Dancing with the stars, it's an ordeal. And I love it
Diya’s an instinctive dancer, without the moves. The three-year-old cherub in pink salwar-kurta wears a lost look as she tries to copy the adults many times her age who are sashaying in alcohol-addled frenzy all around.
Occasionally, she bends her knees, gently rocking her torso on her firm, sandaled feet. But light of age and short of practice, that’s as far as she gets.
Super (yes, that’s his name), on the other hand, has it all: his picture-perfect moves, like his name, can only be described in superlatives.
Barely 10, the boy in yellow t-shirt and black and white baseball cap, the peak jauntily twisted to the right, washed sky-blue jeans and orange sneakers would easily pass for a punk rocker was he walking out on the street.
Grooving in the dance room, the blue and green and red rays from the strobe light up above sprinkling his sprightly body, he sets the stage alight.
Most of the other dancers stop and look on in amazement at this prodigy who can pull off a headstand, a headspin, a backspin, and one would assume, given the range of skills on display, every imaginable twist and turn a human body is capable of.
Two ends of the dancing spectrum they may be, but Diya and Super appeal to me equally. A rider off the bat: I’m not a natural dancer.
And no, even booze doesn’t help a jot if that inspiring spark’s missing: The stimulus from the floor has to be strong enough to overcome my propensity to sit back and enjoy people have fun.
Peter Lovatt, Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and who is considered a bit an expert on the science behind dancing, believes people dance, primarily, for social bonding and mate-selection purposes. Even Darwin believed dancing was part of the mate selection process.
So could it be that although those two kids certainly got me going, what compelled me off my bums, ultimately, were all the pretty faces around?
On the basis of the research in the field so far, probably yes. The findings are consistent across cultures and geography. Interestingly, men tend to watch women’s hips while they dance (the evolutionary logic being that women move their hips more when they are at a more fertile stage—when they are not menstruating—hence sending out subtle mating cues to male brains) while women evaluate the level of confidence and the ease of comfort with which men dance (which in turn gives them a fair measure of the dancer’s place in the ‘survival of the fittest’ race).
So it’s not all gloom for occasional dancers. As important as dancing skills are, “...the best way to attract a compatible mate is to relax and just move naturally to the rhythm.” See?
I could always argue (against Darwin, no less) that my moving and shaking has absolutely nothing to do with my desire to attract ‘fertile’ mates, and everything to do with my attempt at social bonding; even given some devious subconscious urge that might be at play for why I dance, or as often, choose not to.
Again, scientific research suggests, the main reason many people are reluctant to dance is their heightened self-awareness.
A bit of it is predetermined: those who come with genes that lend to ‘introvert’ characters are much more dance-shy, as compared to those whose genes lend to ‘extrovert’ characters.
But inhibition can also be acquired. Those who grew up feeling uncomfortable about their bodies —I certainly did; it was hard to feel comfortable in a bamboo-thin frame that groaned and winced on the slightest movement—may forever be conscious that people might judge them on the basis of how they look.
They also tend to be among the most awkward movers given their limited opportunities to hone their dancing skills: the less they did it, the more they lost out in the skills department to the ‘naturals’ who became even better dancers with time.
Thankfully, it’s not impossible to overcome that instinct to hold back, as I found out the last couple of times I hit the floor. It was looking at Diya and Super that compelled me into shedding my inhibitions.
Thank God they were there. For that abandonment was such an enriching experience. As I started moving with Diya and her countless friends and family members at a wedding reception recently, I realized that most of my movements were side to side: I liked splaying my legs, and bringing them together; spreading out my arms wide, and by degrees lowering them close to my flanks.
Only when I started to dance (and not a moment before) did it hit me: Seldom did I make front and back movements, unlike most of the dancers who seemed to be doing so with ease.
By the end of the evening, I was forcing myself into what felt like some very awkward front and back movement of my legs. Likewise, I started imitating the upfront hand movements of those who caught my attention.
I must’ve looked like an absolute fool making those jerky, ungainly movements. Assuming people even cared.