Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄
🎵 The song for this post is Outa Space, by Billy Preston. 🎵
One of the Animal Crossing characters asked me what my dream job was, and I answered "dancer." There's a real Sliding Doors moment in my life where if John Emigh hadn't decided to do a large-cast mainstage show saying he needed Latinx actors, I maybe never would have studied computers at all and been hustling as a dancer.
I'll try to tell the story in three paragraphs: I went to Brown expecting to do theater, but the structure of their Theater department keeps freshmen out of acting and directing classes, so I tried something new and took a Modern Dance class instead. A scheduling conflict meant that I took the Beginning level two days of the week and the Advanced the other two days. I was horrible, but being active and physically challenged helped me through some tough times (hello friend's suicide attempt), and it had most things I loved about theater plus real superpowers you could grow with practice while avoiding some of straight theater's bullshit (while, naturally, introducing bullshit of its own). I did an intensive dance program that summer and finally got good enough to confidently audition for crews my sophomore fall.
But… the dance crew auditions were a week after the casting of Much Ado About Nothing, which has a huge cast, and the director wanted to do it in 19th-century California. He said, "if you could dance latin styles, that was a plus. I'd also love actors who speak Spanish." To do the show was also making a choice not to dance until next semester's dance crew auditions, but here was a Pablo-shaped opportunity to finally enter Brown's Theater community. I auditioned, and got the shittiest role (literal spear-holder Balthasar); the leads were White, nobody in this play had to speak much Spanish or dance latin styles lol. I made some good friends but it was totally unmemorable, and much of me wish I'd danced instead.
But, that got me known to a few people in the theater scene as an actor. So when a playwright named Charly needed an actor for her reading, I was available, I said yes, would go on to apply and get into Sock & Buskin and production workshop, Charly and I would date for two years (twice), &c &c &c. Those experiences led to me eventually getting chewed the fuck out, deciding to dedicate myself to computers, and, well…
But! If I'd only said "nah, I want to dance" and backed out of saying 11 unimportant lines as Balthasar, I wouldn't have applied to the theater boards, probably wouldn't have dated Charly, would have found a new purpose in dancing. I would have had different friends, different communities, different community dramas, different partners.
So the most surprising thing about my 30's has been all the fascism. Nobody tells you about the fascism in your 30's! But the second big thing about my 30s is having a real history as an adult of stories not materialized, except for the one that did.
Roundabout way of saying: I love to dance! I went to a wedding last year where two (2) moms came to me to ask who I was + tell me their daughters were here without a date. Zumba and Pon de FLO were how I got into fitness in my late 20's, and I miss them like crazy.
A good dance sequence is joyful for me. Here are a few memorable ones, I dare you to play them, step away from the screen, and try to follow along! We're in quarantine, shoot your shot and dance! 😃
(also, share your favorites please!)
Umbrella Academy. This show was… okay? I read a few of the comics way back when and think this is a fine-enough adaptation. It reminds me of the "correct games" section of this essay where it checks off all the boxes of a formula we've derived after years of practice for "prestige pulpy show" but still feels somewhat hollow. The Magicians is a way better bet for this kind of thing.
But! It's scored extremely well (a shootout to "Istanbul" by They Might Be Giants was a pleasure), and I found this sequence pretty cute for the narrative purpose it served.
Christopher Walken in Weapon of Choice. This came out in… the early aughts? Christopher Walken wasn't exactly a household name (most people knew him from Pulp Fiction, I knew him as the inexplicable romantic rival in Wayne's World 2). But somewhere I'd already read that he was a hell of a dancer (also why he was a good fit for Hairspray!), but it wasn't common knowledge, because this video took a lot of people by surprise.
Really, picking Fatboy Slim is cheating, he incorporates dance extremely well in everything he does: the delightfully low-tech + simple Praise You video, or Wonderful Night. But I'll pick this, also because it's voiced by Bootsy Collins, who has always been a personal idol for the reasons I mentioned in my Jazz post.
Napoleon Dynamite. I don't quite know how to remember Napoleon Dynamite. The early aughts were a weird time, and most guys in my position (too caught up in their heads, not participating in narratives of any kind but especially narratives of traditional masculinity) looked for "weird art" to point at and identify with. So I adopted this movie a bit as something special, and it wasn't not, necessarily. But I have a feeling I'd cringe a bit at watching it again.
(Weirdly, one of my happiest memories is watching Blades of Glory, Jon Heder's subsequent movie with Will Farrell, with my brother. I'm almost certain that movie aged less well, and was less good even when it was released)
Anyway, this is legit a delightful performance to an amazing song.
Evolution of Dance meme. This is mostly here for historical interest: for years this was YouTube's most watched video. Most of my focus in my later theater days was on physical theater, because I loved how universal movement is, so it was fitting a minutes-long gag would unite all the people who's only commonality was "we're on the Internet." IIRC, this eventually lost its top spot to Justin Bieber's Baby, and replacing this with a real-life gilded pop star signifies some kind of turning point in the Internet being a DARPA experiment taken over by bored weirdos and instead being the next public infrastructure for entrepreneurs to Clear Channel.
Obviously, a look at TikTok shows that dancing is still Where It's At, Internet-wise. And I think of this video every Friday.
Sax, by Fleur East. I tried not to include actual music videos, but I'll relax the restriction for these last few. I can't decide if I love or hate the clown-vomit-kaleidoscope color game this plays, but goddamn is everyone in this video gorgeous. While I never formally taught Zumba classes (I taught a few of a different brand, and that is another story for oversharing later), I had a Zumba playlist set up and some choreography, this tune was definitely going to make it.
Daddy, Lovey Dovey. The polish on K-Pop is some of the most virtuostic shit on the planet and if you're looking for a hole to fall into, this one is tons of fun. If you put "[kpop group] dance practice" in YouTube you'll pull up all sorts of great shit. These are two of my favorites, the T-ARA choreography has a lot going for it (that really great shuffle, the moonwalking, which is a light nod to Thriller since the video for this song is about a zombie attack); and DADDY because it's a fantastic pop song and a perfect Zumba song, where you could even take some of the professional choreography and give it to fitness kids (also, this video is way better than the actual video lol).
EDIT Karen has since read this post and found a startling omission: this guy.
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