Saturday, August 18, 2012

Can't We Just Do the Twist Again?! Like We Did Last Decade.

I remember stepping foot into my first 'dance club'. It was in Milwaukee, right in the heart of its industrial district. The hotspot was called TomTom's and on Thursday nights you only had to be 18 to enter. So picture me wide-eyed and terrified; a freshman in college with a new found fascination for mixed drinks and strobe lights.

My best bestie and I hitched a ride with some upper classmen who frequented the joint. We hid flasks in our purses, eyes clumsily smudged from a brand new stick of eyeliner. I remember the heavy dread I felt upon entering this particular warehouse turned freak shack. The air was a smoke cloud, rainbow lights painting every surface.

The gang (I tagged along with) decided it would be cool to just 'check out the scene' at first. So we sat on weird stools, a strange world of movement surrounding us. It was then that I noticed EVERYTHING...

Now, maybe I should preface this story with a quick little history into my high school past. I was (and still mostly am) a dork. As the first born anything of my two crazy but loving parents, I was sheltered beyond understanding. I wasn't allowed to date until my senior year. I could rarely attend sleepovers. I missed any sort of field trip that included an overnight arrangement situation. I was not to use the internet without supervision, etc. You get the idea. Now, I wasn't some goody goody girl that sat in her room reciting scripture all night. Oh heavens no! I wasn't some sort of hobbit person! My life was fine and dandy and it was probably for the best that I didn't go running around with the troubled youth of a small Chicago suburb.
I just thought a brief summary of the post-college years would make my current story a bit easier to digest. Ahem.

 And so yes, EVERYTHING was coming into place. There I sat with my soda (because no one says 'pop' in Wisconsin), legs crossed, awareness level at full tilt. I couldn't believe my young eyes! Boys and girls, girls and girls, boys and boys all embracing each other in such a way that could only lead to suffocation. Pelvises bucked outward like a bronco during rodeo season. Women pressed their rumps against male lumps. Men bit their bottom lips while surveying the motions that occurred below. Every thrust and pump and wiggle seemed as if it were in slow motion while somehow keeping to the beat.

It didn't make sense to me. I had seen MTV. I had stumbled upon hip hop videos. I had been to school dances but this... This was COMPLETELY DIFFERENT in person! I don't know what I expected to find at Tom Tom's but jean jamming was definitely not on the list.

My pal group finally decided it was time to make a dance floor appearance. I wasn't about to sit out alone so I followed the young adult puddle in terror. Everyone I came with seemed to know what they were doing. They shook their bottom torsos in a horse-riding mime trick sorta way, kept their eyes on the floor and didn't say much after that. Suddenly serious faces scanned the crowd for possible dance partners as I decided to slyly use the bathroom every three minutes. Upon returning from one trip I discovered my best friend with a stranger in cargo shorts. It looked as if she were continually trying to sit on his lap. I watched, shuffled my feet and escaped to the bathroom again. This time for a huge shot from the flask.

Eventually I got trapped by a male who thought my skills were adequate enough to grind alongside. As soon as he approached, I froze. I thought that maybe if I stood still enough, he'd lose interest and find his dinner elsewhere. This technique is similar to how one hides from a T-Rex. I get all my social tricks from Jurassic Park. Anyways, it worked. He swaggered off soon after.

Now to get to the moral of this story: What the HELL happened to Dancing!?! If the previous recount took place over a decade ago, why on earth is it still happening? I thought trends came and went. I thought the 90's had ended. I thought that maybe, JUST MAYBE people would realize how ridiculous they look while humping each other in public. So far, not much has changed. But I still have hope! For if the human race can survive this long it can surely, most certainly learn how to dance.

Let's Get Informed!
This is what wikipedia has to say about the current style of dance most young people use today:
Grinding, also known as 'freak dancing' or 'freaking' is a type of close partner dance where two or more dancers rub or bump their bodies against each other, especially a male dancer rubbing his crotch against a female dancer's buttocks, in imitation of rear-entry or 'doggie-style' intercourse. 
(I couldn't find a photo of this particular dance that didn't make me feel slimy. I warned you, I'm a dork.)

