The History of Dancing by Frank Scozzari

They say that dancing is an expression of the human experience, an art form that that can move the soul and express individuality—Un Ballet de L’humanité—bringing joy and strength to the body, peace of mind, and happiness of soul. Well, I’d say it’s a vertical expression of a horizontal ideal—an exaggerated form of foreplay, nothing more than a series of nonsensical gyrations and contortions designed to advertise and entice, or an excuse to go crazy. It’s a tribal ritual around an ancient firelight geared at staving-off what everyone knows is coming—old age and death. It’s The Waltz of Death.

I stood there at the rail watching the spectacle as if from afar. I let out an involuntarily chuckle as two dancers spun near me and looked around to see if anyone had heard me. The dancing zoo included individuals of all types and sizes, tall ones, short ones, attractive ones and ugly, twisting and swaying, buttocks pumping, torsos gyrating with no sense of direction. It was a melting pot of lonely hearts and swingers, couples in love and some not in love, and others who just wanted to make love.

I took another swig of my beer.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the need for it—all the pain and beauty of humanity was being exorcised there on the dance floor. But I just can’t imagine what intelligent aliens would have to say arriving on this planet and seeing it for the first time. And at this moment, I felt like I was seeing it for the first time. I was the alien, alone at the rail, taking notes, shaking my head, and laughing inside.

I watched a she-wolf encircle a man, turning her head, keeping her eyes on him, keeping a sexy smile. Another poor lonely heart male danced solo. He floated among the others waving open palms in the air, unable to attract a mate. Then his hands went high. He was summoning the dance gods for help, I figured. I watched him, realizing there was some truth to the bit about dancing being an expression of individual uniqueness. He was unique, or on some form of drug. And there was a couple, the man behind the woman, exaggerating the movements of copulation—decadently really, although the woman seemed to be into it. She lowered her body and bobbed her buttocks in rhythm with him.

Okay, I’m leaving now. Then I hesitated, and reconsidered. People go to freak shows don’t they? It’s better than sitting at home and watching T.V. It’s entertaining, really.

There were others locked in the Disco era, some influenced by punk and new wave, bouncing up and down, and there were some swing dances colliding into everyone. Occasionally a Macarena line would form, or a group would break into western line dancing.

The laughter inside was getting out of control. I took another swig.

Among all the chaos, I noticed this young woman. She emerged from the center, dancing alone and looking my way. She threw me a little half-smile and swirled around, gave me an over-the-shoulder look, and went back into the crowd. I followed her with my eyes as she carved her way across the dance floor, deeper and further away. She was very attractive, nice to look at. She had this flowing auburn hair, nice cheekbones and petite nose, doe-like eyes, the perfect curvature of the body, long, finely shaped legs, and she wore a short dress to accentuate them. And she could dance. I’ll admit that. Of all the dancers, she was the one I could actually watch with admiration. She had this unique ability to switch styles, and do so without skipping a beat. One song, one beat, and she’d go from pop to hip-hop to waltz to rock to something I didn’t even recognize. They were playing a mixture of oldies, rock music and disco, and she switched with the flow of each. It validated my belief that women are better dancers then men. They’re more talented at it. I think it goes back to ancient times. Think about it. It’s evidence of natural selection. Good female dancers who could properly entice were the ones who propagated the species. She disappeared behind others.

I took another long drink from my bottle of beer. The show went on—the gyrations, the swirls, the stumping, and the bouncing buttocks.

Stave off the inevitable, I thought. Deny it. Ward it off as long as possible. I laughed. Eventually the arthritis is going to kick in. Eventually you’ll be lying in a bed looking up at a ceiling, unable to move. Dance like there’s no tomorrow, because sometimes there is no tomorrow. And know it’s all a load of crap. I was glad I could see it, and was above it all.

The crowd parted and she emerged again. But this time she had her hand out and was curling her index finger inwardly. I turned and looked behind me—there were no other guys back there. I looked back her way and saw the finger still curling, and calling me, as were those doe-like eyes. I pointed a finger to my chest. Her head nodded.

I held up an apologetic palm and shook my head.

