How the Dance Went

It went pretty well. I DJ’d for four and a half hours and danced for almost all of that time, and as a result that the moment my knees are sending me angry messages that they want a trial separation. However, I rejoice in the fact that I am not the only one with this problem; people last night were saying that the dance had entirely worn them out. Yes, well, that’s what dances are supposed to do. I’m looking forward to seeing how many people will be hobbling about today because I made them hop about like bunnies last night. In all it went better than I thought it might, and people for the most part seemed to have a pretty good time. When you get the complaint that you’ve played too many good songs, which makes it hard to leave the dance floor, you know you’re doing your job.

Now people are asking whether or not I’m going to DJ the CapriCon dance next year or if I’m going to DJ a dance at Worldcon, and my answer to both is: Man, I don’t know what I’m doing with myself next Tuesday, let alone a year from now. We’ll see. That’s my official response.

44 Comments on “How the Dance Went”

  1. Also for everyone asking for a set list: My playlist had 500 songs on it, mostly KROQ 80s modern rock stuff plus Michael/Janet Jackson, Prince, a smattering of funk and a few hair band anthems. I was too busy playing the songs to write down the exact sequence. We did play “Time Warp” at midnight.

  2. What is this process of “dance” of which you speak?

    I’m “lawyered up” — 2 different law firms. The car shall be replaced. The medical & pain & suffering shall be covered. The insurance company is merely taking as long as possible, to live off my interest. I await my Worker’s Comp lawyer to get me legally referred back to my Physical Therapy Clinic so that I can do the exercises most critical to treating my painful physical injuries. Meanwhile I’m on prescribed painkiller Vicodin (I hate taking medications) for mere pain management, and unable to pursue my normal exercise (hard to walk up 1 flight of stairs, get in or out of a car, walk my dog…).

    I fondly remember dancing at cons, especially when dancing with my wife.

    If there’s anyone reading this who hasn’t enjoyed the best Dance science fiction ever:
    Let me be the Nth to recommend The Stardance Trilogy

    Written in collaboration with Spider’s wife, Jeanne Robinson.

    * Stardance (1979)
    * Starseed (1991)
    * Starmind (1995)
    * The Star Dancers (1997) (omnibus edition of Stardance and Starseed)

    Algis Budrys declared Stardance to be “a reading experience which genuinely evokes a basic human feeling . . . that within each of us dwells something glorious that is beyond mortal error, is the seed of an angel,” concluding that “Stardance sweeps over the reader with the uncommon power attainable only by the social extrapolations of SF, and then rarely. [“Books”, F&SF, October 1979, p.34-38]

  3. Scorpius: I had two years of dance in school, so in fact I can dance very well. Also I dance well enough that it’s how I met my wife. So there.

  4. When I was in junior and senior high, we had Back to the 50s dances. Surely by now they’re up to Back to the 80s dances? Or am I behind the time and they’re already up to Back to the 90s dances?

    If you’ll excuse me, I think there maybe someone on my lawn.

  5. HAWA John Scalzi @ 12:11: I doubt junior high schoolers would be interested in an 80s dance.

    You, of course, have an anthropological informant on the middle-schooler community right there in the house with you and would know, but it made me reflect: when I was in 8th Grade, we had a 50s sock hop. That would have been in 1971 or so. We didn’t have a 40s dance, which is what would be equivalent; but face it, 1940s music is just not all that danceable by untrained people, whereas the 1980s were the only decade since the 50s when you didn’t have to choose between “good dance music” and “rock and roll.”

    Hmm, do today’s middle-schoolers care if something is rock? Do they even LIKE anything I could recognize as such? I have no idea. As noted above, you probably would, he said, intending an oblique query into just that matter.

  6. Aha! Thanks. I’m enough of a fussbudget that not knowing that would have driven me nuts.

  7. Gonna put in another plug of encouragement for you to DJ a Worldcon dance… while I don’t dance, my companion for the con definitely *does*… and she’s a fellow Maroon, too.

