Lord Of The Dance


Recently my roommate stuck his head into my room and said:

“Hey, Truman! Want to play Dance Central?”

Dance Central is a game for the XBox 360 which utilizes the Kinect motion controller so that you can dance around in your living room like an idiot in order to score points in a video game.

“Um.” I said, not fully understanding the question – was this a goof of some sort? Maybe, I reasoned, he just hadn’t given me all the details. “Wait – are there girls here or something?”

“Nah, man! I just want to play some Dance Central! C’mon, it’ll be fun!”

“Wow. You really think that, don’t you?” I said, almost more fascinated than anything else.

“Huh? What do you mean?”

I shook my head. “Look, I guess what I mean is, no thanks. I’d rather not play Dance Central.”

“C’mon, man! Why not?”

It’s a testament, I think, to how many different and interesting types of people there are in the world that I had to actually give a specific reason for why I didn’t want to do the Soulja Boy dance in the living room on a Thursday night when there’s a whole YouTube full of Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes to watch.

“Well, uh, to be frank, I don’t dance. As a matter of principal.”

“Dude, seriously? Dancing’s the bomb! It’s how you get chicks!” He adopted a more serious tone. “You know, maybe the reason you don’t bring girls home when we go out is because you don’t dance.”

“Yeah.” I said, staring at the Battlestar Galactica poster on my wall. “That’s probably it. Me not dancing. That is the only reasonable answer.”

“Yeah, man! Now c’mon! Let’s play Dance Central!”

I shook my head. “Sorry, man. Not going to happen.”

“Not even one game? Nobody’s going to see you, man. You don’t have to be embarrassed.”

I’d see me. And I would have to be embarrassed.”

Now he shook his head. “Alright, you win. But you’ve gotta come out of your shell sometime, man.”

With that, he closed the door, and five minutes later I heard a Ke$ha song playing and the telltale thumping of my roommate flinging himself around the living room per the XBox’s instructions.

I think there’s a significant difference between being in your shell and simply knowing that you don’t fucking want to do something. It’s not like I secretly fantasize about dancing. When I close my eyes, I don’t see myself at the center of the dance floor surrounded by cheering clubgoers, moving as one with the music. I don’t have a copy of Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights hidden under my mattress. Dancing is just something I’m not interested in doing.

I mean, don’t get me wrong – I have a healthy respect for dance as an art form or recreational activity while drunk or sober. I just inherently don’t want to do it with literally every fiber of my being – whenever I find myself in the general vicinity of a dance floor, I can practically feel my muscles locking up, just to ensure that I don’t make any casual motions that could even be mistakenly interpreted as dancing. This is true at nightclubs, it’s true at weddings, and it was true at the Hieronymous Bosch-brand nightmare that was my senior prom.

Is that close minded, to not do things that you’re sure don’t want to do? I know it’s important to have new experiences, but I feel like going to a nightclub and dancing is going to be a bad new experience, and I’ve been trying to have fewer of those (with mixed results.) I mean, say somebody offered me crystal meth and I turned it down, because I don’t want to be a meth addict. Would he tell me I had to come out of my shell, too?

Looking back, it sounds like I was comparing dancing to drug abuse, and that might have been blowing things out of proportion a little bit. Meth is bad for everybody; dancing is not. Dancing is more like V-neck shirts – they work great for a lot of other people, but not for me.

The other night, I was at a jazz club with a couple of friends and a funk band was playing. Halfway through their set, right before they took a break, they played a snappy cover of ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ by Average White Band that more or less brought the house down – beautiful hipsters flooded the dance floor to cut a collective rug, eyes closed, all smiles, looking for all the world like a bunch of suave young people having the time of their lives.

One positively gorgeous girl who probably loved The Smiths was dancing with her boyfriend not too far away from me – subtlety shaking her ass for him, occasionally drawing her hands up her thighs to raise the hem of her dress ever-so-slightly, looking over her shoulder at him and batting her eyes while running a hand through her long auburn hair. He twirled her around and they shared a long kiss, bodies still moving against one another in time with the song for the last few measures. When the song ended, the couple promptly left to have what was probably the best sex any two people have ever had.

Ten minutes later, the band was back and the dance floor was empty. As they got into an original upbeat instrumental, a lanky, awkward looking guy in an XKCD T-shirt, perhaps energized by the reaction to the previous song, jumped up and started dancing, alone on the small dance floor.

Right away you could tell this guy didn’t have any dance training or experience – he was just letting the music flow through him, completely uninhibited by any social constraints whatsoever, and so naturally he looked like a guy on a bad drug trip having a seizure. Periodically he’d dance his way over to women at the edges of the dance floor to try and entice them to join him, and they’d politely ignore him for as long as it took, and then he’d dance his way back out alone and resume his agonizingly public social suicide, arms swinging and hips thrusting the whole way, essentially holding the dance floor hostage until he finally sat down

That’s the kind of dancing I’d do, and that’s the kind of reaction I’d get. This guy wasn’t dancing out of love or passion for rhythm; he was dancing because for years people had been telling him that it would make him cool, and he’d finally gotten drunk and desperate enough to give it a try. If that’s what it looks like to come out of your shell, I’m perfectly happy in here, thanks.

Truman Capps wants to star in a Dirty Dancing spinoff about a guy who stands by the bar and makes fun of all the people dancing.