance of the Numa, and indeed, the dance that is EXPLO — moving between courses, workshops, activities, Main Events, group bonding, and mealtimes with sway of silliness and seriousness that life begs of all of us.
Just a dance you say? Hardly. The Numa is the song that dances forever on in EXPLO hearts the world over, and as Emery says, “It’s dancing like I’ve never ever seen before.”
Fleps would add that you’re never too old to Numa.
“Thank goodness!” she says. (We couldn’t agree more.)