But she came my way anyhow, never breaking her rhythm, her finger still curling inward toward her nicely-formed breasts. She came all the way to the edge of the dance floor to where I stood. Now she was just in front of me. She held out a hand, and for reasons unknown to me, I took it. She led me to the end of the rail, to where it opened to the dance floor, and pulled me up the one step. I guzzled what was left in my beer and set the bottle on the corner upright. I felt myself being pulled out beneath the lights. I was feeling a little tanked up too. The beer was some kind of IPA with a high alcohol content—that drunken elation had settled in. I reluctantly followed—well, maybe, not so reluctantly. Once we were mixed in among the others, she let go of my hand and commenced dancing, keeping her eyes on me, smiling that cute little half-smile, turning her head as she spun around, never letting her eyes leave mine. And, I’ll admit, I was feeling somewhat lucky to be the recipient of this woman’s attention. As I said, she was quite beautiful and the undoubtedly the best dancer.

She wooed me deeper into the dance floor. Her hands kept calling me forward. And I followed. Again, you must understand, she never broke her rhythm. It was very remarkable. She was a moveable piece of art. She was a moveable feast. She was a dancing doll. I was thinking she could probably wash dishes and dance simultaneously, and do it well.

Now I was in the center of the zoo. And I was obliged to move. I didn’t want to be the only one out there just standing. I had to do something. I harkened back to what I knew and remembered from the last time I’d danced, ages ago, and I employed it. It was a simple movement—a slow sway of the waist with arms down and a few knee bends tossed in. Better to keep it simple, I thought. Just enough to keep all eyes off me. And I wasn’t bad. I’m not one of those stiff, robotic types. I do have some natural rhythm. And I didn’t look silly among all the wannabe John Travoltas, Patrick Swayzes, and Fred Astaires. I can’t do all the crazy stuff, nor did I want to. But I did enough to get by.

The funny thing is, she started mimicking me. Not in a degrading way, in a complimentary way. I think she was doing it to encourage, or to make me feel like I belonged, or to relax me. I switched to the only other style I knew, which consisted of a little more hip swaying and a little more movement in the shoulders, and arms up. And she echoed it, immediately. She was really good at that. I considered it a compliment, so I let it go, but it made me nervous. Somehow she was getting into my musical soul; she was reading my inner workings. That’s how well she was able to replicate my style. And it made us look good, it made me look good. It made us look like a couple. I was beginning to think she could do brain surgery and dance at the same time.

Now she took my hand and led me to a place beneath a blower. Cool air came rushing down. It felt good too, because it was getting hot. She closed her eyes and tilted her head back, really getting into it. I guess I was too, because I looked around at the other dances and they didn’t look so silly anymore. Everyone seemed to be having fun. Everyone seemed to be loose. And it dawned on me that I was now part of the zoo, admittedly so, and I was okay with it.

I turned my attention back to the young woman. She smiled and I smiled too. And I tilted my head, keeping in step with the beat, and she did the same. I attempted a twirl, came around without falling, and saw that she had twirled simultaneously. I quickly resumed the sway and shoulder movement, and she did the same. Her doe-like eyes blinked. Her smile grew wider, as did mine.

Dance like there’s no tomorrow, I thought. And know it’s all a load of crap. And so what, sometimes it’s a load worth carrying.  I saw the solo lonely-hearts guy with the palms out come swirling past, and I gave him a nod. I saw the two copulators gyrate by me on my right, and I threw them a smile. And the song now playing was apropos. It was the song by Kansas.

“Carry on my wayward son. There’ll be peace when you are done.” But in that moment, I was hoping that being done was a long way off, because being alive was were I was. And I was wanting it to never end.

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Frank Scozzari is a Pushcart Prize nominee who resides in Nipomo, a small town on the California central coast. He is an avid traveler, once climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, and is an active member of the Screen Actor’s Guild. His short stories have appeared in Berkeley Fiction Review, Tampa Review, Eleven Eleven, Minetta Review, South Dakota Review, Reed Magazine, The Nassau Review, and The MacGuffin, and have been featured in literary theater. Read more here.

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