I have a nasty little habit of walking into bougie East Village bars or large gatherings of NYU students (I feel conflicted about calling them parties), having a drink and then leaning over to a friend to say, “this place is too American/white.” What I mean is, regardless of the predominant nationality in the place, everyone is standing around, screaming over the loud and possibly very good music, trying endlessly to talk and talk and talk to each other. And let’s be honest here, situations like this tend to happen mostly with white people.
A guy will come up to us and crack a joke about my t-shirt, and I’ll smile nicely, because I’m a nice person, and he will inevitably take this as an invitation to keep going. He’ll ask me how I ended up at this party, where I live, what I do and he’ll buy me a drink. And the next thing you know, I’m nodding a lot while scanning the crowd, desperate for a 90-degree escape to another person, because I just can’t hear him and at this point, we’ve already lost too much between us to go back. The only way to go is out but some variation of the following hellhole always ensues:
He says: “I live in Midtown, just moved here from Minneapolis to become an account manager at McGarryBowen. What do you do?”
I hear: “’I see you drivin’ ‘round town with the girl I love…’” Wait, they’re playing ‘Fuck You’? It’s not even midnight! Shit, bartender, hurry up with my beer.
I see: I turn and look at him, looking at me with anticipation and a slightly creepy smile, which informs me that he just asked me something and, fuck, I’m expected to answer.
So I scream: “WHAT DID YOU SAY?”
He says: “What do you do?”
I hear: “Woud eksl wketo akla?”
I think: What an asshole, talking in a normal tone of voice and not even extending the courtesy of leaning in and screaming into my ear. I still have no idea what he said. Where are my friends? Is something wrong with my hearing? Why can he hear me?
So I say: “Oh, I live downtown, we know the DJ!”
He thinks: Huh? What does that have to do with anything?
He says: …Look, I’m sorry but I’m not sorry, but I have no idea what he says. But he definitely is saying something.
I think: What kind of fucking friends do I have, who would leave me here all alone with this guy, when I’m itching to bust a move?
I see: The bartender hands me my beer. His lizard-like lips are moving again…seriously, are you really still talking?
I say: “Do you want to dance?”
He says: “I don’t dance.”
I say: “I’m going to find my friends.
He says: “What?”
I shout: “FRIENDS! MINE!” As I scurry away, head already banging.
When I go out, there are only three things I want to do: drink, get laid and dance. And dancing is the most important on this list. I always, always want to dance, because there’s something wonderful about expressing how much I love my friends when we’re jumping around to Arcade Fire or how much I am down to take you home when I’m grinding to “You Can Do It,” a kind of something that words just cannot convey. I lose interest in someone as soon as they say, “I don’t dance”, because to me, it conveys a denial of an act that is intrinsically human, something that babies know how to do, and don’t think I didn’t catch your fingers tapping out this beat. If you can tap out a beat, you can dance.
I want to dance because I want to relax, I want to shed the week of sitting in front of a computer by feeling the motion of my arms, my legs, my fingers, my hips. I want to sway to a gentle beat, the melody drifting from my heart out to the tips of my fingers, and pretend as if I’m swimming in a deep blue ocean. I want to laugh at my friends and have them laugh at me, as we experiment with ridiculous, ridiculous dance moves that make us look as if we’re the Geico cavemen. I want to complete a spin, in perfect rhythm, and slide quickly into the next move, the exhilaration of the combination lingering in my center. I want to hit the break, punch the air, stomp my feet, whip my hair, pop my ass and feel the body that I’ve been blessed with.
“I can’t dance” is one thing. “I don’t dance” is just unacceptable.
Dancing is about not giving a fuck. My favorite person to dance with is one of my best friends, not because he’s the best, but actually because he’s one of the worst, technically. He’s goofy, sometimes stiff, sometimes weird, but goddamn, he will get down on the dance floor and whenever we go out together, people start dancing around us, because if we’re already embarrassing ourselves, what do you have to lose by dancing next to us?
Dancing is like everything else, if you’re going to do it, do it with confidence, complete that move with conviction. Dancing is visceral, full of emotion, of energy, of life. Stop talking, stop listening and starting feeling. Stop wanting to show off the move you came up with at home and finding excuses not to and just show it off. Stop trying to deny the rhythms that move you, stop trying to hide your insecurities with dancing by shouting niceties over the noise and just let go and boogie. There’s are countless reasons humans dance but the most important is that it expresses euphoria in the most honest, purest way we know, when “Dog Days Are Over” or “The Way You Make Me Feel” comes on and you can’t stop moving your limbs because you’re so goddamned happy you decided to come out tonight. It’s dancing that reminds me that, not only am I at this party, but man, I am here and I am really at this party. Simply put, it reminds me not that I’m alive, but rather, I live.
For me, I will dance anywhere, anytime, white NYU gathering or not. I’ll put my iPod in and dance until everyone is dancing with me or until everyone is staring at me and I understand if this isn’t for you. But don’t hold me back with your words when you see my leg twitching because in the battle between talking to you, Stranger, or dancing on my own…I will always choose to dance.
So, dance on.