Why will people simply not believe you when you tell them that you don’t want to dance? Their reactions mimic the classic pattern of grief: first confusion, then denial, then anger. They tug at your arm like they’re trying to pull it from the socket. ‘Come on, you have to dance!’ ‘No I don’t.’ ‘Oh come on! You want to really.’ ‘No I don’t.’ ‘Yes you do! Of course you do! Everybody likes dancing!’
It’s at this stage that I sometimes get all dark on them, losing the smile, injecting a note of firmness or perhaps even menace, and pointing out that if I wanted to dance I would be dancing, but as I’m not dancing they can safely infer that I don’t want to dance. None of which reflects well on me, I know, seeing as it’s someone’s 50th in a village hall. But balls to them. They started it.
People always make the same accusations. ‘You’re boring!’ Well no, if I was boring I wouldn’t be here in the first place, would I? I’m sitting having a drink, a laugh, an enjoyable conversation with Emma about that new series on BBC4 — and you want me to interrupt it all for ‘We Built This City’ by Starship? Who’s the boring one here?
Next up is: ‘You don’t like music!’ Wrong again. I love music. It’s just that I feel no need to dance to it. Recently I was sitting on my own at a bash, delighted that the DJ had chosen ‘Walk This Way’ by Aerosmith. Only a few days before I’d been playing along to it on guitar at home, and was happily rerunning the experience in my head. That and concentrating on the drum riff — my son got a kit for Christmas (I bought myself a kit for Christmas), and trying to decipher the timing of hi-hat, snare and bass drum was great fun. But then someone had to come up and ruin it, didn’t they? ‘Have a dance!’ ‘No thanks.’ ‘What’s up, Aerosmith not cool enough for you?’ I was tempted to hit them.
The other assumption made about those of us who shun the dance floor is that we’re scared of making fools of ourselves. Oh, if only you knew. I refer anyone making that charge to my partner. She will confirm my persistent habit of air-guitar playing, and indeed air-drumming, in the car. It’s fun at any time, of course, but especially when you’re waiting in traffic and so can really get stuck in. Who cares that the other drivers can see you? If they’re capable of remaining unmoved by the charms of ‘Rocks’ by Primal Scream, then their opinions are as nothing to me. Jo feels differently and hisses at me to pack it in. This, of course, only adds to the enjoyment. I’ve become adept at maintaining note-perfect accuracy while blocking her route to the volume control.
Why do people get so angry that you won’t dance? There’s a desperation in their pleas — no, their commands — which says far more about them than it does about you. No one gets this het up about other activities. Imagine if you were round at someone’s for dinner and declined their offer of coffee after the meal. Should they start yelling, ‘Come on, you’ve got to have coffee!’ while forcing a cup to your lips, you would run from the house as fast as possible and never see them again. Yet bullying someone into having a dance is seen as normal.
I reckon these people are trying to recapture their youth. They have three kids and a mortgage so large it won’t let them sleep at night. All of a sudden the strains of ‘Karma Chameleon’ transport them back to the age of 14, when their only worry was how they could snog Greg. If they can make everybody in the room dance along, perhaps they will find themselves back in 1983, free of the miseries of middle age. But no, look at him over there, the boring one refusing to dance…
I wouldn’t mind if they were any good at dancing themselves. I could take an attack from someone with serious moves. But despite talking like they’re the lovechild of John Travolta and Michael Jackson, they then head out onto the floor and throw the sort of shapes associated with electrocution. It’s dancing that bears no relation to the beat, the type actors have to do when the music is getting dubbed on later.
So what’s the solution? Could I take the dance Nazis to court? After all, the manhandling they subject you to would, in any other situation, count as assault. I might give it a go next time. ‘Get back on the floor, or I’m calling the law.’