I can't dance. Oof, that was hard to admit.
After many years of deluding myself, I need to admit that I am a terrible dancer. Sure, I've been told that I was really tearing it up by well-meaning but probably embellishing friends. Sure, onlookers never stood, mouth agape, in abject horror. Sure, no one has ever intervened, grabbed me by the shoulders, shook me and shouted, "Stop, just stop!" But after careful consideration, I realize that I've been committing crimes against rhythm.
I can handle the basics. I can do a simple shuffle-finger-snap move. I can bob about and swing my arms at a 45-degree angle. And being a marching band veteran, I can tap my foot to the rhythm reasonably well. But it seems that unless I'm on a football field wearing spats, I am unable to move in rhythm. And it's not even so much a lack of rhythm, but the lack of any moves, or the ability to think of new ones. My internal dance move generator is busted.
I wasn't always punching the memory of Gene Kelly in the face with my feet. There were times that I could actually think of things to do with my feet and arms that didn't look like seizures. Dancing was so much simpler when I was goth. It required only that you look into a mirror and mimic washing your face, pulling a rope, or picking up change off the floor. And there was so much fog machine smoke that no one could see what you're doing anyway. At least I had the illusion that I could dance, even if I was dressed like an idiot.
The sad, sad truth came to light this summer. A friend was having a birthday at a local cafe, which was marked with DJ sets (and flaming brownies). Friends of ours took turns spinning great tunes, and it was roughly three hours of straight grooving. However, there was an unfair advantage - not only was I accompanied by a new friend who was arguably the slickest marathon dancer many of us had ever seen, but there were also professionally trained dancers and a flippin' ballerina. Talk about a stacked deck. The dance floor looked like if Elaine from "Seinfeld" joined the Fly Girls. My stamina was admirable, but as I saw the moves that my fellow dancers were breaking out, I realized my arsenal of moves was weak at best.
After that, I really started to notice what I was doing with my body whenever music would come on. Turns out my legs would just kinda shuffle around aimlessly, and my arms would just flop about, uninspired. I have my moments, to be sure. Sometimes the song provides a cue to do something cool, perhaps with stomping drums or interesting noises. Sometimes a song even helps you by tossing instructions into the lyrics. And Michael Jackson songs come with built-in dances we've all been doing since grade school. But a simple uhn-ch-uhn-ch-uhn-ch dance beat leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
Of course, being too self-aware about dancing increased the awkwardness tenfold. It's hard to look cool when you're scanning the room, looking for moves to steal that don't require yoga before attempting them. I couldn't just get lost in the beat when I was mentally criticizing every move I was making. The more I worried about it, the deeper I dug my dance hole.
But that's the thing - dancing isn't really about precision or thinking. You're best when you just let go, get into the groove (quoth Madonna). Overthinking it is not the key. Having fun is the important part - if you're having a good time, it translates to the dance floor (for some more than others). And I had a good time at every dance party I attended this summer. Even if I looked like someone tased a squirrel.