Here’s an old piece I wrote for the Phoenix New Times, back during my “clubbing days”. That was a period of my life when I spent my nights (after performing) going to dance nights at places like The Ruby Room, Rips, Sanctum, Philthy Phil’s, White Rabbit at the San Carlos, Bar Smith, after hours at Quincy’s and a dozen other places that got consigned to oblivion like a flip phone with a “House of Jealous Lovers” ringtone. Basically if a place had $5 or less for a cover and played at least a little bit of new wave/goth in their mix I was there, dancing my ass and desperately trying not to make eye contact with people (god forbid I would SOCIALIZE with people at a dance night). *Sigh* I miss those awkward, sweaty days… at least until I remember how often I had to listen to that awful She Wants Revenge song and then the past doesn’t look or sound so great…
Most people wouldn’t guess it, looking at my chubby physique, but I am a man who loves to dance. If there’s a scuzzy bar or club in some part of town hosting a dance night (preferably one without a cover), there’s a 70 percent chance that I’ll be popping in there at some point.
And last Saturday was one of those nights, when I stopped by Rips, my home away from home, for their monthly Obscura dance. This month’s Obscura was a Scott Pilgrim-themed night, and it was packed. I was practically pressed shoulder-to-shoulder. Being in such close quarters with folks over a long period of time gave me a chance to see a lot of bad dance-floor behavior at work, therefore I feel it’s an ethical duty to give a small crash course in basic dance-floor etiquette.
1. The dance floor is for dancing, not for standing.
Some people don’t like dancing. That’s understandable, kind of sad, but forgivable. What is unforgivable is when said non-dancing individuals decide to plant themselves like trees in the middle of the dance-floor, standing upright and immobile and clogging up all that precious floor space. These sad immobile figures take many forms: the boyfriend standing by his girl, too insecure in his masculinity to dance with her; the gaggle of friends, standing and gossiping and sipping drinks, seemingly oblivious that they are SURROUNDED by writhing bodies; the immaculately dressed hipsters, bobbing their heads to the music, every other part of their bodies as still as death. Thankfully, most establishments that host dance nights are kind and thoughtful enough to provide places for these tragic wastes of nightlife to congregate. There’s the bar, there are tables and stools and counter-tops and patios, maybe even pool tables and booths. There are plenty of places for people in a venue to stand around and be tight-assed and boring, so please leave the dance-floor to the people who are actually going to put it to good use.
2. Don’t bump the DJ’s table.
Don’t bump the DJ’s table. Don’t bump the DJ’s table. Also: if the DJ says they don’t take song requests, take the hint .
3. Put your phone away!
Unless the Texting Two-Step is the latest dance craze sweeping the nation, your phone should be out of sight and out of mind. You can Tweet about how much you love this song afterward, at the bar, where you won’t risk having someone collide into you because you’re paying more attention to your iPhone than the bodies swirling around you. And while we’re on the subject of phones: don’t be that jackass holding their phone up in the air, trying to capture the sounds of the club, so they can send it to someone who isn’t there to show them what they’re missing. If you were my friend and you were sending me idiotic messages full of club noise and chatter, I would punch you in the throat for wasting my time. And if you’re going to be that jackass, at least have the courtesy to not wave said arm directly in the face of other dancers.
4. When it comes to floor space, sharing is caring.
Be mindful of the fact that you may not be the only person on the dance-floor. Resist the impulse to be a funky windmill if there are folks near you that you’ll end up inadvertently slapping. If you’re dancing near tables or a wall, try not to box other dancers into tight corners. And for the love of Giorgio Moroder, at least make eye contact with someone before you start grinding all over them.
5. Drink your drink before dancing.
Don’t come onto the floor with a bottle or glass in your hand. One reason why you shouldn’t: people who dance sweat, and sweaty hands don’t have firm grips. I have yet to go to a dance night where some asshole with butter-fingers DIDN’T drop their glass on the dance-floor and had to have bar-staff scurry over to sweep up glass and booze while the rest of us danced around their Slip-and-Slide of shame. Another reason why you shouldn’t: you might think it makes you look like the life of a party, dancing with a drink in your hand, but what it really says is “I’m holding an excuse for not giving it my all on the dance-floor”. It’s kind of hard to go totally buck wild when you’re holding a fistful of glass. I can already hear the protests: “but the DJ’s playing my favorite song! I can’t just sit it out” . Yes, you can. I’ve sat out many a beloved jam, just to finish my drink before hitting the floor. It’s called being considerate and having faith in the DJ to keep kicking out the jams throughout the evening.
6. It’s better to not dance at all than to dance ironically.
If you’re going to dance, just fucking do it. Don’t be cute about it. Don’t be one of those jerks who does a stupid dance move with that shit-eating “look how lame this is, dancing is stupid” grins on their faces. It’s like people who go to karaoke nights and sing goofy or really terrible on purpose rather than actually try to sing. Not only is it a lame cop-out, it insults everyone else for sincerely doing what you’re incapable of/unwilling to do. It’s always more admirable and respectable to be someone who is a bad dancer, who is aware that they are a bad dancer, and dances anyway, rather than someone who tries to mask the fact that they’re a bad dancer by being snarky and ironic. The dance-floor is no place for cowards.