My Struggle with Dance

4 Jun

napoleon dance

I wasn’t born a dancer.

I have the long, gangly limbs of an awkward schoolgirl married with the anxieties of a shut-in. Though I’m often mistaken for the kind of person who will get up and dance, it’s one of the pastimes I prefer our culture had never actually developed so that I could never live to be pressured into the misery of participating in it.

I danced once in middle school. I had developed a deep-seated complex about having to shower naked in the open with other girls and so to distract everyone’s attention from my conscientious objection, I stood on one of the benches in the locker room and performed a rousing rendition of “Father Abraham”, which I learned in Christian School.

Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Faaaaather Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you. So let’s all praise The Lord! (Right Arm!) Father Abraham… had many sons….

It went on in this hokey-pokey like fashion until all my body parts were involved. It was the dancing highlight of my first decade.

About five years later, I took a real stab at it in college. It was a pact between a friend and me– we were both ungifted with grace and thought taking Modern Dance would be an excellent way to help gain control over our gangly limbs. I remember it taking me several weeks simply to memorize the warmup routine. I also remember slamming my head off the stage during the final performance. Mostly.

A few years after that, I made one final and last-ditch effort to fall in line with society’s demand that I dance. After knocking out my gen eds, I transferred to a performing arts conservatory  with a nationally-lauded dance program. I was in the acting track and thought it would be prudent to dip my toes in the dance water to help not embarrass myself in future auditions that require rudimentary movement.  I signed up for “Dancing for Actors” – a class specifically tailored to actors who want to avoid humiliation. We learned basic steps and combinations and had to choreograph a piece and teach it to the class.

I struggled. There was a lot of stepping on toes and attempting to lead, which apparently isn’t permitted by humans with hoo-has. For my final piece, I choreographed “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and featured a freestyle section where everyone was commanded to channel their inner jungle animal and move through the space. It was beautiful.  It’s the only assignment on which I got an A.

And also the only assignment for which I didn’t dance.

My least favorite part of being a non-dancing human is weddings. People will always try to get me to dance at weddings. Somewhere along the way, someone told society that if you’re in an environment where other people are dancing and you’re not, you must not be having fun. The reality of the situation is that I’m highly skilled in self-entertainment (as a child I spent a lot of hours sitting in the car alone while my mom ran errands). But because society has been taught that dancing is fun and non-dancers are miserable, it becomes everyone’s personal mission to make non-dancers dance at weddings.

As if it’s not humiliating enough to have to scramble for a bouquet of flowers in front of everyone.

I have made two attempts at dancing in the past several months (a new record). The first was at a wedding where my friends pulled me onto the dance floor against my will and gang-danced me into a circular cage until I had to either move or ruin everyone’s fun. The second was last week.

I was at the wedding of a lovely and fantastic couple and feeling quite safe about the experience because Dave has been very vocal about his distaste for dancing. I remembered that quality being one of the things I checked off my “ideal man” list that I keep in my pocket at all times for cross-referencing. However, at this particular wedding, he was dancing.

This was an entirely new kind of pressure. Dave is a very attractive man, and weddings typically feature moderately attractive women. So added to the weight of ruining a wedding with my sourpuss non-dancing and the pressure of my friends egging me to do so publicly, I now had to consider that if I didn’t get out there and dance with him, some other boobed lady beast would.  So I did what any self-respecting woman would do: I asked the DJ to play “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by The Darkness and threw caution to the wind. He followed it up with “Brick House” and two things occurred to me: 1) I don’t mind dancing if it’s to amusing music and 2) I don’t mind dancing as much now that I’m not so fat.

That last part is a big one.

For those of you following along at home, I’m halfway through a venture I’ve dubbed Project Fatass 365, wherein I must work out every day all year. There on that dance floor I realized that there was much less jiggle in my jiggy and that I wasn’t nearly as concerned with people’s eyes being on me as I used to. Not just because there is less of me and because I can better control what I have, but because I just care a lot less about what people think. Now that I’ve shed some of the megagut I was using to store my food for winter all year long, I have more energy to be my middle-school self.

I’m still not a dancer. I will probably never be one. I’m living proof that slides, be they of the cha-cha or the electric variety, are not universally demonstrated. But that’s okay because I do one hell of a Father Abraham.

