“So You Think You Can’t Dance?” Part 1: Why We Don’t Dance

 

In this second decade of creative reality TV shows it seems competitive singing and dancing shows have the most viewers. The shows that gather the most viewers are the openers and finales, for good reason. We seem to love watching true talent as much as and those who just think they are get up and totally embarrass themselves. The ‘better you than me’ emotion is alive and well in humanity. One such show is called, “So You Think You Can Dance?” The name alone suggests that there are a lot of would-be-dancers that will soon get a dose of harsh reality before the nation. Ouch.

We have a family wedding coming up and two family members are actually taking dancing lessons as fun couples activity and to make a good showing at the reception. Weddings are often when dancing ability shines; nearly every recorded culture has some sort of dance to celebrate the joyous occasion. At mine, my younger brother (then a teenager) danced with every woman over 50. It was a hoot to watch women who haven’t been dipped in a year shakin’ their groove thangs. They had a blast because my brother wouldn’t take no for an answer. From uncomfortable shoes to not knowing how, there is no end to the excuses as to why people can’t or won’t dance. I’ve seen people miss out on life’s fun and celebrations because of their excuses; I think a few of them need to be addressed.

1. The physical lack of ability. Although the excuse “I can’t dance” usually means “I can’t dance well”, there are many who are physically incapable of certain movements. However, I remember one Army ball where a soldier’s date was his wheelchair-bound daughter. At about age 11, she was dressed in a gown with hair and make-up done for a special night. He wheeled her around the dance floor, spinning her and danced holding her hands. By her smile it was easy to see that despite her physical limitations, she was dancing.

2. Insufficient ability: The “I can’t dance well” excuse. Although there are cute posters that encourage us to ‘dance like no one’s watching’, the fact is that most of the time people are watching. Sometimes the people who are the most confident in their abilities really shouldn’t be. When someone face-plants doing the Worm we all cringe hope the DJ will have mercy and immediately play Thriller or the Cotton Eyed-Joe before someone uploads a video onto Youtube. Maybe that’s why so many songs instruct dance moves. (Two steps to the left, two steps to the right, clap your hands, lean back, dip baby dip, shake it like a Polaroid picture). Society as a whole finds it embarrassing to watch people try to dance unsuccessfully; hence why every few years there is a corporate dance craze that even the most uncoordinated among us can do. (Square dancing? The Twist? YMCA? Stayin’ Alive? Electric slide? The Chicken Dance? Macarena? Gangman Style?) No wonder the Go-Gos were so excited that they ‘got the beat’. Those who have it should not take it for granted… not that a lack of dance prowess should prevent a good boogie. Some of the best moves I’ve ever witnessed were spotted the next car over at a red-light. Missing out on the dance because you may mess up is a good way to build up regrets.

3. Personality/Straight-out refusal  There are some extremely introverted people who just can’t bring themselves to bust a move; dance floors and podiums terrify them. I do know a few people like this and they have other outlets for their joy. For the most part when someone refuses to dance it is an attitude issue. They simply don’t want to dance with the person asking or “don’t dance unless they hear some music”. Pride and arrogance leads them to sit when we stupid joiners enjoy some ridiculous-looking frivolity. Yes, the Chicken Dance is really a corporate scheme to incite full submission and Colonel Sanders is our leader. Your pride has saved you from the micro-chipping that comes after the Macarena by sitting it out. Good job.

4. Religion or other convictions Okay, I’ll be the first to roll my eyes at the no-dancing-Baptists. Let’s do it collectively. I believe in finding a healthy balance but after chaperoning a few dances I absolutely was the teacher who tore apart gyrating students and told them to make room for Jesus. They’d separate by about 3 inches, at which point I separated them by two outstretched arms’ length and say, “Jesus died on a cross!” Memories of chaperoning prom still haunt me. A student turned and started freak dancing at me like a demon-possessed Night of the Roxbury. I froze and yelled, “I’m a TEACHER!”  That night I was ready to join the Southern Baptist Convention and seal it with a 9 x13 of banana pudding. (Shudder)

My view may be a bit warped: I was on the dance team at a private Baptist high school (irony?) but I believe that Ecclesiastes (and The Byrds) were right: there is ‘a time to dance’. In high school I encountered a college student who was a victim of “No-dancing-Baptist” upbringing.  He had NEVER danced, had to write a letter for permission to dance with his cousin at her own wedding, and couldn’t clap on a beat to save his life. We tried VERY hard to help him, but it was a real-life Footloose and he more than 6 degrees from Kevin Bacon. When I asked what he did to celebrate when he was happy and he just stared at me blankly. (Yeah, you couldn’t Funky Chicken your way out of and end-zone and I’m the nut? Okay then.) It wasn’t the lack of dancing experience that was tragic–it was the sense that joy had never filled him so fully that he had to shout, sing, dance, or generally share it with the world that was so sad. To each their own conviction, but I’d say we often restrict things that God does not.

5. Others There are certainly times where busting a move is inappropriate, but there are those who simply won’t dance because of embarrassment and the criticism of others. The first episodes of dancing-based reality shows are based on a nation criticizing and laughing at those lacking exceptional dancing skills. This is nothing new; a loved one criticizing dance moves is even the Old Testament with King David. After being so filled with joy that he danced around and did a little Spirit-filled-streaking, his wife was less that pleased. Not that I blame her initial reaction; dancing naked before the Lord is one thing, but dancing naked in front of the neighbors can get you arrested. David gave her a royal, “Don’t tell me my business, Devil Woman!” and refused to contain his joy and thankfulness to his God. David didn’t dance wildly every day, but when God did mighty things that were beyond David’s expectations he demonstrated his thankfulness with all of his might. His wife was worried about people’s opinions; David was concerned with God’s opinion.

6. Being out of touch with your inner happy dancer.  An overflow of joy often draws out ‘happy dances’, joyful jumping, and yelling. I’ve seen “I was accepted into college!” or “We’re having a baby!” dances that could put any NFL receiver to shame. Motivated by hormones and a strong crush, even the shyest middle schooler will un-velcro from the wall and do a Frankenstein-rock to a slow power ballad. Sometimes getting out there and risking looking like a dancing fool is all in the motivation.  If you can’t find something in life to celebrate, something is wrong. There is always something worthy of a happy dance.

So you think you can’t dance? I beg to differ. You may not be Lord of the Dance, but anyone can throw up their hands, jump for joy, and do the ‘white man’s overbite’. Are you missing out on the good things of life because of the celebration? Have you used some of these excuses? My friends, get up and dance.

 

 

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