Workin on that Chain Gang.
 Now that you know what we're up against, here are some suggestions that can help to change the way we all dance:

1. Learn how to do some old school dancing!
Start with the mashed potato. All you've gotta do is take turns smashing each foot into the ground as if you were killing a big bug or putting out a smoke. Keep your elbows bent and let your butt wiggle. It looks so very cute! Another is the Jamaican Ska Step. Instructions and diagram are here for your enjoyment and benefit!

The upper half of the body (waist up) keeps the beat by bowing forward with a straight back and a slight bend in the knees as in B.

At the first bow the arms extend out to the sides A. At the second bow the arms cross in front of the body B.

The body straightens up in the change from one position to the other. Continue in this way for the basic Ska step done on the spot.

For the basic side step, turn to the right by moving the right leg on the extension of the arms A then bringing up the left leg on the closing of the arms B.

Then to the left by doing the same with the left leg. The basic 'body beat' continues to be done during these moves.

Most people had two left feet back then so the dances were made easy.

2. Laugh, smile, have fun!
Whenever I accidentally step foot into a club I can't help but notice how intense everyone looks. People are staring at body parts instead of locking eyes. They're biting their lips and not saying a word. It all seems so terribly (and ironically) unsatisfying!

Someone's sure been practicing with their limbo stick.

3. If you find yourself in the throes of a club (also known as 'da cluuuurrrb'), try not to take it so seriously.

We, as people tend to worry too much about how others perceive us and a sea of sweaty, sex-hungry bodies is no exception. Do what you have to do to let loose and then take over that dance floor! Refuse to grind! Take matters into your own hands and shimmy shake yourself all over the place!
The normal club-faring folk may give you weird looks or shout explicit things at you but chances are you'll never see them again and if anything, you'll have a hilarious story to tell the kids.

4. Watch some classic dance movies for inspiration.
Up until the late 80's everything dance related was pretty damn great. In the 1920's you had the Jitterbug and the Charleston (think Great Gatsby and tassels). The thrill of Latin music sparked the Rhumba, the Mambo, the Cha Cha Cha and in the 60's Bossa Nova happened. In the 1950's and 60's the dance craze was at its peak! The Shake, The Watusi, The Swim and The Loco-motion are just a few of the notable trends. Then came (my personal favorite) disco music which gave us the Hustle, YMCA and the Bump. And onto the 80's when we all walked like Egyptians and learned how to spin on our heads.

Here are some gems you should check out. If you've seen them all already, I dare you to revisit them and pay attention to the way people moved and the clothes that they wore while doing it:

- Grease (Come on. Despite how much we trash talk it, we have to realize that Grease sparked many reminders in hearts everywhere of how exciting and wonderful things used to be.)
- Saturday Night Fever (This was my favorite soundtrack for years before I actually viewed it. Upon doing so, I fell head over heels in love. The acting, the accents, the fashion, the dancing: everything about this film is somehow realistically incredible!)
- Hairspray (The John Waters Version. Rickie Lake showed us that it doesn't matter what size you are, dancing is in the SOUL!)
- Flashdance (Because 20 years ago, exotic dancing meant more than just spinning on a pole.)
- Heavenly Bodies (Made at the height of aerobic popularity. Lots of leg warmers, bad acting and naked bods!)
- Girls Just Want To Have Fun (One of my favorite movies of all time because it takes place in Chicago, vaguely reminds me of my sheltered youth, revolves around an insanely heated dance competition and stars a young Helen Hunt, Sarah Jessica Parker and Shannon Doherty!)
- Dirty Dancing (Didn't expect that one, did ya?!)

5. Listen to music that you can't help but dance to!
That means music that makes you immediately tap your feet. Music that puts a smile on your face and a shimmy in your shake. Music that you don't hear everyday but when you do, it feels like magic.

Here is a link to a lil playlist for you to dance to. I DARE you to try and grind to any of these fantastic jams.

Dance as if no one is watching. Well, except for maybe your grandmother...

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