  8. “Also I dance well enough that it’s how I met my wife.”
    Dancing is a competitive sport, and this is how you win it.

  9. I’m training for the LA Marathon and had a 20-mile training run this morning. My knees would like to talk to your knees’ lawyer.

  10. “Too hard to stop dancing.” Ah, I used to love overhearing someone saying that! Sounds like you did a good job, John.

  11. Eight was for the ancient Elven swords.

    (Six was for the names of Strider, even though there were really eight (two appear only in the Appendices).)

  12. (I couldn’t just leave it at nine.)

    By the way, it’s really cool that you put all that time and effort in to do something fun for the con. I’m sorry I missed it. I actually like dancing, but at conventions my friends are in the bar, and the dance is always dead, so I end up sitting in the bar.

  13. Sounds like everyone had a great time. For what it’s worth, the middle school kids who hang out at my library love 80’s and 90’s music. Their amazement that I know the songs always amuses me.

  14. OK, this is probably a slightly pathetic question coming, as it does, from someone rapidly approaching too old to dance anyway.

    Can one actually learn pop music dancing, as is done in school dances and clubs, from a class?

    I can STILL square dance pretty well, from the gym class sessions we used to have in primary school. There’s not a heck of a lot of call for that. I’ve been to a place where there was country line dancing, learned it fine and had lots of fun, even though the music’s not my thing. Heck, I was even the guy who did ‘solos’ in the choreography for our high school musical (skier’s legs: once I had HOPS)

    But I went to only a handful of my high school dances, held up the wall, and slunk out alone and discouraged.Everybody knew what to do and no one would TEACH me. Everywhere I’ve ever asked I’ve gotten the same advice about ‘releasing inhibitions’ and ‘doing whatever the music makes you feel like doing.’

    It’s obviously not worthless advice for most people, but apparently some of us are missing the essential organ that can take a nice contagious rhythm and turn it into a motion more complex than a tapping toe or nodding head. If there was actually someone who could have TAUGHT me that skill that everyone insisted was supposed to be instinctive? Boy, that would have made for some happier wedding receptions and beach parties through the years. If such classes exist, can anyone point me to them? I’m not about to go learn now, but maybe I can pass on some direction and help out other, younger, involuntary members in the brotherhood of the wall prop.

  15. ChrisH: I don’t know of any classes and I’m not in a position to teach you, but I’m reminded of a West African proverb: If you can walk, you can dance; if you can talk, you can sing. Now that second part is probably truer if you speak a West African tone language, but the first part is still true.

    I have a suggestion for how to get started, though. Put on some music with a strong beat. Do tap your toe; then switch to tapping your heels (yes, bounce up and down). Then switch to moving your elbows to the same tapping rhythm. Then back to toes and to heels, and this time let your arms go limp so they flop around.

    This is practice, not dancing. Do it in private.

    When you’ve done that for a while, keep up the bouncing rhythm and step forward, then back, then forward with the other foot, then back.

    Make up your own variations. There’s no way to learn to dance except by dancing. Dance when you’re alone and can turn the music up as loud as you want.

    That should get you started. Now remember another proverb, the one that ends with “…dance like nobody’s watching.” Get out on the floor when you’re ready…or a little sooner than that!

  16. ChrisH: After you consider what Xopher wrote, there are videos on my on demand service that teach pop dancing as it were. There are DVDs that once can purchase too. And I too am physically uncoordinated enough that I have to be taught. Or perhaps, overcome with thought enough that I need to stop thinking to become coordinated (that’s probably just me).

  17. That is, there are probably videos that teach pop dancing as it were. I’ve seen some on my on demand service; I’d believe they were out there on the open net too.

  18. This is intriguing…
    “Eight was for the ancient Elven swords”

    “Six was for the names of Strider”

    Could someone fill us in on the counting song details?

