Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fancy Dance Parties

The first time I heard the phrase "dance party," my friend's then-boyfriend was telling the story of how dogs got tails. It was one of those "how the raven stole the sun"-type tales, the details of which I forget, but the words "dance party" leaped out at me. I was in love. I mean, it's an amazing turn of phrase - and I love great word usage - but it also just conjures up the best types of fun.

Back in 2003, my hipster pal Jackie took some of the girls on her residence floor to the Manhattan Club, which sounds like a totally fraudulent establishment - fake, or like one of the places TV teenagers go to engage in underaged drinking with Serious Consequences. It was a real place, filled with mirrors and a DJ that was playing The Rapture. It was hella fun, even without the ability to get a drink at the bar, since we were all seventeen or eighteen: it was just sweaty indie rock dancing. We were already tipsy, which is why, when we woke up the next morning and felt like we had just returned from Oz, we had no idea where the damned place had been. We eventually found it again, but when we returned, it was full of silent old mustachioed Portuguese men and no DJs. Weird.

Later, when we lived in the Annex, we used to go the incredibly cheesy and fun Dance Cave, where we would get to both dance and people watch: dudes in furry hats and PVC trenchcoats abound there. Saturday nights are free for students, and there's nothing quite like getting all liquored up at home and then dancing your face off at an establishment where your feet stick to the floor.

Not that alcohol is a necessary ingredient in the dance marathons. Because I was once a ten year old girl, I took dance lessons. Mandatory, you know? Anyway, I discovered two things: 1) even at ten, I was never going to have a dancer's build - you know, the lithe, lean, bony builds that look really awesome in tulle; and 2) I am not particularly coordinated. I made a pretty terrible dance student. I was no Elaine Benes, of course, but the rigid routines and performances in skintight costumes weren't my bag. Now, in my twenties, I like Nia dancing, with its emphasis on pleasure and movement, not strict regimens of moves or appearances. It also helps that the classes are full of women of all ages, shapes, sizes and dance levels, which can really underscore that whole dancing-for-fun thing.

Like most people, I didn't really publicly get down with my bad self for a number of years. All that changed once booze was introduced to the party scene. Suddenly, my pals and I could frequent the dancing Stratford...which are exactly as glam as you're imagining. But whatever: even though the shots were served in the plastic one-ounce cups that ketchup often comes in, and the music was generic top-40 hip-hop, it was a chance to have some fun. My friend Rachel and I used to dress up in matching chola outfits, split a mickey of vodka and then go to the Sunday night all-ages dance club. No word of a lie: once, we saw a seventeen year old girl wearing overalls strip down to her (white) bra and panties while dancing on the bar. Anyone who claims Stratford is an outpost of culture has never been to Classic's on a Sunday.

Dancing is fun! The chance to sing along, grind up on some strangers, shake your ass, dress up, drink some rum-based beverages, and howl at the moon is an awesome way to blow off some of that pent-up workaday energy. It's the same impulse that drives people to go camping, without the chance of having to interact with quite so many bears. (Unless that's your thing.) It's harmless fun; it's raucous and sexy, physical and sweaty, loud and funny. Communicating through dance moves becomes an art; conversation falls by the wayside as the music gets louder.

I'm not condoning the cheesy club-district dance clubs, where the girls wear kerchiefs as shirts and the guys wear their body weight in cologne. That's a lame scene, with its meat-market vibe and its generally shitty music. I've only been real clubbing a couple times, and it's a drag. A good rule of thumb is, if the venue looks like the back of a rented limousine, it's going to be a rough night. But the chance to dance - be it in a club, a nautical-looking bar, the comfort of your own living room, the street, the prison yard, or the gym - should not be met with a rolled eye and an ironic sigh. Hoist the flag and your drink - I'll see you on the dance floor.

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