Act Your Age… Dancing to the Music of the 70s, 80s, and 90s

First appeared on Retirement News Weekly, Issue 31

I hate dancing.

Correction: I hate dancing without a partner.

Certainly one can find joy in dancing with someone you love. And surely one can appreciate dancing with someone you’ve just met. But for a man, dancing alone is akin to giving a speech in English to thirty drunken strangers when all you can speak is Mandarin. Despite this, I still go “dancing” and it’s a testament to just how much I enjoy the company of my friends and how eager I am to get out of my apartment on a Saturday night. This week, like many before, I was invited to attend Retro Night at the Paragon Theatre. This local club plays music from the past four decades once a month. Of course, I was going to go with only slight trepidation.

Wearing a Ghostbusters T-shirt and a hoodie, the closest thing I have to retro clothing, I headed to the Paragon around 11. The frigid air cut through my thin sweater as I climbed in the cab with the troop of girls coming with me. The line at the club’s entrance was short and after having our IDs checked at the door, we entered the main lobby. Once in the bar, I got a beer as the girl’s rushed to the dance floor. I in no way encourage indulging in social lubrication, but when it comes to dancing having a beer in hand doesn’t hurt. I could see the girls on the floor having a ball. After another swig, I headed to the dance floor.

When I’m uncomfortable in a situation I begin to study my surroundings like a scientist. Thus, on the dance floor with dozens of my peers grinding and jumping to retro music, I sought direction through observation. I searched the crowd looking for any man who seemed to know what he was doing in hopes that I could mimic his actions. What I’ve come to realize is that while women seem to dance with purpose and joy, men dance like they’ve just soiled themselves and hope no ones looking. One arm up, one arm down, awkwardly looking around… or maybe that’s just me.

Through these observations, I’ve narrowed down what men do on the dance floor to five moves. They include:

#1) The Sway, when a man stands on the dance floor, usually holding a beer or drink, and sways side to side.

#2) The Cool Guy Nod, when a man leans against a table, bar, or post and just nods his head to music.

#3) The DJ, when a man pumps his fist in the air or air plays an imaginary turntable.

#4) The Grind, when a man finds a woman, stands behind her, puts his hands on her hips, and wiggles… in a way that doesn’t look incredible silly. This one often gets more graphic, but that’s the tame version.

And #5) Wild Abandonment, when a man just wants to dance and with wild abandon throws himself into his moves.

Without fail, there’s at least one of these on every dance floor. I spotted him early on that night. He kind of looked like a young Patrick Swayze in a flowery t-shirt with three too many buttons undone. With little inhibition and a lot of hip thrusting, he danced alone while people watched with dropped jaws. The occasional girl tried to engage him for the sake of humor, mockery, or an interesting story.

Personally, I tend to go with the sway. Far from cool, but as I feel awkward already, it tends to bring the least amount of attention my way. I find myself incredibly conscious of the degree of my sway. Am I swaying too much? Do I look like the hand on a grandfather clock? Maybe I’m not swaying enough. What if I look like I’m just standing there? The easiest thing a guy can do with a group of girls he knows is prevent unwanted guys from joining in. It gives you something to do. So in between my sways, I’d spot the girl’s trying to thwart unwanted advances and stand between them and the violator.

As the night progressed, the dance floor got more and more crowded so that my degree of sway became less of an issue. I could barely move. Being a giant, my concern shifted to a fear that I’d crush someone if I moved too quickly. Streamers flew through the air and beach balls bounced through the crowd. People tried to slip past me as they made their way to the bathroom or another group of friends. I was left wondering if I was wet with my own sweat or the writhing bodies surrounding me. One of the guys who’d met us at the bar saw my discomfort and pulled me aside.

“You just need to point and stare intensely in random directions,” he said with only a hint of mockery in his voice. “That’s the best dance move.” He proceeded to demonstrate and the stranger beside him joined in.

We eventually made our way to the outskirts of the dance floor and people started to sit down: a little tired and a little bored. One of the girl’s we’d come out with was a salsa dancer and I took her hand and asked for tips. She proceeded to show me some moves: a lot of hip wiggling and special steps. I failed horribly, but when asked to dip her, I was all aces. I think I’m an excellent dipper.

“If I were to dance with a girl, could I rely entirely on dipping?” I asked her.

“Probably not,” she replied and laughed. Oh well.

We stayed out until around 1:30 and then took a cab home. A night well spent. The music that played during the night ranged from Duran Duran to Air Supply to Def Leppard. But it didn’t matter that the music was at its peak popularity before most of us were born. Dancing to these ageless songs connected us to a different time in the same way that in 15 to 20 years we’ll be finding Snoop Dogg and Eminem in the oldies section of an online store. So dance! Dance for exercise! Dance for fun! Or just dance to reconnect to a different time and place!

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