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Big-T & the Bada-Bings

 
 

Beatin' The Chops:
Just Dance, Dammit

by Big Rude Jake

A few years back, the irascible Lenny Lounge, a New Jersey swing promoter, booked my band to do a show in South Amboy, opening for the fabulous jump combo "Bim Bam Baby." It was a great night that attracted swing kids and hepcats from as far away as New York City. After our set, I settled into a tall glass of brown ale and sat back to dig the happy vibe that enveloped the club. As usual, there was a hefty contingent of dancers present, cutting a mean rug on a crowded floor. One guy, in particular, really knew how to move, and his personal style was so magnetic, I found it hard to take my eyes off of him. I wasn’t the only one. Eventually, everyone in the room had their attention fixed on this slick Joe, until all the dancers made a circle around him and he boogied in the middle, trading off with a long line of fawning young ladies eager to have one turn as his partner. This fella stole the show. I was impressed.

Mind you, this guy didn’t dance like an Olympic gymnast; what made him attractive was not the pyrotechnic complexity of his moves, but his smooth, confident grace, his gentle attentiveness for every partner, and a cool demeanor that made every move look as effortless as an afternoon nap. This is what dancing ought to be: a sublime courtship ritual and a splendid celebration of life and living.

Alas, most of us guys are not so gifted. In fact, a lot of us are pretty awful (myself included, to which our esteemed editor will readily attest). But what’s far worse is that there are still so many men out there who won’t even try to dance. This is a terrible pity, because, as I have finally come to discover, dance has so much to offer. It might sound nutty, but I think that dancing makes the world a better place. What’s more, I think that we men have an obligation to take a stand against wallflowerism. I’m serious! Learn to dance and you will see the quality of life improve all around you. (I say "we men" because I don’t have to tell the women that dancing is important. They know all too well what a difference a dance makes, which is why you often see women begging their men to take them dancing, or to take a few lessons, or why they eventually give up on the guys altogether and start dancing with each other.)

What do women know about dancing that guys don’t? For starters, women know that action speaks louder than words, and the way you approach the dance floor says more about you as a potential mate/lover/companion than anything you might discuss over cocktails. Dancing reveals how comfortable you are, how considerate you are, how passionate, how creative, attentive, clever, and, mostly, how serious you are about her. Your every virtue and shortcoming are revealed in your feet. Keep in mind, you don’t have to be the greatest dancer in the club for her to get the message, or for her to be impressed—this is dancing, not weight lifting. In fact, you are fooling yourself if you think that you can cover up any personality flaws with a bit of fancy foot work. The more you dance, the more of yourself is revealed.

But maybe revealing yourself is precisely what you’re afraid of, in which case, you might as well stop reading now and tuck this article away until you grow up a bit. For the rest of you clubfooted he-men, read on, as I have compiled a list of some basic rules concerning what every one of us should know about shaking a leg.

1. Remember, Dis Ain’t Broadway

For the most part, women want to be attended to while you dance with them. If you dance to put on a show for the rest of the room, you are probably neglecting your partner and she will realize it before you do. Dancing is a way for a man to make a woman feel great. When you take her on the floor, do what you must to make her look great and feel special. Use her as a prop to impress someone else and she’ll dump you like newspaper that lines the birdcage.

2. Get The Message

Women are constantly sending signals out to their partners. Many of these are, of course, utterly incomprehensible to us guys, but the language of dance is a lot simpler than that of everyday life, so pay attention and you can save yourself a lot of grief and maybe even earn a few brownie points. For example, if, after a dance, your partner says, "I’d love to dance again," she means it. If she simply thanks you in a blandly polite manner, find another partner. She’s just not interested, and all the badgering in the world won’t change her mind. You had your chance a bat, but now you better change ballfields. There is no shame in this. Also, if she is obviously with another guy, there is no harm in asking for a dance, but introduce yourself to that guy and make sure he’s not the jealous type. Even if she is eager, you could be asking for a lot of trouble if you take that dame for a spin. As a corollary, when dancing with someone else’s date, lay off the Romeo shtick.                

3. Don’t Be Afraid To Learn

Are you the kind of guy who refuses to look at road maps or assembly instructions? Sorry, friend, but that attitude won’t cut it on the dance floor. Most guys, myself included, find dance lessons to be a painfully embarrassing endeavor. You stand in a room full of strangers while shlepping like a klutz through the unfamiliar world of dance. Being afraid to look silly, most men will never even try to learn—which already ranks you, Mr. Absolute Beginner, above most others. Don’t let your pride stand in the way of learning. Experience tells me that most women appreciate the effort, even if you are a bit of a spaz. And if the girl you’ve got your eye on doesn’t, then to hell with her. You don’t need a woman like that in your life, anyway.

4. Be Considerate, For Crying Out Loud!

This is a dance, not some competition. Start out slow and easy and let her show you what she knows. Don’t try to out-dance her, or dance above her level. Don’t try to be a big shot and correct her on her moves. If she wants to learn from you, she will let you know. Also, be considerate to other couples. The practice of crashing into one another is the bane of the dance scene and somebody’s got to put a stop to it. If you want to rumble, take it outside, you greasy hoods!

That’s it for starters. Begin here and anything else you need to know will eventually reveal itself to you, as will the rewards. It’s time to get out there, guys, and get busy. Do yourself and the women in your life a favor. Swing dancing will make a man feel like a million bucks even if it doesn’t always get you laid, and it will make the ladies in your life appreciate you a lot more. Social interaction on the dance floor is a stimulating and pleasurable end in itself, which is no doubt the true origin of that old adage: "Dance is the vertical expression of horizontal desire."

This article appeared in the Winter 2000 issue of ATOMIC Magazine.

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