So here’s to a new Jackie – a Jackie who dances not because she’s egged on or pressured or gang-danced to humiliation, but because she hears Brick House and wants to get funky and doesn’t really care what it looks like to everyone else. It’s a shame that I ever lost that spark that got me on the locker room bench in the first place.

But you still can’t make me shower in public.

Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Faaaather Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you. So let’s all praise the Lord (LEFT ARM!) Father Abraham….

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183 Responses to “My Struggle with Dance”

  1. knockinguntilitopens June 8, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    This is hilarious. I’ve decided that I will be an aMAZing dancer in Heaven (perhaps delivering a shocking rendition of the electric slide with Father Abraham himself?!), but until then, it’s a lost cause.

    Like

  2. Mark Trout June 8, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

    I loved it. Very funny and i can relate. Ive found that a good warmup to my running is about 5 minutes of Dance Central on the X-box. I just hope my kids never video me loosening up to “Push It”!

    Like

    • Jackie June 9, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

      Oh man – maybe I can take that note and incorporate some dance moves into my running warmup. Heaven knows I can use the practice..

      Like

  3. Chas Spain June 9, 2013 at 11:40 am #

    As long as you’re like Napoleon in your mind – you can just let it go! Love it.

    Like

    • Jackie June 9, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

      He’s a beautiful thing to behold.

      Like

  4. Vans June 9, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    hahahaha! This is funny. I’m also struggling with dancing and I usually dance to annoy somebody. Father Abraham was my first “dance routine”.

    Like

    • Jackie June 9, 2013 at 11:39 pm #

      I love that people know what I’m talking about – I certainly hadn’t anticipated anyone recognizing the song

      Like

  5. Alexandria Adair Vasquez June 9, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    “…my friends pulled me onto the dance floor against my will and gang-danced me into a circular cage..” That was hiliarious! This was a great read, very relatable and funny and engaging 🙂

    Like

    • Jackie June 9, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

      hilarious/humiliating. same difference 😉 thanks for the great compliment!

      Like

  6. melsbabysis June 9, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    LOL! This was great!

    Like

  7. saraaftab02 June 10, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    Seriously! i agree to the point where you stated that everyone’s personal mission on a wedding to make non-dancers dance.

    Like

    • Jackie June 11, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

      I should pass out cards to tables at weddings letting them know I’m forming a union and they can feel free to join me in my anti-movement movement.

      Like

  8. troypulchinski June 10, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    And I thought that the dance panic syndrome was only in the male DNA! If we ever meet at a wedding, I’d love to not dance with you…that didn’t come out right, did it?

    Thanks for sharing a very funny, personal story.

    Like

    • Jackie June 11, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

      Oh no, it’s certainly all up in the wimenz as well. And I’d love not to dance with you as well. Thanks so much for the offer 😉

      Like

  9. the tow path June 10, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    I can totally relate to this.

    Like

    • Jackie June 11, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

      That’s refreshing to hear because when I’m sitting at the table during a reception I certainly don’t feel like anyone gets it 😉

      Like

  10. peacewisdomprosperity June 10, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    What an engaging and explicit read! I really enjoyed this 🙂 Thanks and congrats on being FP’d!

    Like

  11. Momma June 10, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    congrats on being Pressed again! You go girl. You should have a bit more of your Momma in you……..I love to dance, even though I don’t look good at it. I just enjoy doing it and don’t care what anyone thinks. It feels good so just do it!! If my hubby would just dance with me more I wouldn’t feel so dumb on the floor by myself…lol

    Like

    • Jackie June 11, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

      Thanks momma. And I have plenty of you in me. Plenty. Leave some room for dad. 😛

      Like

  12. 00doggerel June 10, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    That was absolutely hilarious. The father Abraham bit killed me.

    Like

  13. amboo1985 June 11, 2013 at 12:02 am #

    Love it! LOL I’m working on a project where I want to learn all the things I’ve ever wanted to know how to do…online. Dancing is one of them. I’m about to be a dancin google queen! Also, Project Fatass 365 sounds awesome, I need to seriously consider that!

    Like

    • Jackie June 11, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

      Hey, thanks! And re: your most recent blog post – it’s an awesome idea, you should definitely use it as the premise for writing and log your journey. I started following – I’m interested!

      Like

  14. mapofjo June 11, 2013 at 12:39 am #

    Is it too cliche if I just want to simply put ‘lol’ as my comment? Cos that is what I’m doing!

