By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
In the whole wide world, there are only two types of people – people who like to dance and people who would rather have their eyebrows removed with a rotary sander. Particularly for men, dancing or not dancing is almost a defining characteristic. “Hi. My name is Joe. I’m a Caucasian male. I don’t smoke. I have a dog. I drive a Toyota. I don’t dance.” Non-dancers are typically very firm in their conviction never to “shake their groove thang,” no matter how many spiked eggnogs they’ve had.
But here’s my theory: Everybody, and I mean everybody, likes to dance. Not only do we like to dance, we feel a natural compulsion to do it. But some people, like the hypothetical Joe mentioned earlier, would rather step in front of a speeding bus than be caught dancing in public. I suppose it makes him feel vulnerable – kind of like being naked in the middle of junior high school. But the staunchest “non-dancer” in the world will boogie in secret when no one else is home and the song “Superfreak” by Rick James comes on the radio. He just can’t help himself.
I back up my theory with research I’ve been conducting on the job, as the full-time mother of three kids ages 6 and under. They are all proof that people are born with the dancing gene. Shortly after my firstborn started sitting up, he started dancing. I noticed it one day when I rounded the corner and found him sitting with one of his musical toys and bobbing up and down like a cork on the water. When the music stopped, so did the bobbing. When the music began again, so did he.
We never taught him this little trick. We didn’t even think it would be possible for him at that age. But it came quite naturally – further support of my dancing gene theory – and he’s been boogying ever since. When he learned to stand, he got his knees involved and began doing a more energetic, full-body bobbing motion. Then he added a side-to-side sway to his dancing repertoire, waving his hands in the air and smiling as big as his face would allow. He danced to the beat of his musical toys, television commercial jingles and even the theme song to Wheel of Fortune.
Now almost 7-years-old, he migrates into the kitchen when I plug my iPod into a speaker and he does some kind of odd break-dancing moves that he says are very cool. He is always joined by his 4-year-old brother and 2-year-old sister, who boogies so hard that she often lands with a thud on her diaper before scrambling back onto her feet to continue the performance.
Obviously, none of us have our natural dancing gene removed as we get older. But somewhere along the way, we decide we might look stupid if we dance. Toddlers never worry about this kind of thing. Perhaps it’s puberty that makes us decide looking cool is more important than just about anything else, including dancing. It’s a shame, really, because dancing feels so good – a welcome break from the same old monotonous movement we normally do. A good dance session is kind of like a good cry or a good laugh – it releases natural endorphins that just make you feel better.
Some of the best times I remember from college were the nights I spent out dancing with my friend, J.C. When we first started going to dance clubs, it was with the intention of meeting our future “Mr. Right.” But after a few nights with no Mr. Right in sight, we concentrated on just dancing. We’d dance with every loser in the place, as long as it meant that we kept on dancing. When the music stopped and the club closed, we went home happy and exhausted. We burned more calories on the dance floor than we ever did on the treadmill and had a lot more fun in the process.
These days, as I watch my little solid gold dancers boogie to the music, I hope they never become too cool to dance. I hope they keep bobbing, swaying and smiling every time the music moves them. Life is just too short to watch from the edge of the dance floor.