Dance Moves for People Who Hate Dancing
Me and pelvic thrust movements just don’t gel.
I mean, I assume that’s what dancing is, right? Maybe not.
Maybe that confusion is part of the reason why I just can’t stand dancing. On that note, if I could dance by just standing, I would.
But no, that doesn’t appease the happy, carefree hip-thrusters among us. They want more. They always want more.
What they don’t realize is that while they’re out “murdering on the dance floor,” as our good lord Sophie Ellis-Bextor intended, it’s the dance floor that murders me. I feel embarrassed and awkward and stupid and unsure of what to do with my face — let alone my gangly limbs. It feels like an acid bath. So like most introverts, when the dancing starts, I’m the guy who wallflowers so hard I’m practically ivy. Camouflaged.
Usually I can grow my tendrils over to the cluster of other introverts clinging to the wall and make small talk, difficult given the demographic, but soon you all bond over your shared hatred for the extroverts’ merrymaking. You quietly discuss the geopolitics of the dance floor. Hey, look at that person. That guy’s the leader. I wonder if those two are a thing?
And then they see you.
Then more aggressively.
Your quote unquote friends pull you into the thrum with their damp, dance-sweaty hands and then you’re in there — the beat in your ears, the heat of body temperature bodies slamming into you from all directions. Do you look into people’s eyes? Do you look at their bodies? Maybe just look at the ceiling. And bob your head weirdly like a convulsing chicken. You can do this. Do the chicken. Do the chicken. Do the chicken. Just a couple minutes of chicken and you can go back to ivy. Chicken. Chicken. Chicken. Chicken…
They say dancing is self-expression. If that’s the case, I’ll happily stick to writing.
Lately though, I’ve felt a change.
I’m not sure if it’s the complete absence of dancing occasions due to Covid-19, resulting in some sort of strange pent-up energy. Or if it’s just me getting older. Most likely, it’s due to me and my partner’s at-home dance parties since getting our new speaker. But it turns out being silly with your body in the privacy of your own abode is actually quite fun. So maybe it’s not a stretch that it can be that in public too.
Don’t get me wrong, I still hate dancing. I still can’t dance for the life of me. But collectively my partner and I have discovered some go-to dance moves that don’t make us feel like absolute idiots on the dance floor. And which we can preemptively bust out to sidestep the situation above.
(Or at least avoid the chicken. No one enjoys the chicken.)
Section 1: Miming shit
If you’re imagining everyone looking at you as you flail bizarrely in a drunken crowd, chances are you have a pretty active imagination. So use that imagination to your advantage, by miming a random activity that involves your whole body — or, at minimum, your arms — in time with the music.
It can literally be anything — from washing a window to shaking maracas or sawing a bit of wood. If you do it in time with the music, it’ll look like dancing, and better yet, you can alternate the arms you’re doing it with on each beat to really sell the illusion. Here are some of my favorites.
The Shovel —Gravediggers might scoff at your technique, but the only grave you’re digging is for the end of your social ostracism. Pile two fists on top of each other like you’re holding the handle of a long imaginary shovel, then “dig” down diagonally across your body, as though pushing the shovel down into the earth, and stamp your corresponding foot down as you do. Now you’ve got a hunk of earth on your shovel. Fling it over your shoulder, then mirror the dig/fling action on the other side of your body. One, two, one, two — dig, fling, dig, fling. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
The Waiter — If you’re at a wedding, take a cue from the waitstaff around you. Hold your palm up to the ceiling like you’re holding an imaginary cloche. Then walk around the floor in time with the music, bending your knees a little more than usual with each step. Hell, you can even pump your upward-facing palm a bit. Take it to the next level by switching your cloche hand with each beat. Now you’re serving canapés.
The Towel Wipe — Is it getting hot in here? No, it’s just the steam from my invisible shower and now I’ve gotta towel myself off. Simply imagine you’re wiping your wet back with a bath towel, moving your hips as you move your hands down to butt-level. Do this one as a flourish when the music gets super fast. Combine with a squat for added effect.
Yep, miming works surprisingly well. I mean, in a pinch, you could even just pretend you’re literally hacking someone to death with a baseball bat — put two hands together to clutch the base of your invisible bat, then swing out at various angles and heights imagining you’re clobbering someone in front of you. Just make sure to bob a bit, smile, and time each bat-swing with the music so it doesn’t look like you’re rehearsing a future felony.
The secret with these moves is that you won’t feel stupid because you feel like you’ve outsmarted everyone just by miming random activities.