    Like

    • Jackie June 11, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

      Not at all – I appreciate it!

      Like

  15. Eagle-Eyed Editor June 11, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    This was hilarious — you richly deserved to be Freshly Pressed! And I love the Jon Heder video — nice touch. Who knew that boy had MOVES??!!

    Like

    • Jackie June 11, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

      Hey, thanks! And might I say that I’m so glad to see someone in the world who takes grammar and spelling seriously. Thanks for working to make the world a more bearable place.

      Like

  16. nerdgeistofficial June 11, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    Glad you found the will to dance, im not the skinny kind but I used to always avoid it, recently at an EDM festival I found myself covered in UV Paint and nail polish with glow sticks dancing with complete strangers was very exhilarating, btw good choice in picking the darkness!

    Like

    • Jackie June 11, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

      That sounds like my inner circle of hell, but I can imagine that if I would be able to get over the anxieties I’d be bathing in and let loose, it would be very exhilarating. That’s awesome 🙂

      Like

      • nerdgeistofficial June 12, 2013 at 2:47 am #

        I think it helped that it was outside at night under the stars with hundreds of people id never meet again, just wanted to cut loose so I did

        Like

  17. theawkwardmoose June 12, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    Hilarious!

    I actually have a similar attitude towards dance even after 10 years of actual training in jazz/tap/ballet for musical theatre. I can mimic steps if forced, but I made sure that my wedding was the kind where no one got up and performed “thriller” or anything. I can humiliate myself publicly any day, I think I had the right to try to hide my awkward on the day of my wedding.

    Like

    • Jackie June 14, 2013 at 12:29 am #

      That was incredibly kind of you – I’m determined to have non-dance activities at my perhaps-someday-nuptials. I’m amazed that after that many years of training, you still don’t want to dance. Loving the moose picture in your header, btw 😉

      Like

  18. mysocalledwritinglife June 13, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

    Love this. Thanks for the chuckles.

    Like

  19. honeydidyouseethat? June 14, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    Maybe a shot for courage?

    Like

    • Jackie June 17, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

      Drinking more is probably the answer to all my problems 😛

      Like

  20. Travvys June 14, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    Jackie, I am a dancer but I absolutely love watching people dance because they just love dancing. Whether they are highly skilled or trained is irrelevant. Makes everything inside of me smile on the account that they’re having such a great time doing something I love. I wish I was at the wedding to see you show up those boobed lady beasts hahaha. Keep up your transformation, happy for you

    Like

    • Jackie June 17, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

      I don’t know that I showed them up but I can certainly say Brick House made it more difficult for them to pop lock and drop without looking ridiculous

      Like

  21. nicolanoo June 16, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    Hi, I hope you don’t mind I nominated you for the Super Sweet blog award. Check out here: http://viewfromawalkingframe.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/the-super-swee-blog-award/

    Like

    • Jackie June 17, 2013 at 10:36 pm #

      Thank you – I’m tickled! I have to admit I’ve ranted about blogger chain awards before (https://thejackieblog.com/2011/10/03/how-do-you-feel-about-blogger-chain-awards/) so I can’t very well pass it on but I’m honored to have been nominated and will happily answer the questions that came with the package.

      Cookies or Cake? – Cake if it’s my mom’s, cookies if it’s not
      Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate, always. I can’t remember a single time I chose vanilla over it.
      Favourite Sweet Treat? Soft serve twist cone with rainbow sprinkles
      When do you crave sweet things most? – All day every day
      Sweet Nickname – My mom has always called me “honey girl” because she thinks my hair is the color of honey. You meant literally, yes? 😉

      Like

  22. strawberryquicksand June 16, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    I totally loved Napoleon Dynamite’s dance routine!!! I could imagine myself dancing like that (except for the roly poly on the floor)… lol. I adore dancing and have to rein myself in when I’m walking the dog with my ipod in my ears. (the dog might think I’m wierd).

    Like

  23. strawberryquicksand June 16, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    By the way, I would LOVE to know how you get the little thumbs up/thumbs down icon above each comment! 🙂

    Like

    • Jackie June 17, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

      Dashboard -> Feedbacks -> Ratings -> Settings -> Comments “Show Ratings On” (check ‘comments’)

      It’s buried. Keep swimming and good luck.

