Why I Dance

Not Just Because I'm Sauced

"...walking is nimble as dancing: weightless on the ice.

This is not a cock blog. If you're looking for that kind of thing, I would recommend a quick google search for "Tucker Max," a man who has probably had more influence on an entire generation of awkward young men than we will ever care to admit. It is over and against the implicit insights of someone like Tucker Max that I want to write about dancing and debauchery.

Dancing occupies a curious place in our society, or rather, there is a noticeable void where the dancing should be. I mean dancing in the broadest sense of unstructured physical expression of spirit, be it lofty or banal. The best place to examine it is on the ground, on the sticky beer-stained floor, amidst the trampled plastic cups and lost contact lenses.

We live within a civilizational conglomerate built on the conquest of reason over desire. A fundamental element of this is the bundle of rituals we follow to guard against a sensual insurgency. We don't, for the most part, answer every slight with violence. Our love of our own, that kernel within us that pops at the slightest provocation, is kept in check by a calm voice of reason in the form of habit. Part and parcel of this rationalization is the need for constant vigilance, the distrust of our desires and the body that harbours them.

You could say that dancing is caught in the cross-fire of this conflict. As composed as we might seem, to allow for any permanence to this state would be delusional. It would be like rolling out the "Mission Accomplished" banner. At the same time, this reservation and restraint is fairly crude; it allows for little subtlety. There is something about dancing that seems to suggest a loss of control, a giving in. As such, it is an undignified spectacle of indulgence, a frenzy of subversive passions, the very essence of our worst fears.

Where dancing occurs, it is reluctant, and governed by the strictest of codes. These codes have always fascinated me, I never tire of watching them at work. A good time do this is in the half-hour before last call on a Saturday night, at somewhere inexpensive and vaguely generic. There is always the fluctuating non-dancing majority, they stand or sit and watch with seeming disinterest, watering their roots with beer in hand. Then there are the floor-dippers, who will wander onto the dance floor seemingly looking for someone who isn't there only to suddenly take an interest in something by the bar and stalk away quickly with purpose. There are the so-called sharks, men who circle and stare hungrily, the scent of blood all around them. They dart across the dance floor in search of schools to harass, hoping to find a straggler to bump against. Women tend to circle the wagons, careful to watch each other's backs for these scavengers. Indeed it is always safest to assume that the water is thoroughly shark infested.

One of the most striking things about the floor is the sense of silence to it all. Sure, it's loud as hell, but it is often as if everyone maintains an aura of solitude. We dance alone amongst strangers to the point where we act like they aren't real. Any communication can fairly be viewed as intrusion, nothing beyond the most innocent eye contact should suggest some kind of commonality to the experience. This is the essence of justice, everybody minding his own business. The only apparent threat to these orderly inhibitions is intoxication, and insofar as dancing is seen as a necessary ritual, copious self-medication is a necessary precursor to a good night out.

What does it say about us when music is to be enjoyed masochistically, heard and suppressed? An empty dance floor is a sorry sight, as pathetic as the typical crowd at a rock show, sedately tapping feet and checking their phones. Is this why we crave music we can't dance to?

Maybe I'm way off base here. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that dancing is all about performance, an elaborate mating ritual. It could then be said that we imbibe such a discouraging draught of self-effacement in our rearing so as to counter this urge to perform. This leads back to the same source: the war on desire. I would venture though, as incomplete an examination as this is, that there's something we get from dancing that isn't just the success or failure of our apparent intentions. It is the purgative element of a chaotic excess that lies at the heart of the dance. This experience is lost in the gravity of intent, in the suspicion of the watchful crowd. Sometimes dancing can still just be dancing, but only in the briefest moments, the breaking of the mould.