  19. So you’re from the “make a playlist and dance” school of thought (as opposed to the actively-altering-playlist-while-reading-the-crowd school of thought)…

  20. ChrisH,
    No doubt a lame substitute for knowing how to dance or learning properly (i.e., WE do it so by defition = lame according to the kids) but many pop dance moves can at least be demonstrated & imitated in the interactive games for the Xbox and Wii. Great exercise as well, which has been our justification.
    If you want to get out & meet folks & socialize with some slightly less modern or pop styles, look for a contra dancing group. Similiar to square dancing, somewhat victorian, the ones I’ve been to always start the evening very simple & slow for the newbies and then build on that all night, getting more & more complex. If you’re a con-going critter, there are often contra/victorian dance sessions there. (Often next to the filking rooms, so when you get tired of one you can go lose sleep in the other!)

  21. You, uh, “danced”? Scary thought.;)

    @Scorpius: White people who know they look utterly ri-donk-ulous shaking their asses and just don’t care? To paraphrase Paul Simon, that is a night of miracle and wonder.

  22. Anne at 11:43 am—it’s from a filk song titled, “High Fly the Nazgul, O!” based on the old folk song, “Green Grow the Rushes, O!”. I won’t try to post all the lyrics here, but if you google “High Fly the Nazgul”, you should be able to find it easily.

  23. ChrisH: “…someone rapidly approaching too old to dance anyway.”

    I’m a fellow wall anchor, but I can tell you this, above, is nonsense! My grandfather was an avid polka dancer well into his 80s, and my uncle — now in his mid-60s — does the party dancing thing with gusto. Despite being quite round, he’s pretty light on his feet: just gets out there, moves it around and makes it happen.

    “Fuckin’ dancing; how does it work,” huh?

  24. ChrisH
    And if all else fails go to Youtube and watch Eric Clapton & Mark Knopfler – After Midnight [San Francisco -88], paying very close attention not only to them but also the backing singers. In just over 6 minutes playing time it captures the guitar god shuffle and the backing singers’ boogie, both of which are incredibly easy to do, and you can use them to just about any beat.
    I should perhaps mention that I can see JS’s two years and raise him one…

  25. Thanks all for the “High Fly…” info. I remember “Green Grow the Rushes Oh” haunting me for months after hearing it in, I think, an episode of “The Avengers” (the Emma Peel/John Steed version). Robert Burns – an early exploiter of the ear worm.

  26. One could watch the Dance segment near the end of the Grammy Award Ceremony… the appropriately chaotic ecleclic David Guetta & Deadmau5 and Lil Wayne & Chris Brown & Foo Fighters mashup thingie…

    I also liked (in no particular order):
    * the opening “We Take Care of Our Own” by Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band;
    * Adele being crowned as the new Queen (simultaneously with mourning the death the old Queen, Whitney);
    * Bon Iver winning as New Artist;
    * Foo Fighters (but was Grohl being ironic in dissing computers?)
    * Semi-posthumous award for Pop Duo/Group performance to Tony Bennett and the late Amy Winehouse (who is now partying with the late Whitney Houston);
    * Kanye West under some kind of control, Lady Antebellum for “Own the Night”;
    * Taylor Swift being musical, and not just pretty, in “Mean” as performed live;
    * “Drama y Luz” being recognized for Latin music;
    * Skrillix getting the nod for dance Music;
    * Alison Kraus;
    * Tinariwen’s World Music award;
    * Chick Corea winning for Jazz instrumental album;
    * Louis CK for Comedy album (my son literally ran into him in Brooklyn New York last year);
    * Betty White getting the Spoken Word Album (Granted, there were more conventional nominees, but you have got to love Empress Betty White, the last living veteran of the Franco-Prussian War or whatever;
    * The Jazz vocal album;
    * Paul McCartney having turned into his father (is there a Science Fiction novel in here struggling to get out?)

  27. In retrospect, I hope you managed to squeeze some of Ms. Houston’s dance tunes from the ’80’s in.

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