Dance Dance Revolution:
Let’s talk about me and dancing, shall we? First of all, that’s kind of like saying “trout” and “bubblegum,” or “Owen Wilson” and “not funny.” Dancing and me are ships passing in the night, and try as we might, it will never work between us. Like former lovers, alcohol is the only thing that brings us together, and, thankfully, parts us before the sun comes up.
I think the main problem is that I technically have no rhythm, or just maybe a different kind of rhythm, like a special kind of rhythm. Not unicorn special, but short-bus special. God knows it’s not genetic, because my parents are the best dancers you’ve ever seen. They’re always the first and last couple on the floor at weddings, and while I can be spun and twirled and dipped, I’m not really doing the footwork myself.
My first brush with dance came at age 3, when my mother enrolled me in ballet and tap lessons. I fucking hated those lessons, but I was really into the shoes, so I stuck it out until the recital. The recital has become an infamous story in my family, and if you ever happen to meet my parents, they will undoubtedly bring it up within the first 15 minutes of speaking to you, and attempt to show you the photographic evidence. In fact, you cannot just say “the recital.” You must say The Recital, written in 48-point cursive, and you must hire the guy who plays the kettle drum in the orchestra from 2001: A Space Odyessy to play in the pause after saying it.
At The Recital, about a dozen three year old girls in blue tutus wandered aimlessly out onto the stage at The Performing Arts Center downtown, which is a huge venue, way too huge for a dozen aimless three year olds, especially since all of them are ignoring the teacher, who is dancing the routine offstage. Some cry, some sit down, and one wanders offstage and comes back with a blanket. But one three year old walks straight out to the very edge of the stage, teetering over the orchestra pit, and if you’re watching the video, you can hear the audience of parents gasp collectively. But then she stops, bends her knees, makes a set of goggles with her hands, and begins combing the room like a sniper. Now you can hear the audience laughing, laughing so hard that you can no longer hear the music, but that doesn’t matter because it’s not like anyone is dancing to it anyway. This screening goes on for a good minute, until, miraculously, she actually spots her parents, and begins jumping up and down and waving, and then finishes it off with her own improvised little dance, which is not so much ballet as endzone. I believe it would techincally be classifed as “shaking one’s tail feathers,” but what would I know? This little routine ended my ballet career, but like any savvy three year old, I’d have rathered to burn out in my prime than fade away.
My next run-in with dance came about in 1986, in the fourth grade talent show, where I found myself inexplicably onstage with three of my friends, wearing stirrup pants and side ponytails and dancing to Madonna’s “True Blue.” I use the term “dancing” very loosely here, because it was more like acting out the lyrics with exaggerated yet precisely choreographed hand motions. Your heart fits me like a glove = cue fists over heart, pantomine pulling on elbow-length gloves. Needless to say, it was a show-stopper. We tried to re-create the magic the following year in the fifth grade talent show, but it was like a Gemini’s Twin skit: two girls were gone, the choreography was off, the sweatshirts were hastily puffy-painted the night before, and the song was Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” A little too meta for my tastes, and it put me off dancing for years to come.
Except for the obligatory sweaty swaying to “Diamonds and Pearls” and “Wonderful Tonight” in a million off-the-shoulder velvet dresses on a million different Holiday Inn parquet floors in high school, I really didn’t dance again until college, when I learned how CRAZY and FUN it was to buy beer by the bucketload and dance in a circle with my three friends to “Melt With You.” Maybe since these evenings usually ended with making out standing up on a slimy dance floor, I was up for it more often than not, but even that got old after a semester or two. Now I can be persuaded to go for the occasional ’80s night at the gay bar, but the majority of my dancing is done either in my shower, or in my bedroom, sliding on my hardwood floors Risky Business-style. In the privacy of my own home, I’m pretty sure I’m a hot dancer, but the minute I’m around other people and sober enough to remember my name, I get really self-conscious about my moves, and start watching other people to see what they do, but then I’m not really clear on the general stance on move-copying. Is that rude? Do they notice? Are they laughing at me? Can I blame them?
I’m going dancing soon, and there will definitely be cute boys there, and I’m a little concerned. I’d prefer it if people didn’t laugh at me, at least not more than they already do. So listen: I’ll try to identify some of my dance antics, and you people tell me what’s acceptable, okay? I mean, you guys are in the know, right? Odds are all of you are better dancers than I am, so please, advise.
- I tend to do a lot of lip-synching and singing along if it’s a song I like. Is that lame?
- I know it’s gay when guys bite their bottom lip while they dance, but I tend to do it without realizing it. Hot or not?
- I’ve always adhered to the Tina Turner hip-movement rule: side to side, not front to back. Is this archaic, or cool?
- What the hell do you do with your hands?