      Like

      • strawberryquicksand June 18, 2013 at 5:54 am #

        YAY!!! You are the bestest! Thank you for that. 😀

        Like

  24. dancinmoma June 16, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

    Love it! 🙂 Great read. It’s funny, I’m a Dance Teacher, but dancing at weddings, etc. stresses me out at times. I feel like people want me to “perform” when all I want to do is feel the music and as Lady Gaga puts it…. “JUST DANCE!” 🙂

    Like

  25. criticallyoptimistic June 21, 2013 at 2:41 am #

    This was great. I danced for about ten years, but never got too great at it. I felt like I could related to almost this entire piece!

    Like

    • Jackie June 21, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

      With then years under your belt I’m sure you can at least spare yourself embarrassment 🙂 Thanks for reading!

      Like

  26. PMcG June 26, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    You took the words right out of my feet. If there were a Hall of Fame for people who feared dancing, I wouldn’t be in it because they’d probably have a big ceremony at the Grand Opening and they’d hire a band and, well, there would be dancing and the irony of that would be lost on the ceremony committee, all of whose members would tell you how much they don’t like to dance, but in fact, they secretly know how to dance because they have actually danced at some point, and anyway they miss the point because the Hall of Fame would be for people who, if they are forced to dance, would go catatonic with fear and drool and tip over if bumped and the dance floor would be shut down while paramedics and catatonia experts were doing their best not to break out dancing while they tried to save the poor sap on the floor because the band would still be playing–and playing fast tunes which are the ones that strike the most fear into the hearts of people like me. I have to sit down now
    .

    Like

  27. mentalmom02 July 8, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    Just started following your blog and loved it!! I’m an awkward dancer myself, but after a few drinks I can Cha Cha Slide with the best of them 🙂

    Like

    • Jackie July 10, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

      Thanks for following! I wish alcohol made me magically gifted – maybe I’m not drinking enough 😉

      Like

      • mentalmom02 July 11, 2013 at 1:00 am #

        No. No you’re not. When in doubt, more is better 🙂

        Like

  28. marnigoogle August 4, 2013 at 5:46 am #

    Really sweet and cute writing.

    Like

    • Jackie August 7, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

      I think that’s the first time those words have been used to describe it 😉 Thanks for the compliment – I dig your pictures. There’s something intriguing about them 🙂

      Like

  29. annetbell February 11, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

    Great blog!

    Like

  30. Maria February 19, 2014 at 10:41 pm #

    This post brings back memories of those mandatory group showers in junior high and high school. I had absolutely no boobs at all in the seventh grade. And there were some girls that had boobs that were shockingly big for a 12 year old. I envied the girls in my gym class that had boobs. And some of them were all to happy to show them off to the rest of us.

    Like

    • Jackie February 19, 2014 at 11:11 pm #

      I hated mandatory group showers. I refused to do it and when the gym teacher refused to give me an A if I didn’t start showering, I walked into the shower with all my clothes on, walked to her to get my shower pass (both of us displeased with the other), and was on my way. It’s a terrible time of life to force kids to get naked together.

      Like

      • Maria February 20, 2014 at 2:06 am #

        Wow. You had guts!

        I would have been more afraid of standing up to the teacher than to have showered. I did ask my mother to try to convince the gym teacher to let me out of showering, but she didn’t think that there was anything wrong with me having to shower in front of other girls. And without a note from a parent, we HAD to shower, regardless of grades.

        I agree with you about it being a bad age to force kids to be naked together. I can’t believe how many girls chose to walk around completely naked, though. Some of them stood around naked talking, and some did their hair and makeup (those who were allowed to wear makeup at that age) standing there naked in front of the mirror. Something that made it all the more shocking that they chose to do that is the fact that the gym teachers would stand around watching us the whole time.

        I swim at a Y, and a number of the young girls there will walk around in the buff there too. I never would have chosen to do that at that age. Just a few moths ago I took my 7 year old daughter and her 14 year old babysitter swimming, and the babysitter, who also happens to be the daughter of one of my coworkers, showered nude in front of us after our swim. I guess at that age girls are either very shy, or very uninhibited?

        Like

        • Jackie February 21, 2014 at 12:37 am #

          I wouldn’t call it guts.. rather snark. I was chock full of snark.

          Re: constant wandering nudes – it must be awesome to just be able to walk around and not care.

          Like

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