June 5, 2011

Will kids in the new Footloose be dancing close-in?

Probably not, judging from this snapshot of a big dance scene, where everyone is isolated and not even making eye-contact with anyone else, facing anyone else, or even particularly close to anyone else. Slow dancing? Even less likely.

Some people must think I'm just making shit up here sometimes about kids these days, but you wouldn't know unless you had the first-hand experience. Just go to a club where it's mostly college students and see how much face-to-face, close-in dancing there is -- especially among people who just met, not those who are already in a steady relationship.

In fact, last week at '80s night a pretty cute girl about 18 or 19 hopped up on stage right next to me when "Like a Prayer" came on, wanting to dance. With my left hand I took her right, and put my right hand on her hip, pulling her in so we were touching. It always takes about 5 solid seconds to even establish basic hand-to-body contact that way because they expect you to put your hands on their hips from behind and let them give you a standing lapdance; anything else is confusing and something they have to figure out. She said, oh so we're like classic dancinggg! and looked nervous to be out of her element, but was still smiling and had her eyes open wide at the novelty of it.

To put her more at ease, I told her that she was pretty good, most girls don't know how to. omigod, i totally don't know how to eitherrr!!! At least she knew to put her free hand on my shoulder. We weren't even doing anything complicated -- just the fact that we were close and facing each other made it a completely foreign experience for her.

That's pretty typical, except for the open admission that it was her first time. And these are not the fat and ugly and awkward girls, who you might expect not to have danced with a boy for real at that age. They're pretty, very outgoing (venturing out to a nightclub must put them in the top 2% for their age group), and eager enough to jump on stage for a dance.

The first dance I went to was in 6th grade, fall of 1992, along with every single other student in that middle school. And that was only one of probably four to six dances we had. We got practice early on dancing with each other as a way to build trust. If you lack the trust to even look each other in the eye and stand close to each other, obviously nothing longer-lasting will ever develop, and you will lack the appreciation that a boy and a girl complete each other in a cosmic sense, as above the everyday observation that some girls are pretty and maybe even fun to hang out with.

By high school (fall of '95), school dances were already dwindling in popularity, and the terrible pop music out at the time did not help. By now they're practically non-existent, except for high-pressure proto-weddings like Homecoming or Prom, complete with Bridezilla meltdowns among the girls. Those less formal and more regular dances that used to be common even into the early '90s took a lot of that pressure off, allowing kids the comfort to grow socially and emotionally. With too little practice, and with a paralyzing high level of stress, you produce college-aged girls who've never really danced with a boy before.

It would be timely to make a female adaptation of The 40 Year-Old Virgin, but since girls would take it too personally instead of laughing, it would probably not sell many tickets (few guys would go see any chick flick).


  1. I'm a couple years older than you and my first dance was in sixth grade, too. It was also the first and last dance where I danced with a boy outside of parties with my husband.

    Lot of memories with that one, feels like such an eighties movie: the most popular, good-looking guy shocked everyone and made a beeline for shy, little me in front of everyone, including the mean girls, and we danced by ourselves in front everyone for an entire song :)

    Then came the ragging by my uber-macho daredevil cousins who were older teens and in their twenties. The gorgeous guy was the kid brother of one of their best buddies! They loved it and ate it up. I normally had little to do with them as their energy and loudness kind of scared me, but for at least a year, I got, "Hey Dahlia, Gorgeous has been talking about you!" or "Gorgeous wants you to be his girlfriends, ha ha ha!"

  2. God, Agnostic, I feel sorry for your generation--they've grown up in a culture that has allowed for no sense of mystery and romance to develop between the sexes.

    The standing lap dance. What an unromantic way for strangers to meet--it's Erica Jong's "Fear of Flying" fantasy come to pass--the "zipless f--k"...for an entire generation.

    I'm a Boomer. The dances of my day were bad enough for lack romance, but at least we slow-danced face to face, and at least when we were in elementary school and junior high, on rainy days, we danced the remnants and some semblance of the jitterbug.

    I used to love to watch the movies set during WWII and listen to the music of the forties and early fifties(my dad had quite an lp collection.) People touched when they fast and slow-danced, and dancing was really a partnership, a coupling.

    That dancing has deteriorated into nothing more than meat-market prodding and grinding is very depressing for a whole of reasons.

    It could be the music, you know. After all, in my day, the rapid deterioration of dancing came with the Stones. Now, don't get me wrong. I liked a lot of the Stones' music, as much as the next person, I suppose. But dancing to "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" demands a different style than dancing to "In the Mood."

    Ballads? God, no ballads of the 60s pop into my head although I know there were some, but it says a lot that nothing comes to mind the way "I'll be Seeing You" or "Stardust" or "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"(from a bit later) do.

    Sad. I like romance and mystery, and I believe so too do men, and crotch-to-butt on first meeting holds no mystery. Just meat on the hoof for both.

  3. "the most popular, good-looking guy shocked everyone and made a beeline for shy, little me in front of everyone, including the mean girls, and we danced by ourselves in front everyone for an entire song :)"

    You set me up to expect an ending like the prom scene in Carrie!

  4. "the "zipless f--k"...for an entire generation."

    Heh, don't be fooled. What are the chances that a girl is going to allow more-or-less anonymous sex with someone she just met without even facing him, making eye-contact, or placing her hands on his body? Zero.

    I think the rise of the grinding / standing lapdance reflects the plummeting of promiscuity in that it's a perfect psychological defense for the girl. Without making even basic interpersonal contact, there's no way she will even kiss the guy, let alone do anything further.

    It's her way of having a little fun, but building in a negative feedback loop. Facing each other, moving in closer, staring longer into each other's eyes -- that's a positive feedback loop! Who knows where those two will end up at the end of the night.

    No slow-dancing songs after "Satisfaction" ruined things? "When a Man Loves a Woman," "Reach Out and I'll Be There," "Happy Together," "Daydream Believer," "Crimson and Clover"... those are just the ones that hit #1 during the rest of the 1960s. You'd know better than I would, though.

    All that changed during the later part of the '70s and throughout the '80s and even somewhat in the early '90s, though. It was hard to turn on the radio and *not* hear a ballad meant to bring a boy and a girl closer on the dance floor.

    Would you believe that in 1987 a cover version of "I Think We're Alone Now" hit #1 and was a hit at teen dances? It wasn't as bubblegum rock as the Tommy James and the Shondells version, which sounds just a bit whiney or angry, whereas the cover sounds more abandoned and welcoming.

    Also that year was "Hungry Eyes" from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack... along with probably a hundred others. That was the heyday of just-let-go slow-dance songs, which was just getting underway in the 1960s.

    That dissolving of self-consciousness is one thing I don't pick up from slow-dance scenes from the big band era, '40s, or most of the '50s, although things were starting to give way by the time "Earth Angel" came out.

  5. "You set me up to expect an ending like the prom scene in Carrie!"

    Hey, it was 1990 and not the late '70s, what did you expect, LOL!

    I find lower promiscuity a very good thing. That being said, I found the musicians of the nineties and the whole scene to just be gross and obscene. Lollapalooza? Yuck! I'll take Billy Idol over some naked hottie covered with a sock.
    At least we got "Linger" by the Cranberries.

  6. Don't get me wrong, I love hippies! But those neo-hippies were just so obscene, whiny, and vain. The 60's guys were extremely happy! Mom and I used to talk about this all the time when I was in high school. My tolerance of effeminate men is much higher than yours, probably. I love long hair, a gracile body, and even the way Shannon Coon moves in the "No Rain" video, yet, I still hate the 90s guys. The rest of that video and others is gross.


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