A Haphazard History Of My Dancing Behavior


I don’t know how I felt about dancing before a certain age, maybe high school. As far as I can remember, the only conscious, deliberate dancing I did before high school was headbanging to Nirvana at a couple middle school dances. I didn’t feel uncomfortable with this sort of dancing, as I later would, probably because I was an obnoxious, belligerent little boy who just wanted to show a class of unassuming kids who preferred “California Love” and “My Heart Will Go On” that he was alternative. In around third, fourth and fifth grade, I went to school-sponsored roller rink events during which a DJ would play very loud R&B and 90s hip hop while we skated around in circles, sometimes holding hands with our ‘girlfriends.’ Although I did sort of sway to the music while rollerblading around in circles, I can’t really say that I actually danced at those, though. It’s difficult to recall any memories of being aware of myself as physically engaging with music prior to this time.

But I don’t think I’ve ever been completely comfortable with dancing. In fact I think during the lone period during which I ‘genuinely’ danced – or danced in a deliberate attempt to do it ‘without reserve’ (i.e. Let Loose or Just Give In or like Lose Myself To The Music And Purge My Inner Demons or whatever) – I was, paradoxically, just as (if not the most) uncomfortable and painfully self-aware as I’ve been during other periods of my life during which I occasionally danced.

Regular TC readers may have formed an impression about me as one who’s not innately inclined to dance. They are totally correct. There are many reasons why I’m not one who can just unself-consciously break out in dance, but it seems that all my issues with dancing really boil down to this weird discomfort I have with over-enthusiastic behavior. In fact I think in essence “discomfort with over-enthusiastic behavior” was really the only Inner Demon that I could genuinely be perceived as having Let Loose to embarrassing ’00-era trance, drum n’ bass and breaks during that aforementioned phase in my life where I allowed myself to engage in – or deliberately denied my embarrassment of – dancing in the Just Fuck It/ Lose Your Emo Self In The Music vein.

Of course this whole Inner Demon bullshit that I perceived myself as engaging in was obviously a deliberate buy-in to a cliche. I didn’t have inner demons – I was just growing up in suburbia. I was healthy and safe. I got to have sex sometimes. My parents were good people. If I had inner demons they were like, when am I going to get taller, and, am I ever going to get a blow job. So, you know, acting like I had these Inner Demons to purge or whatever was, as told, basically an inauthentic attempt at assimilating “Person who is deep enough to have inner demons and the only way he knows how to let them out is to DANCE” into my outward-facing persona.

At this point in my life, understanding why I desired such an identity is beyond me. I admit it’s pretty embarrassing, so much that this piece is starting to get hard to write. What’s funny about the whole thing is that when I danced during this period of my life – like, my actual style of dance – I sort of just hopped around and moved my arms in this sort of feminine, gay way. [1] I also grinned a lot, occasionally hooted in affirmation with the music, and definitely had certain (completely unprecedented – and not in a good way) dance moves – e.g. stylized fist pumps, certain movements of my legs, different arm ‘maneuvers’ – that I deliberately performed at random. I showed unseemly amounts of enthusiasm, both in my level of physical energy and my facial expressions, during the parts of songs where a drawn out crescendo would finally climax in a sort of explosion of electronic noises and embarrassingly sappy/ gratuitous melody. All this while secretly, semi-consciously hoping that the reason I was doing this was because I had issues and I just needed to Let Go. If you haven’t guessed, all this took place at raves among large flocks of teens, most of whom were probably going through the same type of identity stuff I was.

But again I think all this behavior was a façade, and what it rested atop was the fact that I was just trying to be someone, but that I didn’t know who that person was, or how to go about being him.

The last time I danced I was inside my apartment as the party reached that point where only the drunk and diehard remain, at around 3 a.m., to Michael Jackson, and maybe Queen, and other seminal ‘70s and ‘80s disco-themed or beat-driven classics. Almost all of us were dancing. I sort of just moved my legs around and ‘bopped’ my upper torso and head in time with the beat. In a sort of helpless manner – because I had no idea what else to do – I moved my arms around in what I honestly felt was an extremely dorky way. I was smiling a lot, and making eye contact with the people around me, all of whom were people I consider friends. Despite my lowered inhibitions due to inebriation, I can definitely recall being not entirely comfortable – always sort of wondering if I was being ok, if this was ok, if what I was doing was ok. I don’t feel embarrassed about that night now, though. I feel like we all had a really good night.

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image – Nuno Duarte