The politics of dancing (poorly)

There’s an army on the dance floor; fashion with a gun, my love… – Psychedelic Furs


Wide overhead shot –

A dark gymnasium, intermittently illuminated by a single white strobe light, which casts shadows across the walls only to quickly return them to darkness. The goateed, ponytailed dj wipes the 12” vinyl extend-a-mix of Spandau Ballet’s “True,” against his Hawaiian shirt. It will soon drown out the expletive laden chant that oddly accompanied Billy Idol’s “Mony Mony.”

Dj- I’m gonna slow it down now, so find that special someone…

Not since the Civil War, has a piece of turf so succinctly separated two masses of people like a high school dance. The boys on one side, busy putting chokeholds and half nelsons on each other to appear macho and compensate for not having the nads to cross the “trench.” And, of course, the girls parading back and forth to the washrooms more than a tweaker looking to score some coke. The boys, however, only elected to go to the washroom when the slow songs started, to provide an excuse as to why they weren’t dirty dancing. Unlike Baby, anybody could put the average guy in the corner at a dance.

I’m not too proud to report that I, too, had difficulty navigating across the minefield. Of course, I had my own inherent problems. Being tall, made you visible to everyone. I never had the luxury of being stealthily cloaked and camouflaged within a group of similar size people. My height always gave me away and made me clearly visible. So much so, that at the mall parents would tell their children to use me as a beacon if they became separated from their parents. If you get lost, meet us at the base of the tall guy with the DEP gelled, symmetrically faded hairdo… Therefore, I had to widen my stance and drop my groove from a lower vantage point. I don’t want to oversell it. The reality is, my deck shoes would routinely slide out from under me and point my knees in a parallel position like a relay runner awaiting the passing of the baton. My arms were no better as they would merely flail in front of me like a blind man swatting at a moth. I tried to compensate for this by biting my lower lip and making soothing, contorted faces – like the music was talking to me and I understood it. Standing in the dark? That could be your last mistake. Even starting to dance posed a problem for me. Some people have the innate ability to evolve into a solid gold dancer before they hit the dance floor. Me, I would tightly walk to the dance floor with all the reverence of a pallbearer and then there would be that incredibly awkward moment where I would make the conscious decision to begin dancing. Slow dancing was comparably easy, although it occurred for me with the same regularity as an equinox. Assuming the requisite lock-kneed stance, you just penguin walked clockwise and won them over with your Harlequin inspired dialogue. So, you having fun tonight? Yeah? Cool. If you were lucky enough to quaff some fermented wine from a mason jar in the parking lot before the dance, maybe this was your big chance to try singing some lyrics in her ear. I once sang “Beth” in my prom date’s ear and to this day, I cringe every time I hear it. Fortunately, her memory is hazy, because her face was pressed up against my collar, which, only hours earlier had been saturated by half a bottle of Polo cologne.

Typically, though, after hours of working up your courage, the opening riffs of “Stairway to Heaven” would indicate the night was almost over. That was when you would run to the payphone and give your parents a heads up call that it was time to pick you up. And the most important instructions – pick me up out back, please don’t wear your robe, and bring the ‘good’ car! There, you’d survived the night without making a complete ass out of yourself, but buck up, I have great news! There’s another one in six weeks, and for this one you get to rent a used sweat stained tux!

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