Monday, November 19, 2007

Dance Dance Dance

aside/preamble: what a busy day.

This weekend I went to Staten Island and witnessed the thing called "high school student production sort-of talent show contest." This is going to seem unfair for the kids, but oh man. The kids.

The kids. Speaking of which, who ever came up with the wisdom, "it's like stealing candy from a baby?" I might have asked this before, but isn't that just mean? Who steals candy from babies? Why would this question signify "ease" and not "cruelty?"

Coochy coochy coo~~. Is that a Snickers bar I see in widdle Tommy's hand? Auntie Anne is hypoglycemic and hungover. Yes she is! Yes she is! Auntie Anne wants your iddy biddy Snickers bar Awwww. (Snatches candy from the baby and runs away.)

Anyway, not to be all "when I was a kid..." but maybe I can get away with saying "kids these days..." My high school classmates did parodies of The Grapes of Wrath, sneaking in clever jokes about senior english teachers. At generic Staten Island H.S. the jokes were all about TV commercials ("Can you hear me now?" ugh. Verizon - you lose. Bigtime. If I hear one more chuckle after asking that question, I'll slap someone. Probably a baby.) And my last needlessly cruel critique of this high school production: in one failed attempt to interpret the impact of global warming, the Juniors sang a rendition of "It's Raining Men" where the words of the chorus were changed to:

It's really hot! Oh my goodness, it's really hot. Oh my goodness.

Um. I think "It's raining (replace 'men' with an adverb, any adverb)" would have been just fine.
And yes, this is Anne taking candy away from babes. It's really hot? Yes. And now I'm going to slap you. I worry this is the effect of all those things we fear taking over the children. But I'm not scared. I'm disappointed.

But Anne would not just shit on high school kids because it's funny. There's a point to this whole exposé. I realized something:

The one thing these kids seemed to at least want to get right was dancing. Nowhere is dancing more important than in junior high and high school. Like, everyone but the chick who drives a hearse wants to know how to dance, and even hearse-girl was pretty stoked to find out she could flail her arms to The Smiths and a really dark room full of clove cigarette smoke.

What's more, 6th through 12th graders love to dance in sync with each other more than most age groups. And if you don't want to dance, you want to watch your friends dance. My friend Jenny and I were talking about this, and she wondered aloud, "where did moves like the Roger Rabbit and Running Man get their ubiquitous appeal? And do high school students still name their dance moves?"

Is the Running Man the new Patty Cake?

Anyway, upon graduation, the number of aspiring dancers and dance enthusiasts drops by 80%, and among those left, you got the dancers who reinterpret ballet to the sound of minimalist bass flute and an audience of five at the local college, and everyone else "dancing" in T-Pain videos, funnelling champagne down their but crack. You're considered lucky if you end up cheerleading for the Trojans.

Yes, this is Anne being an old conservative hag.

Thing is, I don't care that the neo-pubescent Staten Island H.S. Musical dancers wore torn t-shirts over their shoulder, camel-toe-tards, and enough make-up to put their natural faces out of business for good. If they want to pay homage to New Jersey, fine. It is Staten Island after all. I don't even care that their dance moves are older than me. It's touching, if anything. What stuns me though, is the life arc of dancing. One day we're all making The Electric Slide look more like The Astro-Glide, and the next day we're all making fun of it.

Case. In. Point.

Did I used to want to be able to jazzercise my way to popular glory? Sure. Did I know all about the Pilipino dance collective in junior high that aspired to guest spot on In Living Color? Of course. Did I brag about how my high school's dance team won nationals? Absolutely. Will I laugh at you now if you win a modern dance competition at Das Dansfest in Hanover? Probably, and really hard. (Note: one of my best friends is a modern dancer who won German dance competitions. I know this shit is taken seriously. Leave me alone.)

Let me make my ammends to youth and promise to dance a little this week.
And if I dance like it's 1999, it's because high school was still a fond memory for me then.

1 comment:

Ed Sizemore said...

Anne, my impression is that "like taking candy from a baby" derives its origins from criminal slang. It was a way of letting your fellow ne’er-do-well that the job your soliciting them for is an easy one. It was then picked up by mainstream America. I’ve heard the phrase in movies from the thirties, so I suspect that Hollywood had a hand in popularizing the saying. So in the original context the cruelty was A-OK.