“I'm watchin' Sis
I can do that,
I can do that.’" - Edward Kleban
So says Mike, a character in the Broadway musical, “A Chorus Line”. He tells his story of watching his sister go to dance class, and thinking “I can do that”. Which of course is what he does. His sister bows out of dance class one day, and he takes her place. And thus, a dancer is born.
I was thinking of this the other day as I was planning my dance party. I am turning 60 in a few weeks, and I want to dance, in fact, I want everyone in attendance to dance in celebration of this big milestone.
When I invite my friends, the response can be divided into two very distinct groups. Some of the recipients respond, “Oh, I love to dance!” But, sadly, most of my inhibited group tell me, “Well, I’ll come, but I don’t dance.” When I tell them that this is in fact a dance party, they mumble that they’ll will try to come, which is code for “no”. When it comes to dance, it appears there is no middle ground, as in, “I don’t have much experience dancing, but it will be fun to try.” Nope, you’re either a dancer or you are not.
I can usually tell upon approach which camp a friend will fall in. It’s not hard: white, middle age, and probably Lutheran, or some other comparable category; those are the ones who do not dance.
So, before I allow the “nondancers” to pronounce that they will not in fact be dancing, I say, “Wait! I have hired a teacher! She will teach you.” Still, that is not enough.
It seems that dancing is just too vulnerable an act. There is nothing we do in public that more demonstrates to everyone that we are not graceful, except perhaps Karaoke, but that is done within the confines of a well-stocked bar. I mean, we can sketch, sing in the shower, and write in our journals, but no one needs to know about it, and certainly nobody gets to see it.
Nothing screams “clod” or “I am an embarrassment” more than someone dancing wildly, a la Elaine in Seinfeld. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DY_DF2Af3LM
A few years ago, I decided I wanted to dance. Coming from the self-conscious, “please don’t let me be embarrassed” camp, I was excited to find a line dance class. When I first found it, I knew I had struck gold: I could dance, but not free form (a la Elaine), just following directions. You do exactly what the teacher tells you to do. If a person is “feeling it” he/she can add some flair. This is Soul Line dance. We do not do country line dance, no, this is more stylish dance to the likes of Pharrell and Tina Jackson, and a whole lot of people I have never heard of.
Last week, I sent a video to my friend, Nancy, who “does not dance”, but who had at least expressed a willingness to try, albeit somewhat nervously. It was a video of our group dancing to “The Birthday Slide”. Nancy watched it, and replied via e-mail, “I can do that!”, which seemed to express some surprise and even some delight on her part! All of which made me think of Mike in the play saying, “Hell, I can do that!”.
The thing is, she can do that, and barring physical disability, we all can do that. And for those of us who are way too inhibited to display our bodily movements for all to see, line dancing is the perfect solution. We dance, but we do what everyone else is doing – no standing out in the crowd for us! We get permission to move, to feel the beat, to have fun. And if we make fools of ourselves, we can blame the instructor, or ourselves, but only because we got the step wrong, not because we expressed ourselves in an embarrassing way.
So, trust me, when I say you can dance. You can. We can.
Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0U8ZbqlCdk