It always goes like this. We will be out driving somewhere when a song I like comes on the radio.
“What are you doing?” my wife will ask.
I’ll tell her I am dancing.
“No, you are not,” she’ll insist.
“Then what am I doing?”
“You’re bouncing about and jerking your arms.”
“Exactly,” I say, “It’s my happy dance.“
“When you dance,” she’ll explain, “there is this thing called the beat.”
I’ve heard that before.
Actually, I have heard it many times and each time I have heard it, the person telling me about it was confident that they were telling me something that I was hearing for the first time.
You see, I never learned to dance. It is something many in my age group never learned to do – at least properly. Our teens years landed in that awkward gap between the dance crazes of the early 60’s and travesty known as disco. You didn’t so much dance back then as you stood at arms length from your partner and gyrated. If you were off-beat no one noticed and if you were out of step – well, there really wasn’t any step to be out of.
It was half of what killed dancing. The other half was the bands.
For this I blame television and most notably Dick Clark. Before American Bandstand, people showed up to hear the music, after Bandstand they came to watch the music. It shifted the focus of the music and it is hard to watch a band perform when you have a person in your way – that is why we let go of each other.
By the mid-70’s, dance music for adults had all but faded away. The big bands dissolved and the ballrooms closed. In Minnesota, fire took the Terp Ballroom and the Lakeside. They tore down The Prom in Saint Paul and shuttered The Marigold in Minneapolis.
Now for anyone over thirty, the only place to dance is at weddings.
Most wedding halls have a dance floor and after the meal has been served and the last toast muttered into a microphone, a DJ will fire up the tunes. It is always too loud and the acoustics are always terrible. You have to shout to be heard by the person across the table.
When the music begins, only the children enjoy it. They hop and squeal around the dance floor, bouncing about and jerking their arms just like I do when I do my happy dance.
But after a few tunes, the music will slow down and an old couple will glide out onto the floor. He will lead her and she will keep him on the beat until a few more couples step out to join them.
The DJ will then shuffle through the well worn litany of wedding dance numbers: Proud Mary is obligatory, as is The Beer Barrel Polka and of course, The Chicken Dance – and inevitably, the music will settle into something soft and sentimental, like The Tennessee Waltz.
It is the only dance I can do convincingly, and as more and more couples thread their way between the tables and out onto the floor, I will turn to my wife and say, “Do you want to dance?”
She will cast an eye on the gently flowing vortex of couples and say, “I thought you would never ask.”
54 thoughts on “My Happy Dance”
Enjoyed this. I cannot dance. Have excellent rhythm. Sub-excellent bilateral coordination (a not-uncommon Aspie trait). Won’t dance even at weddings, as am object of pity and ridicule. Too bad, for who doesn’t like moving to music? But do my thing in private, and in car, and surely make truckers everywhere happier for it. If not from amusement, then at least from gratitude: “There, but for the grace of God and ungeekliness, go I.”
Wedding dance floors aren’t big enough for me. I need a wide berth or else they’ll likely have to call the paramedics. Great post, Greg. Simple and fun.
I have heard of people requiring a safe space to dance… but not a safe space for everyone else. 🙂
Another take on middle-aged dancing…
I really, really liked that!
Thanks! Must be dancing season.
I thought I was a great dancer. Really. I could identify the bad and I was decent. Until, in my late 20s a friend told me I was off the beat and I danced “too fast.” Of course, this was coming from the prettiest friend I had, that all the guys liked. Then, I had another tall blonde that was with us (gorgeous, as well) and both of them stated that you had to slow it down and I was like, you’re kidding right? Are you just trying to be sexual with your dancing or are you being serious? They both insisted…so I lost my taste for dancing after that.
Now, I just wiggle my behind with the kids to make them laugh on purpose. At weddings, all bets are off, because everyone is drinking…kids are jumping and everyone looks ridiculous..especially after the chicken dance, electric slide, etc. You get lost in the masses and have a great time!
The reason all bets are off at wedding dances, other than that everyone is soused, is because you are among the people you love – and they can forgive everything.
Everything that is other than my cousin Mike trashing my Yamaha 80. Some things you can never forgive.
well, your family just wants to secretly laugh at you. That’s okay, because you’re laughing at them too… 🙂
Dang those cousins named Mike.
Dancing to you own beat is akin to marching to your own drummer. Don’t ever listen to naysayers on this one 😊
HER: Now what are you doing?
ME: I am marching to the beat of my own drummer.
HER: Didn’t we discuss that beat thing?
ME: Yeah, but this is my beat.
HER: Beat requires a sense of rhythm.
ME: You want to listen to Talk Radio?
HER: How about silence instead?
Exactly!! Even silence has a beat 😊 and remember, my 2015 Word is ‘Cadence’ so I’ve got an ever-changing beat going on this year!
I can’t dance either, and before reading your post, I never realized that it’s probably a generational thing: growing up when we did, we never really had the chance to learn how! My mother-in-law used to love to dance to the polka music she grew up with, and my mother grew up dancing to Glenn Miller, etc. I just had to wing it, and without a great sense of rhythm, I never really learned how. Thank goodness for the occasional “easy to dance to” song at wedding receptions! Great post….
Our generation tossed out a lot of traditions that now that we are older and wiser we regret losing.
Good stuff! The Chicken Dance is big in Pittsburgh, too, by the way.
And The Hokey-Pokey?
