Campus Corner

Sunflower dance-off: KU’s 'McLemore' vs. K-State’s ‘Tunnel Dance’

Updated: 2013-04-09T15:59:35Z


The Kansas City Star

They can finally settle a bitter debate. Kansas and Kansas State, Sunflower Rivals and Big 12 co-champs, will arrive at the Sprint Center this week for the Big 12 Tournament, a chance to straighten out the most pressing hoops controversy in the heartland.

We are, of course, talking about dancing.

Perhaps you side with Kansas freshman Ben McLemore, who along with being a possible NBA lottery pick this summer, has created his own personal dance craze in Lawrence: The McLemore.

Or maybe you side with K-State senior Martavious Irving, the savvy veteran who has been serving up consistent tunnel dances at Bramlage Coliseum for four years.

It’s an age-old debate. Youth versus experience. The old guard versus an upstart rival. We’re here to provide public service, to make sense of all this. But first, the origins:

“The McLemore”

On Dec. 22, the Kansas Jayhawks traveled to Ohio State and picked up a crucial nonconference road victory. McLemore finished with 22 points and six rebounds. The Jayhawks would be on their way to 18 straight wins and a No. 1 ranking in the coaches’ poll. After the game, McLemore stepped into the middle of the locker and started … well, dancing.

“That was crazy,” said Kevin McLemore, Ben’s little brother. “I was laughing. It was just a big win. He got up dancing, and I was like: ‘What?’ He was just jigging.”

(go to the 3:00 mark for the dance)

“The Tunnel Dance”

The story goes that K-State was about to play Xavier at Bramlage during Irving’s freshman season. The team had gathered in the tunnel before the game, and Irving thought his teammates were lacking energy. So he started dancing. And Jordan Henriquez gave him a beat by banging on the wall. And the team loosened up and then went out and beat Xavier. A camera picked up the dance. And the rest was history. The team won 29 games that year.

“All them dances I do are certain dances that are going on around the country,” Irving said. “When I first started it was the Dougie, and that’s from Texas. When I first got here that is when I first saw it so I started doing it.”

Whose is better?

First, we needed an expert.

Jennifer Owen is a professional dancer in Kansas City, a former dancer in the Kansas City Ballet and a director at the Owen/Cox Dance Group. So we enlisted her expertise to judge McLemore and Irving. And she was kind enough to help out.

We began with McLemore. Does the kid have any skills?

“McLemore’s dance demonstrates fast footwork and exuberance,” Owen said. “There is a hint of folkdance quality in his dance style, which I greatly admire.”

Not bad. But what about Irving?

“Martavious Irving’s dance shows a great sense of style and use of full body,” Owen said. “He has a fluidity and sharpness that make his moves unpredictable and exciting to watch. He has a great sense of musicality.”

But what about a winner? Who’s winning the first battle of the week?

Well, maybe Owen is aware that both KU and K-State fan could be potential customers. Or maybe she couldn’t decide. Or maybe …

“Dance, unlike sports, is an art form that should be appreciated for its expression and not judged on a competitive level,” Owen said. “I am thrilled to see both athletes share their unique moves with their teammates and fans. I am impressed by both athletes, and wonder what would have happened if they pursued dance rather than basketball as their calling.”

There you have it. Art, as they say, often imitates life. And in this case, we have another shared title.

To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to Follow him at

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