You enter the gym. The ceiling lights are off. The only source of light comes from two or three rented lights that spin and/or change color. Of course, the light may just be coming from the lights in front of the speakers that the CD player is plugged into. Your friends gyrate to Ja Rule and LFO. And then, you hear it, the greatest sound in the world: the opening strings, gently pulsing, a top layer and a bottom layer perfectly intertwined to create a wonderfully serene environment suitable for spinning in place for five minutes. It is, of course, “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith (off the Armageddon soundtrack), and the context under which this would occur is the ritual of the school dance.
What is dancing if not purely a pickup tool? I don’t care how much you “like dancing,” you don’t go to clubs just for the music. Now, high school is one thing, but an 11-year-old kid should not be made (and in my middle school we were made) to go to dances. Forcing children to try to find a dance partner, to experience rejection and sit against a wall alone, is not the best way to inspire confidence and self-esteem at that age. In high school, we got to choose whether to go to the dances, as we get to choose if we want to go clubbing now. But forcing preteens to try to participate in these types of mating rituals is just weird. I can picture my 12-year-old self feeling like a G because I got to slow dance to K-Ci & JoJo and hold a girl real close when the teachers weren’t looking, but is that really a positive thing? Is forcing preteens into an overcrowded, poorly amplified gym the best way to get kids to spend an afternoon?
Last weekend, my 17-year-old brother came to visit me in Montreal, and we ended up going out to Vinyl. I rarely go to clubs, mostly sticking to Korova if necessary, and even then mostly on hip-hop night. Yet what I realized last Friday night was that there is a transition from middle school, through high school, into university, that puts an emphasis on going to “dances,” in their various forms, as a type of mating ritual. Little has changed in the years since the middle school dance, except that the supervision is more lax. We still go to these events so we can hold on to someone and hopefully get their name and number. Today, we drink and take drugs to make us feel sexy and uninhibited (let’s be honest, no one is ever sober at clubs) but I’m still missing the point. Perhaps I’ve always been more of a concert person. Or perhaps I don’t necessarily like dancing, or know how to dance all that well. The usual extent of my “dance” abilities is grooving to Prince as I walk to school. But I will still dance and go to clubs and buy giant PBRs and spend all this money on getting in and drinking because dancing is the world’s oldest pickup tool. You don’t even have to be particularly good at it to survive a night at Tokyo, Muzique, or wherever.
And maybe that lack of required is still my biggest problem with dancing. Maybe I just miss the spinning. There was no pretending, no hiding, no booze: just me and my partner not wanting to miss a thing. Grinding is not hard, it’s just that, to me, the spinning was more like dancing than anything we do now. Things were better then. You don’t need a fifth of whiskey and Ed Banger to realize that.