Let me tell you about my fantasy: I’m walking down the streets of Soho, kick-ball-changing, shuffle-ball-stepping to the totally chasé-able chorus of ABBA’s “Voulez Vous” I have bumping from my iPod headphones. Just as I bend down to pick up a fully-loaded iTunes gift certificate, Leigh Lezark from the MisShapes, Zooey Deschanel and Chloe Sevigny (three ladies I think look cool all the time) stop me on the street and invite me to what they refer to as THE dance party.
“But she can’t go wearing that!” shrieks Zooey, whipping out a grab bag filled to the brim with hot numbers from Marc Jacobs, 3.1lim and other lines that H&M likes to knock off. “Wait! You forgot the finishing touch!” Chloe says, whimsically pulling a pair of ruby-encrusted Nike Terminators off the backs of two equally ruby encrusted land dolphins who have just swam through the air to the corner of Prince and Elizabeth. I slip them on my feet, gasping, “They’re just my size!” Just as Zooey starts to respond, “Of course they are! This is your fantasy and you’re writing this right—” Leigh interrupts her, shouting, “Quick! To the teleporter!” We step into the frozen goods aisle of the nearest bodega, pull open the door with the Lean Cuisines inside, and everything goes black.
When I open my eyes, I’m inside a set of gates that read Emerald Cit-tay in neon, standing in the middle of a room complete with luminescent green ceilings, walls and floors like some Ian Schrager hotel gone wild. Suddenly, a voice booms over the microphone, “Are you ready to dance?” An invisible DJ scratches his record not once, not twice, but three times, letting the opening moments of “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson do the talking.
As the song begins to play, the craziest corps-de-ballet I’ve ever seen enters, dancing with wild abandon and wearing crazy carnivale masks. It’s the most reckless dancing of my life, so naturally I don’t notice when the clock strikes five in the morning. The scene disintegrates, and I wake up on my Tempur-Pedic, the beats of Timbaland, old school Puff Daddy and the Family, and various Euro fare refraining in my ears. But wait! I’m clutching a pair of red sparkley shoes! It wasn’t a dream after all!
At one point in the movie “Dazed and Confused,” the nerd played by Anthony Rapp asks the nerd played by Adam Golberg, “So you’re not gonna go to law school? What do you want to do then?” and in a moment of Linklaterian perfection, Golberg responds desperately and earnestly, “I wanna dance!”
I kept coming back to this line this summer, mostly because I watched every episode of “So You Think You Can Dance?” multiple times, but also because, well, when it comes down to it, the one thing I almost always want to do is dance. It doesn’t matter where I am or what time of day it is. During a particularly jubilatory Shaw’s run the other day, I found myself in the vitamins aisle dancing in front of the Gingko Biloba to the warbled R&B jams of Breezy-Nostalgia FM.
I’m not referring to easy dances like the Bunny Hop or The Hokey Pokey. Nor do I mean choreographed routines, like those you might find at a Danceworks show, packed with popping and locking, dropping it like it’s hot, and backing it up. And I certainly don’t mean the kind of dancing that happens when the ubiquitous Umbrella-ella-ella starts to play at Toad’s.
I don’t mean to suggest I frown upon or shun the sort of moves that elicit lines like, “Wanna come back to my room? My twin bed isn’t the only thing that’s extra long.” In fact, I think every doctor would do well to prescribe a low dose of that kind of social interaction. What I’m looking for is a more therapeutic release from the daily (weekendly?) bump and grind — an alternative to the Saturday night trek to Toads.
Where can I find the sweat-soaked hair and clothes kind of dancing, the kind of dancing that starts at your feet and radiates up through your whole body until you’re in a trance? It’s the kind of dancing that doesn’t leave you scanning the room self-consciously, but rather the kind that necessitates a full-body immersion that makes “freaking” impossible. It’s such an elusive experience, one that is difficult enough to find at all, let alone within the confines of the Ivy League. Only twice in my life have I ever experienced this kind of raucous movement: at a !!! (ChkChkChk) concert, and at a Daft Punk concert. I would suggest, however, that there’s more than just techno and dance rock that allows this kind of cathartic rocking out.
In high school, I did a bunch of improvised dance – yes, of the “you’re a beautiful tree! Now you’re trepidation!” variety — so of course my instinct is to dance like nobody’s watching, as the inspirational poster quote goes. I really think everyone has something to gain from this kind of moving. It’s like going to therapy, but instead of a doctor asking, “And how does that make you feel?” you can express it through motion. It’s a tremendous psychological and physical release.
But I’m not delusional – I know most people at Yale wouldn’t go for something so “hippie” or whatever the appropriate adjective might be. Yet I do think it can be achieved at dance parties. So is it really so much to ask that every once in a while we drop all inhibitions and just shake what our mothers gave us, no matter how silly it looks? Who wants to join me in starting a dance (dance) revolution?
Celeste Ballard wishes she could turn off the lights and turn the Daft Punk up to 11.