Mysteries of Nightlife: The Dance Face
Clubbing is a weird thing. I’ve always thought it was weird. When I was 16, it took the form of Equinox in Leicester Square and – if I was lucky – a snog with a nameless southern European. Sometimes two or, on bonus nights, three. It was very weird: not least the format of being 16, a bit of a nerd like me, and flailing and jigging about in time to the hits of the day (1998) in a dark pulsating, strobe-lit room with completely awful strangers whom you were perfectly okay about locking lips and tongues with. Oh, and drinking Bacardi Breezers and Hooch.
Sometimes we tried to go clubbing but failed- I remember a particularly frustrating evening (1999) involving poring over Time Out, deciding that Farringdon seemed to be a cool nexus of happening nightlife (and snogs!) and setting out to get there. But after two hours of trying to navigate weekend engineering works, we had to give up and settle for some pub or bar of the ilk of Walkabout. Can’t remember if at the very least we had a snog. Either way, we hadn’t managed the Fabric dream, quite.
But enough of the memoir. My most recent outing to a club was last night, the Wellington in Knightsbridge. If the presence of skulls, crosses and Jesus references – and 6 quid Coronas – wasn’t absurd enough, I found that my dancing was completely whacked. Well, not my dancing, but dancing itself. For whatever reason, certain awkward questions I’ve tried to avoid my whole post-pubescent life rose to the fore and all but crippled me. Maybe it was the chopping and changing and the bad choices of His Highness the DJ. But anyway….
What are you supposed to do with your face while you dance? Look, in life there are very few social situations in which you’re huddled together with lots of other people – whom you know to a degree – and not in a position to talk. Not only that, you’re DANCING while not in a position to talk. Jiggling in time to some DJ’s whim, jiggling on the altar of groovy fun, connecting with that basic human urge to boogy. But I am past basic human urges – I’m too self conscious now, at 28 (!) – and dancing, though really really really fun, can be deeply embarrassing when you think about it. Which, I sadly, can’t help but do.
So there you are, with people, but not with them. Where does this leave your face? I for one feel rather on the weak foot when unable to express myself verbally. So, left to communicate via the swinging hips (and I wasn’t born a ass-rotating raver, let me tell you), my face feels directionless, unloved, at sea.
So it tends to gravitate towards other faces. But just when it latches on – awkardness sets in. Holding eye contact while dancing is too intense. Grinning foolishly at someone else dancing across the circle is also tiresome. Because sooner or later, that person’s eyes wander and you’re left beaming at nothing. Then where do you go?
Then, I think, you’re meant to show you’re so into the moment, so absorbed in the joy of movement, that you don’t care. One option is to kind of let your face become obscured by vigorous head-moving (and head-banging- with hair like mine, it’s easy peasy). Another is to show that you’re cool on your own, you’re an island! And you can just give a general happy look around the room. But without an object of attention, it’s hard to keep up a smile. And without a smile, dancing looks and feels even more lunatic than it does when you are grinning and locking eyes with a chum.
Another one: in what formation are you meant to dance? Should you stick to a circle? Move about? Go solo and try to draw people to you? I always think it’s a sign of charisma and popularity, who controls the circle of worshipful dancers. In a nightclub, I’m definitely the loser who lives in fear of losing track of her circle, and who sticks close to the ringleader.
Finally, there’s the question of your moves: am I the only one who copies? Sometimes I am at a loose end. I just am – I can’t repeat the same self-booty-grasping move or the hip hop punch over and over when, say, that terrible song “I got a feeling” comes on. So I look at the cool girls, so natural, across the way and see their break into a new style and I….COPY IT.
What I would love is some suggestions on the correct dance face. What do YOU all do when you’re dancing? Force a smile? Find a friend to share it with? Go into island mode? Tell me, and in doing so, make me less of a geek. Please.