Dancing Like A Crazy Man

We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.
–Japanese Proverb

When I first started to dance, it was square-dancing in high school, and I hated it.

american-square-danceDo si do with the old right hand and swing your partner ’round and ’round…. It was part of the P.E. (Physical Education) curriculum at that time in the 1960s. Mr. Goodchild, the P.E. teacher, seemed to smile an evil smile at his cohort of pimply awkward boys and intrigued girls as he tried to get some semblance of order and timing out of us. His expression, I think back now, was probably more of a rueful bemusement at this annual parade of bumbling, recalcitrant teenagers.

Secret wishes

On my part, it was mostly about shyness and embarrassment. I was very shy around the opposite sex all through high school, having grown up with only brothers and neighbourhood male comrades. I had secret wishes for attention from at least certain girls, I recall, but if such ever came my way I tended to run in the opposite direction. It was kind of sad, really….

HS danceBy Grade 12 and graduation, though, and on into university, I slowly eased into trying to shake it up a bit on the dance floor. Earlier in the decade the Twist had reached the height of popularity. There was “jive dancing”, which in our teenage circles at least meant a kind of swinging couple dance with twirls and turns to an early rock beat.

Do the Mashed Potato

Of course, just as I was struggling to emerge from the bonds of shyness, there were all those wonderfully silly 60s dance crazes like the Frug, the Mashed Potato, the Watusi, the Pony, the Swim, the Loco-Motion and many others.  And then there’s Chubby Checker’s the Fly! How can anyone forget that one….  They make me grin to think of them. And after looking them up on You-Tube, the Pony especially makes me laugh out loud.

(If you would like to dance the Hitchhike, for instance, follow these directions. “The dance is extremely simple and is based on the hitchhiker’s gesture: waving the stuck out thumb. The classical Motown pattern is three times right thumb to the right over the shoulder, clap hands, three times left thumb to the left over the shoulder, clap hands. All this is accompanied by the shimmy body ripples popular at these times.” (Wikipedia))

MUSIC shag dancingMost of them, though, were a little before I got to dancing much, but they seemed to accomplish a liberation of people’s movements and ideas about what was acceptable as dancing. For starters, you didn’t have to actually touch your partner — this in itself was rather revolutionary.

Of course many couples danced the Twist or the Hitchhike together; but it became perfectly acceptable to dance any damn way you wanted out there on the floor, and even all by yourself, if you were really that antisocial in a communal sort of way.

Metaphysical dancing

I came to love getting out on the dance floor, with a date and often friends too, admittedly sometimes after taking in a variety of intoxicants, to jump around and entertain each other, and when the rocking beat became really intense, we might travel to another realm entirely, of sweat and movement and rhythm that might never stop. It bordered on the metaphysical, as a friend of mine once claimed.

zulu warrior danceIt felt something like a Zulu warrior stomping up a storm, or a native shaman whirling around greeting the spirits, or a raindancer changing the weather. Dancing felt that strong and essential and mysteriously satisfying.

Of course, I don’t go out much to dance wildly anymore, being a staid married man of 60 and all that. But I’ve been known to turn up the stereo louder than I should with a favorite song and bop around the house. I have no particular interest, to my wife’s chagrin, in ballroom dancing or other formal modes. But I like to think I have a certain animalistic grace in my leaping about, although I may be as deluded as Elaine with her head-popping grotesquerie on Seinfeld.

Top-Secret Dance Off

I got to thinking about all this after running across the Top Secret Dance Off site, a project of Jane McGonigal, a games researcher interested in alternate reality games. It’s well worth taking in what she’s trying to do with it. As the home page says:

Dance off“Welcome to the underground world of dance quests and dance-offs. Discover new dance battlegrounds and develop your top secret Choreopowers! ”

They have projects like video recording yourself dancing across a crosswalk any place you like. You have to wear a mask of course. That’s the top-secret part of it….

Such things as music and dancing keep us sane by letting out a little of the wildness that we are. Then we can go on with the more mundane.



Sources for images, from top down:

Squaredance from http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/american-square-dance/american-square-dance%20-%200257.htm

Teen dance from http://winniecooper.net/2010/02/classic/

Couple dancing from http://eujacksonville.com/story2.php?storyid=589

Zulu dancer from http://www.fotothing.com/clangers/photo/b9ddaff4102ae449f524487e09f45c22/

Secret dancer from http://www.flickr.com/photos/fraying/3317580021/in/photostream/
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3 Comments on “Dancing Like A Crazy Man”

  1. Well, that sure brought back a flood of memories.
    Thanks for thinking it through in a post. I enjoyed it very much in a cerebral kind of way, as my new appreciation of mobility, which I struggle to maintain, barely allows me to do otherwise.

    I danced down memory lane of high school grad formals and after-parties, hippie versions of “raves”, chaperoning loud high school dances once I became a teacher, and then one night in France, a chicken-dance at a harvest festival in a medieval small town of Provence.

    There’s a Latin dance craze – tango, salsa, and many other forms – going on in my community these days amongst the adult population. It’s good to see people up and shaking themselves about. I have no idea what the kids are doing, having no young folk in my family circle these days.. But I’m sure they are finding new forms.

    Dance is a necessity to humankind. Like art. Like music.

  2. fencer Says:

    Hi lookingforbeauty (K),

    Sorry to hear you might be slowing down a bit physically… but keeping imaginatively fit is the main thing, as you allude to.

    Salsa does seem to be having its time now, in the Greater Vancouver area anyway…. they have those sessions in downtown Vancouver at Robson Square.

    Thanks for stopping by!


  3. fencer Says:

    Hi lookingforbeauty,

    I forgot to ask about the chicken-dance in Provence! There must be a story there….


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