Oh that Culture of Ours….

You will never see church people clamoring at the door of a club to get in. You just won’t see it. There are different people trying to get in there. Yet, that’s exactly what happened in a dream I had the other night. In it, I was supposed to meet up with some friends at this club that seemed to cater exclusively to church-going folk. Everybody there was dressed up like they just came from service and the bouncers were eye-balling people to make sure they didn’t cause trouble rather than checking to make sure you were “dressed to impress.” The dance floor was a wonderful thing; I wish you could have seen it. Everybody was gettin’ down and having a grand old time. There was nothing sleazy about it and even the shadier dance moves were done playfully. It was truly a Utopia of dance clubs. I woke up that morning with such a grand epiphany. You know the one I’m talking about. It comes with that euphoria right before your sleepy wears off and you still expect to wake up with all that money you dreamed you won in the lotto. I thought to myself: I should start a club called “From Church” and cater to the type of clientele from my dream. I would make so much money and people would have so much fun there. Then reality set in and I realized I was living in America; the country established by the Protestants that Europe didn’t want.

There are several reasons why my club won’t work and all of them are based on American culture. They are related to image, mentality, and most importantly, dancing. Let’s face it, many Americans are trendy and shallow creatures. Most of the people that are in the “hottest” clubs don’t go there to dance. They go to drink and make an appearance in their best clothes. It’s a way to show off and appeal to everyone else’s shallow nature. There are always pictures of famous people walking into clubs or having a mosoltov at the bar in magazines but you rarely see pictures of those same people genuinely having a good time by dancing. On the side of celebrities, this is a good move though. Aside from the fact that dancing makes you sweaty (heaven forbid); people here assume that there is nothing less than sexual intention behind other people’s dance moves. Celebrities have enough trouble with gossip as it is but why should it matter? The blame can go in several directions.

As a dancer myself, I can tell you that the vast majority of people in the world don’t dance very well. It is an art form lost in the modernization of humankind. These days there are many other ways to impress the opposite sex and being a successful human being doesn’t leave much time to work on how to groove to your favorite Beyonce song when the only time you hear it is in the car. This is not to say that people don’t know how to dance, all I’m saying is that for some people their dance skills are a bit exaggerated in their own mind.

Example: shaking your butt = not impressive. Get over it, we did that centuries ago, I have no idea why its taboo now. However, shaking your butt and then dropping it like it’s hot on rhythm = not too shabby. Not the greatest thing in the world, but it has a bit more merit.

For women, there are many role models to choose from in popular media when trying to imitate dance. You can try to dance like Beyonce or Britney Spears or Ciara or (sigh) even the rap video girls. And while rap video girls might not be the best “sexual-intention free” role models, their dance moves are relatively simple to do. This is especially helpful for women that don’t dance very well. For men, the dance pool for male role models isn’t very deep. There is no such thing as a mediocre male dancer on tv or music videos. Rappers don’t dance, they stunt; so that doesn’t help. If you are anything less than an Usher or Justin Timberlake, you are probably on America’s funniest home videos. Men usually get the short end of the stick on this one. So while women can dance with each other in straight clubs, men must resort to fist pumping. Some guys, though, through experience have learned the art of the grind by dancing with other women who know it. The grind is sexual by nature but also very easy to do. This is why so much of it happens in clubs even when there is no sexual intention behind it. This dance form is also the reason that many people are not comfortable dancing in clubs. Think about it: if people can’t grind playfully, it will always be taboo no matter what the situation.

So whatever happened to the evolution of dance? Why is the rest of the world so ahead of America socially? Well, when the rest of the world started to think outside of the box in terms of how to dance with other people, Americans shunned it. The conservatives came out of the woodwork during the early 1900s to talk about the dangers of jazz and liquor. Adults stopped having fun and tried to pass it on to their kids. Dancing was a waste of time, dancing too close was a sin, and alcohol (the social lubricant of a few thousand years) was the nectar of the devil himself. Think we got over it? People still view most dancing as sexual.

Example: A dance colleague of mine was given a solo this year that was an embodiment of a strong older woman remembering her days of youth and love and vibrancy. It was a dance that had a hard mix of African and contemporary movement along with some attitude and a crazy hair-do. The piece was entitled “Josephine.” In it, there were a few moments in the dance where she would take her hips around or maybe throw her dress around a bit. After one of the performances, we had an open discussion with the audience to address questions about choreography. One audience member asked why her particular piece had such strong sexual messages in the movement. She was, of course, referring to the hip movement. It had to be explained to her that those movements traditionally are meant as a way for a woman to be a woman and show off a little bit. There is no sexual connotation to it. It was just an old woman trying to say “yeah I used to be awesome like that. You don’t know about that.”

Thinking about all these things brought me back down to reality that morning. It would have been a great club but it seems that the world isn’t ready for one like it. And America definitely isn’t ready for one like it. It’s a shame too. I would have really enjoyed getting rich and famous for that.