The great Whitney Houston put it best when she said, “the sun begins to fade / still enough time to figure out / how to chase these blues away… I want to dance”. But, does anyone else want to? Attend any house party in the Inner West and you will hear, for the most part, a resounding “NO”.
People don’t really like to dance. At least, not in public. No doubt there are many who dance alone at home, and power to them. What distresses me though, is the lack of people who join me enthusiastically on the dance floor at parties.
It seems these days the only time people are willing to dance in public, or admit their love of dancing, is once they’ve got some manner of drug in their system. Which is fine, drugs are good and fun – but why are people so reluctant to freely admit and embrace the urge to dance?
Instead of dancing, most people prefer congregating in small groups; chatting amongst them- selves rather than losing all inhibition on the dance floor – AKA the Location of Infinite Possibilities.
My own love of dancing is multi-faceted. Not only does dancing illuminate the ability of the body to do things we didn’t think possible, but it also just feels fucking GREAT.
My fascination with dance and movement not only feeds a love of the act of dancing, but an obsession with watching dance; dance battle videos, dance movies, dance concerts, dance choreography, Dance Moms and everyone’s absolute favourite – Beyoncé concerts. I started dancing when I was three years old with Britney Spears as my inspiration and haven’t stopped since. When I asked my mother if I was as enthusiastic a dancer as I remember, she said, “Oh, yes! You loved moving your little toosh. You were as sassy then as you are now. The main reason you stopped was because I didn’t like the outfits they were putting you in,” which says a lot not only about my enduring love of dance but also about my mother’s victim-blaming tendencies.
My love of dancing is also rooted in my love of the music that makes me want to dance. I’m sure my compulsive consumption of music videos as a child further compounded this link between music and dance. I owe my life to black women and women of colour in music for the way they have made music that not only uplifts, but bangs. They are the most marginalised in society and yet make the most consistent music in terms of quality and danceability, I’m talking: Rihanna, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Ciara, Cassie, Destiny’s Child, Brandy, Aaliyah, The Pussy Cat Dolls, Fifth Harmony, the list goes on. My only criticism of their videos comes when directors see it necessary to cut to shots that disrupt the dance sequence.
And yet, I seem to be largely alone in this love. I am yet to attend a party where I am dancing away and not have someone insinuate my enthusiasm is a result of high levels of intoxication. The scarcity of opportunities to dance doesn’t help the matter. My love of dancing is the main reason I attend par- ties theses days. It’s a sad fact that as one ascends into adulthood, opportunities to dance – particularly in spaces where you don’t face near-constant threat of being sexually harassed – begin to considerably dwindle. You’ve got clubs (which aren’t for everyone) or parties (which are viewed more as opportunities to catch-up with friends rather than as explicit opportunities to dance).
For the most part, I believe it is the stigma attached to being “bad” at dancing – or even the belief that a “bad” way to dance exists – that largely feeds people’s anxiety about dancing in public. My take: if you aren’t invading anyone’s personal space or breaching their boundaries, chances are you’re doing just fine.
The fact that dancing can also constitute a mechanism for attracting people can further inhibit people from dancing: if you’re not confident in your ability, or the person you like isn’t into dancing, you probably won’t be joining the dance floor anytime soon. Dancing as a “sexy” endeavour also prevents the carefree dancers from enjoying ourselves. Women who dance are assumed to be dancing to look good and to attract someone, you’re assumed to be an object for the consumption of the non-dancing partygoers and even more so when dancing isn’t the norm at the party in question.
Unfortunately, this idea of dancing as a way to attract was also largely born out of music videos. It’s hard to deny the attraction of the dancers in any hip-hop or pop video. However, because of the way dancers (mostly women) are usually positioned as objects rather than autonomous agents, we get left with the notion that dance must accommodate the male gaze. The result: only those who can meet this artificial standard take to the dance floor and this is nothing but harmful to dancing’s ability to bring everyone happiness. Ironically, more often than not the effort to look good dancing just results in you looking more like a fuckwit than Beyoncé.
Don’t get me wrong; dancing to attract or be attractive isn’t a bad thing, nor is dancing in a sexual way. But what happened to dancing for the sake of dancing? These days the act of dancing is too often tied to the perceptions others hold and it’s gotten to the point where I’m the only one on the dance-floor, begging you to join me. Disrupt the construction of the dancer, emancipate the floor and just dance.