Q&A with Rachael Burke '15 and Kristina Smithy '14


Two Trinity sophomores, Rachael Burke (pictured left) and Kristina Smithy (pictured right), recently taught Jimmy Fallon “The Nug” dance on the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show.  Burke, an English major, and Smithy, an American Studies major, entered a contest to teach Jimmy Fallon a new dance move.  They made an entry video in their dorm room at Trinity, and soon found themselves being driven from their dorm to backstage with Jimmy Fallon.  To watch the segment, visit: http://bit.ly/np5uZK.  (photo courtesy Rachael Burke and Kristina Smithy)

Q: How did you find out about the dance contest?
RB: I watch the show all the time, so that’s where I heard about the Late Night Dance Challenge.  During sophomore success program (at Trinity), Kristina and I made the video, and submitted it without even watching it.  We didn’t want to second guess ourselves. 

KS: We actually didn’t tell anyone we knew about it, and forgot about it until we got an email the Tuesday before the show, from writers on the show, asking us if we would be able to come on the show that Friday.

What was your reaction when you heard you won?
RB: I personally burst into tears.  I hope to be a comedy writer in the future, so the experience of being on the show…it was beyond belief.

KS: I cried a little too.  Then I called my parents and they asked me if someone was playing a hoax.  I don’t even remember – everything was a blur. 

Q: When did you find out what the show would entail?
KS: We talked to the writers on the phone the following day and they told us that we would teach Jimmy Fallon “The Nug” and talk with him, and that they had some other fun ideas planned.

Q: Like what?
RB: When we were backstage, the writer of the segment told us that we would have backup dancers from the New York Knicks squad on stage with us. 

KS: …and that the audience would learn the dance too.  It was all very surreal!

RB: That’s the word I would use as well: “surreal.” 

Q: What was it like dancing to a song being performed live by The Roots, a Grammy-Award Winning Band?
KS: We were both big fans of The Roots before coming on the show.  They were really great to us!

RB: Frank Knuckles (a member of the band) tweeted a picture of us with him after the show!   We spent a good amount of time joking around with him and other Roots backstage.  He was very supportive of us and a big fan of our dance.

KS: It was really cool dancing to a song that was written just for this event. 

RB: Yeah, they even inserted the words “The Nug” when they performed it on the show.  So technically, The Roots wrote a song about The Nug!

Q: Where did “The Nug” originate? 

RB: I just know that I’ve been doing it since high school (Brooks School in North Andover, Mass.).  I really love to dance. 

Q: At the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival, you were dancing on stage in a leg cast.  How did that happen?
RB: When [the MC] asked for volunteers to come on stage to dance, I knew it was my destiny.  [laughter]

Q: What are you studying at Trinity and what are your long term goals?
RB: Creative Writing.  I want to write comedy. 
KS: American Studies and English.  I want to work in entertainment media.  Broadway is my passion.  I’ve been going to Broadway shows with my parents since I was five.  Rachael and I will go to shows here, too.

RB: Our families are going to see Jersey Boys at the Bushnell (in Hartford) on Family Weekend.

Q: Are your career goals inspired by your appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon? 

KS: I think it reminded me how much I want to be in that world. 

RB: I agree.  It’s definitely the environment I want to work in. 

Q: What sort of groups are you involved in at Trinity?
KS: I am an arts editor for The Tripod and editor of The Slate (Trinity’s literary magazine).

RB: I am in the Quirks a Cappella group.

Q: Has anyone at Trinity started doing The Nug since your appearance on National TV? 
RB: The night after we appeared on television, I got a number of texts that The Nug was all the rage at both the fall concert and the frats.  Also, a kid came up to me the other day, and told me that his friend at UC Berkeley told him that everyone there is doing the Nug.  That was unbelievable to hear that the dance is popular on the other side of the country.