The Hokey-Pokey is what it’s all about, everywhere.
Texas has the corner on dancing. The two step can be done drunk or sober. That’s my kind of dancing. I had a similar experience at Gruene Hall. When I last asked my wife to dance she politely declined with the statement, “You don’t dance.”
John, it sounds like our experience resonate perfectly. 🙂
Ah, memories. My parents met at the Marigold Ballroom and for many years they went dancing every Sunday night at the Prom Ballroom. Love this post and especially your ending. Kudos to you for asking your wife to dance ~ the way a good husband should.
It is sad to lose those venues. I remember The Prom during the early 60’s. It was on my paper route and when I was out making my collections at night, I would watch couples drifting across the Arlen’s parking lot toward the door. Their walk was a dance in itself.
I do like to dance with her – I guess I am just a softie.
I have to add that the neighborhood The Prom was in wasn’t the best. When I worked for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), our headquarters was on the next block. We would sit in meetings with the agents and watch drug deals go down out the window.
That’s why I stick to the Penguin Shuffle (awkwardly standing in one place and flapping ones arms). It’s kind of the best.
Every time I try that, people think I am going into Happy Feet mode, so they all form a circle around me. It is so humiliating… 😦
But that’s the best part!
Don’T forget YMCA, a wedding dance staple. I still can’take figure out how to make the letters correctly but I don’t really care, I just make that shit up as I go.
I have the same problem.
THEM: What are you doing? Can’t you spell YMCA?
ME: It’s Morse code.
From a fellow gyrator, all I can say is “Rock on with ya bad self…”
Once when we were out driving and I was dong my happy dance, my wife said, “You almost put that truck that passed us in the ditch, the guy was laughing so hard.”
Your last paragraph restored my hope. Perhaps one day he will ask me to dance.
I loved the post. And the only dancing I ever learned was English Country dance, accompanied by a teacher who kept telling me I had two left feet. I can’t tell right from left, so the rest is (danceless) history.
When my sister was trying to teach me to dance, I explained that I had two left feet. She said, “you should be so lucky.”
Those last two paragraphs are sweet, sweet, sweet.
I agree about the music being too loud at wedding receptions. I hate when you can’t hear the person sitting next to you. Albeit I suffer a major hearing loss in one year. But still.
Every once in a while I will sneak a love letter into my blog just to see if she is paying attention.
DJ’s should be licensed and required to attend a training class that consists of memorizing two rules:
#1 Keep the sound down for the first hour.
#2 Save the rap for later.
I have seen wedding dances start with loud rap that sends half the crowd sprinting for the door.
While channel surfing one evening, I came across the RFDTV channel. The program was a polka dance party from somewhere in North Dakota. There were huge numbers of people all basically going the same direction (counter-clockwise as seen from above). They were having a great time.
My wife swears I can polka. I tell no, she tells me yes. She says it is deeply rooted in my German DNA. 🙂
Polka is coming back among the urban hipsters – along with bowling. You should see the old men in Minneapolis twirling the college girls. It is beyond sweet.
I learned to dance with my Daddy, at the Friday family nights at the Masonic Lodge — in Iowa, as a matter of fact. They always had a live band of at least five or six members, and they played the big band favorites. Swing was my favorite, and we were good.
Now, I’m living in dancehall heaven. Gruene Hall, the Broken Spoke in Austin, Crider’s in Hunt, Schroeder Hall — there are many, many more. You could two-step your way around the state for a good while before running out of venues, and Western Swing is alive and well. Thank goodness!
The music is what I love most about Texas; that and the winter weather. Texas country music doesn’t have the same polish as what comes out of Nashville, in other words, you can’t hear the written by committee, approved by management, tested by focus group sound in it.
We visited Gruene and though it was nice, I thought it too much of every other old tourist town – until I saw the hall. THAT was a place I wanted to spend the evening. Unfortunately, someone else was more set on shopping. We didn’t go in, despite my temper tantrums.
We enjoy dancing but don’t have many opportunities — or many skills. Still, what better way to be close in public?
Wedding dances are probably about the most egalitarian thing there is – you can be a terrible dancer and still fit right in. 🙂
In between the 60s and disco, I actually took dancing lessons. I “learned” all the basic classic dances and we even took a shot at applying those steps to some (then) modern music. When Disco began, I reverted to “I’m not a very good dancer, but I’ll have another drink” because, well, Disco. Great post. I love the ending.
My sister tried to teach me to dance. I think that is true with a lot of guys who had sisters who were older or of the same age. She gave up though. Some people are hopeless. 🙂
Almost Iowa, a great/funny post with a really sweet ending that takes the reader by surprise. Nicely done!
I like to take the readers by surprise, it’s what I do. 🙂
Country music saved me from disco. From the mid 70’s on, “top 40” FM was an acquired taste. Now I can “happy dance” to Eric Clapton or George Strait. It’s comforting to be musically ambiguous.
I fled to classical music. My wife brought me to country – in more ways than one.
Here’s my absolute favorite wedding song:
I can honestly say this is the first time I have heard it.
Nice touch a romance to conclude with!
Yeah, I do enjoy dancing with the old girl… Well, at least I call it dancing.
What a sad story…lol. I’ve never heard anyone blame Dick Clark for anything before. That’s a first. I say you should continue doing your happy dance whenever and wherever you choose, even in a car..:)
Hey, somebody has to take the rap. 🙂
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