html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Cracks you like a whip but it feels so right.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Cracks you like a whip but it feels so right.

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know the lyrics to most of the songs on the radio. And, I'll even listen to dance music. But, I still don't dance.

I'd say it's just because I don't like people looking at me, but that's not entirely true. I don't care if people watch me climb, even from before I was good at it. So, it's not even just my being good at it that's the issue.

I've played insturments, piano and flute both for several years, so I can find a beat and keep it.

The best I can think of is, the goal of dancing seems specifically to put yourself on display, and there's no objective standard to what good is.

Climbing on the other hand, the only goal is improvement. And, people who are better than you will watch and offer advice, and people worse than you will watch and ask advice.

Of course, none of that covers skiing, where there is no objective standard, only 3 or 4 levels, green circle, blue square, black diamond, double black diamond. But I don't mind people watching me ski.

No, I'm pretty sure it just comes down to the goal. Most sports the goal is either winning, or self improvement. There are no such goals in dancing, and that's the problem.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

The goal is to release the spontaneous impetus that comes from the music. Just sitting still during fun music feels worse and worse, until you finally get to move and feel great again.

The idea that dancing is about the gaze is all wrong to me. (I mean, perhaps that's what the cool people do, but we've established that I am not cool.) I enjoy dancing despite being watched, and I'm a decent dancer.

The standard to how good a dancer you are is how much fun you are having.

11:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The standard to how good a dancer you are is how much fun you are having.
By that standard I'm a terrible dancer; too aware of other's gazes and my awkwardness, too out of step with the beat to feel anything but clumbsy.

On the other hand, I'm not a Dylan fan either... is there no justice?

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don’t know when those people split off, either, because babies and toddlers love to dance.

I have a toddler and have been wondering that as well. I've achieved that nirvana you speak of a few times in my life, almost... But grabbing it again feels like trying to hold onto a dream that just doesn't want to be remembered. And it is very, very hard to try to get there from a place of self-consciousness. And it IS sad. Historically, taking swing/ballroom class has helped me boost up my confidence on the regular dance floor, but I seem to lose it again eventually. -dithers

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm, how much fun you are having? I guess I can also add, I don't dance when I'm alone either, so it's not just about other people looking at me that makes dancing unfun. Something about it makes me feel stupid.

Though, I don't mind actual dances, like, I recently took salsa lessons, and would even consider taking more dance lessons like that, that was kind of fun. But, I don't have any natural need to move when there's music on.

I don't workout to music, or work to music, or clean to music. The only place I like music is in my car to keep me entertained while I drive, oh, and I guess at bars, clubs and pool halls, but I think that's just because the silence seems awkward there.

But, dancing is really a female thing. It's girls who want to dance. I don't know many guys who like to dance. I know guys who WILL dance, when girls make them. Or who will dance to meet girls, but I don't know guys who dance just for the fun of dancing like you'll see girls do.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wasn't saying such guys don't exist. I'm sure there are guys out there somewhere who enjoy dancing. And, actually, I may have been wrong about not knowing any, I do know one guy who was considering being a professional dancer. I'm not really sure what that means, I don't think he meant as a stripper.

And, I know girls who won't dance at all.

I'm just saying, on the average girls are the ones who actually enjoy dancing, and will do it by themselves, for no other reason than to do it.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Dancing nirvana is very hard to come by; I've maybe felt it two or three times. But it is the promise that makes 'going dancing' worth the trouble.

I've been thinking of making a mixed-CD recently, 'cause I've come across some good stuff. I don't know when I'll get to it, but when I do, I'll offer all y'all copies of it.

In a perfect world, I would get to go dancing from 8-11 and be asleep by midnight. In this world, I prep by taking a good nap and relinquishing any plans for the next day. Funny that you mention the morning-stillness types; I used to love getting up at five in the morning to make muffins or bread for my housemates to wake up to.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Pandax said...

Couldn't help offer this link for anyone who is interested in recreational dance:

Plus, if you love pandas the cover of this issue is quite cute. :)

When you're young, I think it's a matter of being exposed to music and dance. When you're older, sadly, I think it's self-consciousness and confidence that keep people from trying. Club dancing is very different from partner dances. I can totally understand some liking one but not the other. I love any kind of dancing, but I'll choose swing dancing given the choice.

Megan - I'm enjoying your blog!

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that evolutionary sociobiology explanations are usually a crock of shit, but for some reason I tend to go for them on topics like "what's the reason for dancing". Clearly, the reason for dancing is to show off how good we are at bipedalism. In your face, kangaroos!

It's true that getting started is hard, but that's what alcohol is for.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Megan, which songs are most dancebale? For me, it's womack and womack's teardrops and Marley's Exodus

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mitch -- to get a real load of the crock you were talking about, check out the link in the last post here, where a British guy tries to explain why some men don't like to dance. You'll love it.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Abby said...

While I think I know what Megan is talking about, the discomfort and self-consciousness of dancing that happens when transcendence isn't reached keeps me home almost all the time. Besides, I like dancing best to the music I like, not ``dance music''. Grooving to Puccini and Bach is way cooler!!!

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny post title. Especially given that one of the Texas counterpoints to West Coast swing is called... whip. (Not that I'm in SWWC, I'm HSDS for now.)

The nirvana thing. Hmmm. I think if I ever moved to California I would really cause some fuss, given what happens when you put me in a room with danceable blues and follows.

1:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, I'll just post this for the sake of anyone else like me who happens to come across this discussion.

I really don't enjoy dancing at all, almost all of the time. Sometimes I do it, but I think I get something different out of it to what's described here. When I do it I go crazy, and it's the kind of dancing a lot of people wouldn't call "dancing": I tend to mock the whole dancing thing, I dance like a slapstick silent movie. I do it for the entertainment of others, basically, and it can give me a high but no more than running in circles.

I think that I get the nirvana thing out of music. Playing it. When I hear music at a party which people are dancing to, anything they call "danceable", I get the urge to pull out a sax or a piano or something and make something up. Dancing feels awkward and isn't particulary fun, but improvising is. I think maybe the dance enjoyment is more the enjoyment of expressing something, and the way I do that is playing. I have no desire to dance, the furthest I go is tapping my toe or nodding my head. I love to play, though. For my own benefit, for the attention if there's other people around, and I never want to stop if I'm giving some spontaneous performance. Usually a friend taps me on the shoulder and looks kind of like they wish they didn't know me because it's got old for everyone else.

Just putting it out there.

10:35 PM  

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