Thursday, December 16, 2010

I could have danced all night

My friend K and I went to see Burlesque last night. Despite the fact the Christina Aguilera is about as believable as the fresh-faced, naïve ingénue from Iowa as Cher herself would be, it was spectacular. Now, you don’t go to a movie like this expecting a plot without holes or Oscar-worthy method acting a la Natalie Portman. You go because you want to see gratuitously flashy dance sequences and contrived plots about girls with dead mothers (always with the dead mothers in these movies!) chasing their big campy dreams and ending up with guys who look like this. You go because you already know from the Devil Wears Prada exactly how much fun gay Stanley Tucci is. You go because Cher.
These movies are good in the bad way, bad in the good way and I LOVE them all. Center Stage, Save the Last Dance, Step Up (1,2 and 3) and my perennial favorite Dirty Dancing, which takes the form to its highest art.  These films know their audience and they play to it. We want a relatable heroine and an improbably hot male lead with a sensitive side, preferably who rides a motorcycle. We want any conflicts resolved with a dance-off and maybe some oh-snap one-liners and some hair-pulling.
Partly I just love these films because like all of those orphaned girls from the wrong side of the tracks who have suspiciously shiny hair for being so impoverished, secretly I just want to dance.
I never took dance lessons a kid, I was too busy with tennis when I was a teenager and since I was the kind of little girl who refused to wear dresses and had scabbed knees most of the time, I wasn’t exactly a natural fit for something like ballet class. But I do have several dance related items on my list (#7—learn tango, #9—compete a dance competition, #26—take a belly-dancing class) because in my adult life I’ve come to love dance: it’s been  my go-to in hard times and in new towns.
When I first moved to New York I didn’t know anyone who lived there, not one person. I was as lonely and miserable as I could imagine being for the first six months. Things finally turned around for me when I was temping as a receptionist in a financial office and met a lovely girl named Gina who, when she wasn’t working in the office, ran a salsa studio. I started taking classes almost daily and at last I had something to do, somewhere to meet people. And it was just. So. Much. Fun. When I moved back to Seattle late last year, the first thing I did was find out where and when the good salsa nights went on.
There’s something amazing about knowing a dance and meeting other strangers who know it too; it creates an instant feeling of community and belonging. One of the things I love about the salsa scene is the sheer diversity of the people who do it; on any given night there are people of every race, every age and every socio-economic background imaginable on the floor. You learn quickly not to judge on looks—that sleek looking hottie might be a total beginner who will wrench your arm on turns and that 68 year old bus driver from Ecuador who is 5’3 might be the best dance you have all night. Dance can be a great equalizer that way; when you’re out there on the floor, it really is all about your moves.  Just like in the movies.
Are you a wallflower or the last one to leave when the band packs up?


  1. Totally a Wallflower here. Though I secretly want to be the Jennifer Grey-
    Those movies are guilty pleasures for me as well! Throw in Chicago and do I dare say out loud (*whisper*...Bring it on...) and I've got my girlie entertainment for the weekend!)

  2. I love to dance, but I do it at home. I rarely go anywhere where dancing is appropriate. The occasional breaking out in steps in the middle of the Target laundry detergent aisle draws funny looks.

    I did push my daughter in to dance at the age of 3 and she stuck with it right through her freshman year of college. Now she's changed majors, but trying to fit dance in wherever she can. I hope she never stops dancing. It's become a large part of who she is and I'd hate to see her lose that.

  3. When I was in my early twenties, country music hit a hot streak. Everyone went to the dance halls, even guys who were clearly out of their element and only showed up to pick up women. I bought a pair of red cowboy boots and wore them with everything; I bought a dress from Victoria's Secret that twirled. My friends and I used to spend all night at the dance hall and leave at dawn to wolf down greasy eggs and hot coffee before we had to go home to change and get to work. I met my first husband on the dance floor and fell in love because of that slick under-the-arm spin he'd perfected.

    I only dance around the kitchen these days. I've gotten self-conscious in the years between then and now, and I've lost my taste for country music.

    Except when I hear my favorite song on the radio. If no one is home, the birds outside my window are treated to some booty-shaking and the occasional Risky Business sock slide across the kitchen.

  4. we dance nearly once a day in our house. my daughter is a huge abba fan and it's pretty much impossible to listen to abba's greatest hits without getting down. i can't wait til she's a bit older so that i can share muriel's wedding with her. she's going to love it.

    i'm the last one to leave. tonight i bought my mom's christmas gift: two nose-bleed seats for the kid rock concert in february. (this will be the THIRD time i've seen kid rock in the past 5 years.)