I’ve thought a lot about why some people don’t like to dance, because it makes me sad. When dancing is fun, it is as good as the best of any physical activity I’ve ever experienced. The best night of dancing rivals running down a disc, eating spectacular food when you are hungry, jumping into the river on a scorching day, utterly involved sex with an excellent someone. That doesn’t happen often. Most of the time, the music is good but not great, the lighting a little bright, there’s too much social awareness on the dance floor and dancing isn’t any better than mildly fun. On a good night, the music grabs and rocks you, the dj keeps it coming and amps it up, the lights are just a little dizzying, and you are delighted in the cleverness of the dj for blending those songs and your dancing friends for their witty moves. That’s very fun, and the most I usually hope for. But on the best nights of dancing, the music will entirely move through you, providing constant energy; your whole body will resonate and move in ways you never thought of, and indeed, thought will fade into a joyous, inexhaustible dissociated state that stays as long as the music rocks. From other sports, I know what it feels like to be flooded with endorphins, but I don’t know any way besides dancing to stay there for hours.
So I am always sad when people say they don’t like dancing; that avenue to that feeling is closed to them. I believe them, that dancing isn’t fun for them. I never pressure them, because if it isn’t fun there is no reason to do it. But I wish I could make them like dancing. I have a theory about why people don’t like to dance, and it isn’t about their capacity for movement. It is about their music.
I don’t usually believe people when they tell me they can’t dance. Almost always, if I get them to imitate and make fun of other dancers, if I can get them clowning around, they come up with motions that would pass for dancing in any club. The range from just thumping around to mad skillz is so big that most everyone fits in somewhere. (And, just like at the gym: 1) no one is watching you, and 2) fuck ‘em if they are.)
But I can see that there are people who aren’t motivated to dance by the music itself, and I don’t see how they will enjoy dancing. If you don’t hear the beat, if you don’t listen to songs so you can learn them, their lyrics and pauses and climaxes, if a catchy song doesn’t make you want to hop around or sway, well, moving gracefully won’t make you like dancing. From what I’ve seen, people who don’t like dancing also don’t listen to dance-able music. Some don’t respond to any music, some like stuff that just doesn’t thump; I wouldn’t enjoy dancing to that either. I don’t know when those people split off, either, because babies and toddlers love to dance.
People who love to dance also love to listen to dance-y music. All the time. They pay attention when it comes on the radio, learn and sing the lyrics, always have music on in the house. I listen to some pretty trashy music; if I had any shame I wouldn’t play it so loud you can hear it down the block. But that music makes me move and reminds me that I will have other nights of dancing. Not many, but a few of those will be among the best things I ever do.