One of the peculiar benefits of being a performing musician is I get to see a lot of people dance. There’s just no action of self-expression as pure and universal as dance. I see little kids who can barely walk dance impulsively to live music. I have seen elderly people who can barely walk dance impulsively to live music.
In between those extremes in age, dance ebbs and flows in our lives, depending on our situations. For one thing, by a certain age (8, maybe?) we learn self-awareness, and with that comes self consciousness. We don’t want to appear foolish, and if we’re not sure how we look when we dance, it’s safer to skip it and avoid embarrassment.
At some point, dancing becomes re-introduced into our lives, and with it, rules and steps aimed at helping us do it “correctly”. What that actually does is provide a way to actually quantify how badly we look doing it. We see professionals do impossible dance steps effortlessly with careless grace and we know we compare poorly.
“Let’s make it this more terrifying!” says Life, and we come to school dances. The girls want to dance. We want the girls. So we have to dance. And the stakes have never been higher. Now, it’s not just a matter of looking a little foolish. Now we can look foolish on a grander scale, and have word of that humiliation spread amongst your peers like flames through dry brush!
Some guys have grace and self-confidence. Some just have self-confidence. Sooner or later, we all simply have to try and tap into some internal primal abilities and dance to meet the social imperatives of middle school and high school.
I’m old enough now to know that dancing prowess is (usually) only a very minor factor in attracting a potential mate (or just a teen sweetheart), but we’re led to believe otherwise.
Truth be told, dancing is fun, once you can stop caring about what anybody else thinks. I had an uncle who’s a great dancer and family weddings were always livened by him spinning the ladies around the dance floor with great aplomb, while my dad and most of the other fellows sat around and watched.
There are times when it’s darn hard NOT to dance, and it’s important to be sensitive to those times and not skip it. Actually, being married is the best cure for dance-phobia. I don’t need to dance anymore, and I don’t care what anyone thinks when I do. This is very liberating, and I love being in charge of my dancing self. I dance when I want and don’t dance when I don’t want to.
I got the idea for this column while watching a very good funk band this summer and watching the people dance. (I did not dance that night – make of that what you will.) I saw little kids dancing with reckless abandon, and more grown up folks dancing too. A lot like school days, it all seems to come more naturally the females, although I saw some enthusiastic men, too.
Some people DO care a lot what they look like when they dance, and you can tell they look pretty good doing it. This applies to all genders (however many of them there are). I thought I could tell which couples were on their first dates and which ones were in established relationships, but I could be wrong.
The important thing is, you can dance, if you want to!