Monday, March 12, 2012
COLUMN: Do the Shane!
If you READ my column last week, you'll know I'm lying and it was really about how hard it is for an uncoordinated nerd like me to act natural at a dance club. This is a particularly painful awkwardness for me, given that I spend every weekend in dance clubs moonlighting as a DJ. But after years and years of mixing records and trying my absolute best to keep dancefloors packed, being in that awkward environment is second nature these days. Still, sitting down last week and writing a column about it led me to a revelation that I'd never really contemplated before:
Dancing is weird.
No offense to any of you aspiring black swans out there, but dancing really IS fairly abnormal behavior. Is it a natural impulse that just occurs when we hear a good tune? I mean, I like cheeseburgers, but you don't see me doing the hokey pokey every time I cruise past a drive-thru.
Clearly, shaking a tailfeather has to be lodged into our DNA somewhere. Hence: weird. No other species has the propensity for doing the hustle. I, for one, would rethink being a cat-owner the minute my feline houseguests busted out with Lambada: The Forbidden Dance. But just like a cat is born with the knowledge to lick itself clean, we humans must be born with an inherent yearning to do the macarena.
Every so many years, we seem to stumble upon a previously uncontacted tribe of people living contentedly in the dark rainforests of someplace-or-other -- and even though these folks have never been touched by modern society (but don't you worry - we'll get them iPhones and have them playing Angry Birds before nightfall,) the one thing our cultures invariably end up having in common is a penchant for banging on drums and dancing the night away.
So let's say we are a species hardwired to boogie and genetically predisposed to watching D-list celebrities do the tango in fruity costumes on TV every week. The question then must become: WHY? Is it a primal appreciation of the human form? A bio-mechanical response to music? Or is it our version of peacocking in an effort to attract the opposite sex?
Any way you look at it, it's bad news for an uncoordinated, two-left-footed klutz like me. If you must know, I'm not immune to performing the occasional Shane Shuffle when a good tune comes on - but my booty only shakes under the prerequisite conditions of an empty house with blinds drawn and nary even a cat in sight (they JUDGE, I swear it.) My version of dance probably looks more seizure than sexy. Besides, I'm a chubby guy, and the only place for chubby dancing is if you're going "Numa Numa" on Youtube.
In a way, I lucked out. My formative teen years were spent in the 80's -- the one decade that required NO dancing ability. You didn't need rhythm to dance to Devo -- as long as you could pogo up and down, you were good (bonus points if you could mime a whip crack.)
As the 80s moved on, so did me and my friends -- into the world of goth, industrial, and alternative dance music. Here, too, was a collective of people and music that didn't so much care how you danced as long as you looked the part.
You danced to goth rock by staring downwards, swaying about like an addled zombie, and looking really, really depressed -- for YOU were one of the smart ones. You knew that the only human beings who understood the real anguish and pain of life were you, your friends, and Robert Smith of The Cure. It didn't matter how you danced, because dancing was meaningless because life was meaningless. THIS I could handle.
You danced to industrial and electronic music by stepping and flailing your arms like a slightly ticked-off robot. Why? Because the jocks with their Bon Jovi and their shopping malls didn't understand the unbridled aggression, anger, power, and raw sexuality pouring from your muscle-less frame. This was mostly due to four nerds from Basildon who realized that if they started wearing leather pants and singing vaguely controversial songs about underage deviant nookie, they'd certainly gain a following of underage deviant FANS. Thus begat Depeche Mode. Sample vaguely controversial lyric: "Pain, will you return it? I'll say it again. Pain." And any band with an accent posh enough to rhyme "pain" with "again" was inherently cooler than anything on the radio. THIS I could handle.
Nowadays, though, it's an entirely different game -- and frankily, I'm happy to be too old to play it.
The modern dancefloor is a complicated beast requiring far more skill and coordination than yesteryear. You need moves and you need soul. If that's not challenging enough, now there are entire dances you need to learn. Some are kinda cool (the Jerk), some are less cool (the Dougie), some don't appear to make any sense whatsoever (the Cat Daddy,) and some are just downright goofy-lookin' (the John Wall.) All are too complex for my motor skills.
There's one bit of good news, though. I've discovered someone else with dance moves as bad as mine: Cahron "JayAre" Childs, the most talented rapper in Cali Swag District, the trio originally responsible for the Dougie dance craze. Go to Youtube and look up a video called "Cali Swag Teaches You How To Dougie." In it, the group shows off the Dougie dance steps -- except JayAre, who stands awkwardly to the right and looks like he's sweating bullets just figuring out how to sway to the beat. THIS is what I would look on the modern dance floor.
JayAre's got it figured out, though. His verse on "Teach Me How To Dougie" starts like this: "Back of the party, I don't really like to boogie, I'm just trying to get bent and meet a thick redbone," which of course translates to "I might be a good rapper but I can't dance to save my life, ergo I'll just do my best to look cool and steal your girlfriend while you're showing off your lame moves, dude." JayAre's my new uncoordinated hero - a guy who can't dance who made millions off a song teaching people how to dance. My next mission is clear: "Do The Shane." I just need to invent some moves and hire some people who can, well, do them. Who's in?