About Dancing

A while back the New Yorker magazine – as The Curmudgeon has said in the past, you really should read the New Yorker – invited writers to describe things they’d like to see uninvented.  One wrote about mirrors, another about the written Chinese alphabet; one would uninvent fiction, another high heels, and another the conference call.

And one wrote about he would uninvent dancing.

The Curmudgeon especially liked that one.

The Curmudgeon has written about his antipathy toward dancing before; find it here. He knows he’s not alone in his unwillingness to take to the floor but still, it was heartening to see someone so publicly explain the wherefores and the whys.  The following are excerpts from the piece, which was written by Charlie Brooker.  Actually, it’s most of the piece, minus only the parts in which the author describes his own gracelessness.  The Curmudgeon does not believe that particular problem is at all a factor in his own unwillingness to dance.  He is a graceful person, a virtual Baryshnikov.

Dancing. Ban dancing. Break its legs and bury it. And don’t make me do it. Don’t make me dance. Jesus, the indignity. I’d sooner defecate on live TV than dance at your wedding.


I vaguely remember my first visit to a night club; must’ve been around 1988. I was seventeen and sober; the music was shockingly loud and my limbs had no idea what was expected of them. I tried to join in, but it was immediately clear that this was a physical language I was never going to grasp. A hundred years later and nothing has changed. People who dance voluntarily are unknowably alien to me. I don’t relate.


Oh, what’s that? Dance like no one’s watching? Imbecile. You fucking imbecile. I’m watching, even when I close my eyes. Watching and judging. My brain won’t wander away. It stands there with its arms folded, loudly asking me what the fuck me thinks it’s doing.

So you, at the party. Stop trying to make me dance. Cajoling. Bullying. Grabbing my arm and jerking me toward the dance floor. Do you want me to start crying? Sobbing in front of you? Is that what you want? How come this tyranny is socially acceptable?

I know the theory. They repeat it over and over: Hey, Grumpybones, just get on the dance floor. You’ll enjoy it once you’re on it.

I won’t. I’ll shift from foot to foot with the lumpen gracelessness of a deck chair unexpectedly granted the power of motion, worrying about what to do with my elbows and screaming in silence at the inside of my own face. You’ll enjoy yourself. I will not.

 I know you’re worried about looking stupid, but, honestly, no one cares.

 Thanks for the pep talk but I already look stupid. Sitting rigid at the periphery of the wedding, like an exile—I care about that.

Look! There’s even a guy in his seventies up there—terrible dancer, but by Christ he looks happy.

 And I’d settle for that. I would. But it’s not going to happen. So go now. Leave me here to die.

 Off they slink, radiating pity. And then they dance till four in the morning, guffawing like ancient kings. They’re lucky.

 Society judges the dance-averse harshly. As party poopers. Sticks in the mud. Cowards. It doesn’t help that dancing is widely portrayed as the most life-affirming thing a human body can do short of giving birth. I know you haven’t sat through a TV ad in two years, but did you realize that ninety-five per cent of all commercials now depict overweight people dancing for comic effect?

 Things are worse at the movies. C.G.I. animation is a wonderful thing, but, on the downside, it makes convincing dance moves comparatively simple to create. In 1967, Disney’s “Jungle Book” animators had to painstakingly craft the “I Wan’na Be Like You” routine by hand. These days, they synch their animation software with a Spotify account, hold down the function key, and count to five while it shits out an end-credits sequence in which a trio of lovable gophers triumphantly shake their rumps to “La Bamba.” I’d rather see a cartoon end with the Zapruder footage. At least then the kids would leave the auditorium in silence.

And not one of them would be dancing. Victory. 


Bonus points to Mr. Brooker for invoking Jungle Book; The Curmudgeon loves that movie and especially the “I Wanna Be Like You” routine (and “Bear Necessities,” too).  For now, he will stick to the one and only one song to which he dances with Mrs. Curmudgeon – dances very slowly, barely moving, because, well, because… you just read why.

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  • Peaches Shimmerdeep  On October 28, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    Hmmm. I love to dance. I can just feel the music. It feels easy. But when I see people who hate it, I can see that for them it is foreign. Too much thinking about dancing impedes dancing. So God bless.

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