Devon Fields has a pants problem.
At 6-foot-3, Fields — a junior at Penn State and member of the hip-hop group Urban Dance Troupe — is known among his friends for dancing so hard that his pants rip.
“It’s kind of a thing I do,” he said. “But I love when things go wrong. I have this superman syndrome, where I’m always figuring out how I can save the day.”
For better or worse, no pants were harmed during Penn State’s Best Dance Crew competition earlier this month, which featured nine groups. Though the dance team Ram Squad took home the crown this year, Urban Dance Troupe — last year’s champions — put on an energetic show for the crowd at Schwab Auditorium.
Fields stood out in front, a position that comes naturally to him. Being involved with B94.5, Penn State Thespians, Singing Lions and Urban Dance Troupe, he is constantly performing. And he loves it.
“I thrive off live action,” Fields said. “It gives me such a rush.”
Fields first became interested in performance when, at age 7, he saw the musical “Annie.”
“I remember watching it and wondering, ‘How does this happen? How do you get 80 people into a movie and just have it work?’” he said. “I knew I wanted to be part of something like that.”
Coincidentally, Fields’ first role in a show was in sixth grade when his school put on a production of “Annie.” Though he held only a small part, Fields was much shorter then — compared to his current frame — so he was positioned in the front of the choral ensemble.
“I couldn’t be in the front if I didn’t know my moves, so I practiced a lot and made it work,” he said. “I noticed a lot of the eighth graders were asking me for help with the choreography, and that’s when I was like, ‘Maybe I’m not all that bad at this.’”
Not only does he have rhythm and a knack for memorization, but Fields also has the passion that makes him a valuable asset both on stage and off. If you don’t recognize Fields by name, you’ve probably seen the viral video of his dance moves at Pegula Ice Arena. At the radio station B94.5 where he interns, Fields refers to himself as “the energy guy.”
His boss does, too. “There’s never, ever a dull moment when Devon’s around,” said program director PJ Mullen. “He’s like a little gerbil running around on his wheel.”
Not only that, but Fields’ commitment is something that Mullen says has made him one of the best interns he has ever had.
“Sometimes I just text him and say, ‘Listen, we’re going to need a Devon morning,’” Mullen said. “The Monday after THON weekend, he was here at 4:45 in the morning, ready to go.”
With a 5-foot-11 mother and 6-foot-2 father, Fields grew up being strongly encouraged to play basketball, something that was a big part of his extended family.
“My dad would keep me out on the court until midnight, and I was just like, ‘I don’t really want to be doing this,’” Fields said. “I think maybe if he didn’t push me as much, I would’ve gravitated to sports more.”
At Penn State, Fields says that being a male involved so much in the arts and so little in athletics carries certain connotations: “For one, everyone assumes you’re gay.”
In addition, he doesn’t think people expect as much from males’ performances, which Fields interprets as a challenge to “go out there and earn it.”
“I’m all about conquering things,” he said. “To me, there’s nothing more thrilling than being on stage and proving something to an audience.”
On the Penn State’s Best Dance Crew competition, Urban Dance Troupe performed a six-minute, 42-second routine that Fields helped choreograph, dancing to hip-hop hits including Chris Brown’s “Love More” and Will Smith’s “Switch.”
For Fields, a successful performance is one in which he can hear a reaction from the audience at least once every minute, something that he didn’t think happened — at least initially — at the competition.
“There were times that I knew the audience wasn’t going crazy, so in my head I’m thinking, ‘I gotta go harder. I gotta earn it,’” he said.
And he did earn it.
Mid-way through the performance, Fields stepped out in front of the rest of the group and broke it down to “The Harlem Shake.” The crowd’s cheers were immediate.
“It would have been nice if we had won the whole thing, but I thought we did a great performance,” Fields said. “Sometimes you just gotta work with what you got.”