I dance like a fool. There is nothing subdued or clandestine about my dancing. It is a go-for-broke kind of thing. A happy-to-be-alive and proud-to-be-able-to-move kind of Lost Get Back Boogie of a dance. My wife usually moves a few feet away from me when my dancing breaks out as if I’m having seizures or doing St. Vitus’ Dance, a dancing plague that broke out sometimes in Europe in the late Middle Ages where groups of people danced erratically, sometimes thousands at a time. My feet are going in a crazy fashion. Pointing is sometimes involved. Lots of motion. My wife calls it my Snoopy Dance.
It’s genetic, this dancing disease. My son Avery broke out into a similar dance-to-end-all-dances when he was younger. At a Shindig-On-The-Green in Asheville, there was a breakout of his dancing. During any Bele Chere musical performance, Avery was apt to cut loose and cut a rug. He rushed the stage at a Wiggles Concert once, squirming free from my arms to get up on stage and get down. I nearly had to tackle him to control his enthusiasm when Captain Feather Sword appeared waving his giant ridiculous feather around.
The Wiggles were huge in Australia, but they were a brand new phenomenon back when I interviewed the Yellow Shirted Wiggle for the Citizen-Times before they were to appear in town in a concert. An Aussie reporter for the newspaper tried to describe how big they were. “Like the Beatles for Toddlers,” she said. “Their Mashed Potato song is a classic.” I nodded like I understood or appreciated that. But I really had no idea. “Good on ya, mate” she said cheerily, before going back to her desk and speaking more Australian gibberish in a koala bear accent all of us simply adored.
Avery continued to dance like a maniac in Florence, Alabama. At an outdoor music festival along the Tennessee River at something I recall vaguely as “Redneckapalooza,” Avery was in his prime, cutting a rug at every opportunity. Avery had some charming sayings in those days. One of them was, “Only if you say so.” I hugged my wife. We were freshly arrived from Asheville and unsure of this new landscape and these Alabama people. “Are we having fun yet?” I asked. The sun was baking us. Country music was blaring at us. The Rebel Flag was flying early and often on T-shirts and official festival gear. We weren’t quite sure what to make of all of it. “Only if you say so,” she responded.
When I worked at a group home in Wilmington, North Carolina I went with my group of six guys and two other co-workers to a day program. We’d make crafts, play games and learn simple things there. But the best thing we did was dance. I made a whole dance CD filled with KC and the Sunshine Band and Donna Summer and whatnot. Our dances were epic and beautiful to behold. I left nothing behind on the dance floor, shaking everything I had with participants and staff members. I would leave panting and sweating and happy as a small child on Christmas morning just glad to be alive. When Dance Party was on the agenda, I was first in line to get down.
Somewhere along the way, my little dancing son stopped doing his dances. He’s 15 years old now. I doubt he’s danced in a decade. Something subdued him. Contained him. I hate that. I like to see him dancing. It’s not pretty. Or coordinated. It’s just a flat-out celebration of life. A primal performance in a commitment to music that knows no bounds. I feel this kind of dancing should be encouraged. We need more of it in our lives. It may not help us fit in, but it’s good for the soul to witness and the key to our salvation.
On the subway in New York City where we live now, my wife and I watched a woman getting down a bit. The music was happening well across the tracks, but she was undaunted by that. She was shaking her moneymaker. It was beautiful to witness. I tried not to stare. But I had to look. I sent her silent encouragement in my mind as I encourage everyone who feels the spirit and can’t stop the music.
You go girl. Do your dance.