Section 2: Minimal but obvious movement
As mentioned, a tiny head-bop or minuscule body-rocking won’t feng with your dancing friends’ shui. Instead, the more extreme you make your arm movements, the more it looks like you’re getting into it, and the more likely everyone will get off your back when you sit back down. So these next few moves involve maximizing your visual presence on the dance floor, while minimizing the effort (and body coordination) required.
The Cruise Ship Dance — I don’t know how I came up with the name for this. I think it’s to do with how I imagine people would dance if they were in the background of a poorly-rendered 64-bit Tekken match set on a cruise ship. Whatever the reason, this dance is all about maximizing your physical height. Stretch your arms straight above your head and hold one hand with the other. Now move your hips and hands (still up) together to the left, then to the right, then to the left, then to the right. Someone call the captain ‘cause this ship’s outta control!
The Metronome —This move really puts the “b” in bpm. It’s essentially a turbocharged body rock. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hold your arms and fists down straight but out slightly from your body. Then, jerkily and aggressively bend from side to side like you’re a metronome in time with the music, exaggerating your movements by lifting and lowering your fists with each bend. Your vigorous movement in everyone’s peripheral vision will surely catch the approving eye of your fellow dancers. Bust this move out for faster-paced beat-driven songs.
The Jellyfish — Channel your inner invertebrate to make as much visual motion as possible. You’ve heard of “The Worm” before, that penis-crushing party-stopper that only the boldest (or least self-aware) dance-monkeys attempt. Well, this is basically The Worm with only your arms and hands. Wobble your arms back and forth, same with your head, almost like you’re swimming. Bob your knees to get real aquatic. No one’s gonna not notice this.
Or say, like me, you have zero coordination with your body. No worries, limit movement to just your head. Seriously. Look sharply from direction to direction in time with the beat. It’ll look profound and intense. Like a meerkat on coke.
Yes these moves are a little uncomfortable. They require you to use your body and make a bit more of a scene. But think of them as Band-Aids — the sooner you rip ’em off, the sooner you can sit back down and be left alone.
Section 3: Just do exercise
There’s a thin line between dancing and plain old run-of-the-mill exercising. So exploit the shit out of that line by doing some exercises straight out of your favorite HIIT routine, in time with the beat of the music.
Aerobic Stretches — Olivia Newton-John hoodwinked us all with this technique in her music video for “Let’s Get Physical.” Now it’s your turn. Hands on hips, feet shoulder-width apart and lean, bend to one side, then back to the middle, then bend to the other, all in time with the music. Try it with your arm high over your head for extra brownie points. Olivia would be proud.
Squats — Everyone will think you’re gettin’ low like Flo Rida. Really you’re just working your quads. Go down, then up, then down, then up, in time with each beat (or two beats) of the music. Most people won’t question it because, to the casual glance, it looks like dancing — and a casual glance is the only kinda glance anyone does on the dance floor.
Walking Lunges — Time to get mobile. Put your hands on your hips then do walking lunges as you snake your way through the discotheque in time with the beat. Great for songs around 115–130 bpm. Just walk, then dip, walk, then dip. Feel the music in your thighs.
A lot of the time dancing feels pointless. But it doesn’t feel pointless when you’re secretly doing a muscle-toning workout in front of everyone. You, one. Dance floor, zero.
Section 4: Team up
This is a quick one, but ultra effective. Presidents had a person who’d walk around with a football-shaped briefcase that contained all the nuclear codes. This is like that, but for dancing — the nuclear option.
Simply take any of the dance moves above, find another person who hates dancing, and do the moves in sync with them.
It’s that easy.
Synchronized dancing will make everyone shut up. When it looks planned, everyone loses their shit. Hell, they might even join in. Who’s the leader now?
As the world readies for some post-Covid-19 boogies, I hope these moves help you feel a little more ready. They’ll make you look like you’re trying and look like you’re dancing, which is all that really matters. Because when you actually have some semblance of a plan for social occasions that inevitably involve dancing, you won’t then panic and revert to the weird convulsing chicken.
Instead, you can have your own fun, which in turn (and I can’t believe I’m about to say this) — makes… dancing… fun…
That’s what I think the extroverts really mean when they say dancing is fun. Dancing is a joke. It’s an open forum to do stuff you find fun or funny. Which might be funny to others, too; but if not, no one cares.
So get out there and thrust your pelvises.
Be free, my chickens. Free.