Dancing Badly

by Alexandra Molotkow


Very few of us have the talents of a Chris Brown or Usher or Ciara or Beyoncé. If your dancing skills resemble these people, by all means be a superior mover and distance yourself from the world by any and all means necessary. But contrary to popular belief, the next level on the rung down from “really good dancer” isn’t a “pretty good dancer.” Because there’s nothing worse than a “pretty good dancer.” Because the hallmark trait of a “pretty good dancer” is “someone who is actively trying to be a really good dancer yet isn’t.” And that person is the worst (and if you don’t know this to be true, that person is you). If you aren’t an amazing dancer, the next-best thing is to be an on-beat dancer whose moves create a blissfully irrational confidence in self. Dancing in a way that is often ridiculous, never threatening, and increasingly makes you feel fly-er than the song before.

Rembert Browne said it all, but the point is worth belaboring:

I am a bad dancer. It runs in my family. My mom (sorry Mom) is one of the worst dancers I’ve ever seen, but when she dances — and it’s rare, but she does — it’s like a wall flips and there’s Wendy!, and though Mom would never talk about it, Wendy loves to dance. My father refuses to dance for any reason, but if I ever get married, I will choreograph the aisle walk so that he has to dance and this is one of the only reasons I would ever get married.

I love dancing. Always have. It took me years to realize I can’t dance for shit, and now that I know, I’m much better. I’m self-conscious but more like self-conscious of being self-conscious, like I’m conscious of the fact that dancing poorly and spontaneously is kind of precious, and I don’t like that kind of precious, it’s like air-guitaring or something, ugh, but not as much as I like to dance. I mean life is short and often garbagey, so why not squeeze as much joy into it as possible?

I went on a date once with someone who made a point of dancing in public, like they went out with boomboxes and practiced at home, so that bystanders would enjoy the movements. I didn’t know what to make of it at the time, but when I caught them at work in an empty tennis court, I thought, Take me with you.

As Browne points out, commitment is the point — bad dancing, like karaoke, is only bad if it’s half-assed. That doesn’t make it easy to witness, sometimes it’s painful, but there’s a special breed of joy that comes wrapped in secondhand embarrassment.

I’m a bad dancer. Always have been. I’m useless with choreography and I can’t coordinate between shoulders and hips. My limbs don’t care what I want them to do. They take their orders from something else, I don’t know what, but I’ve learned to get out of its way.