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Dance Dance Party Party

Anne Glickman

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Dance Dance Party Party!!!!
(Jasmin Shah / Chicago Tribune)
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When I'm at a party, my dancing style is more spaz than swan. I hide my lack of coordination and self-confidence by getting ridiculous. I throw down the "Billy Clinton": squeezing my eyes shut and pretending to play the sax. I bust out a move I call, "The Point," where I stand with my hip cocked to one side, and point with powerful conviction to different parts of my anatomy. I'm good at getting a laugh.

But I still worry about what people might think if I just dropped the act and danced like a maniac. When I heard about Dance Dance Party Party, I thought it might be my turn to get my groove back.

Chicago chapter co-founder Jennifer Brandel lured me with talk of a judgment-free dance party meets unstructured exercise class. "I think most classes start out with the premise that there's something wrong here that we're trying to fix. There's a goal in mind. There are certain steps that you have to take to reach that goal. And we're going to be watching you, and you're going to be watching yourself. And basically don't screw up. That premise is nowhere to be found [here]. The premise is you are awesome. We are all awesome. Let's be awesome together."

I arrive at a small studio in Northwest Chicago and join twenty or so other awesome ladies wearing eclectic exercise clothes and running shoes. There's no men allowed, but that didn't make me feel any more at ease. I find women judge each other at least as harshly as men do.

And other dancers like Jennifer Grace Schwarz feel the same way. "I've thought about telling my friends about this but I'm a little possessive because I don't really want to worry about what they think about what I'm doing. So this is kind of my thing. When I come, the people I know, I only know through here. It's safe. It's cool."

I can be a touch neurotic and this is no exception. I'm standing by the wall of the studio. My arms are crossed under my spandex-banded breasts. My eyes are unsure of where to focus. Most of the others are standing as awkwardly as I am. It feels like we're about to have a grade-school scoliosis check. Then the lights snap off and the ride begins.

The music's funky, but we're not. Women start to shift back and forth in place, but no one is breaking loose. I instinctively crack out my Billy Clinton. But it feels totally forced. And it's just plain stupid to do in the dark. I'm dancing without a script and coming up short. I'm ashamed of all my dancing bravado. I feel a bit like the kid at the slumber party who wants to call her parents and go home before she's even unfurled her sleeping bag.

Then "Rock Lobster" comes on, and everything changes. My inner 10-year-old wakes from a long nap. I remember that the whole point is to simply do my thing. Right then, two ladies start leaping into the air. It feels like seeing a twin comet. Something shakes loose inside, and I start jumping along with them.

Then, as if some unspoken communication has passed between us, all the women in the room begin slowly slinking down to the floor. We roll over onto out backs, our arms and legs jutting out to the heavens. We're shaking and unfurling like a cluster of over-turned ladybugs. We've hit maximum dance absurdity, and I feel ecstatic.

The rest of the class is a blur. I stomp about like a drunken Green Giant to cheesy 1980s hits.

I see a woman crab-walking to the beat of a Go Go's classic.

One gal "Gets Down On It" by madly darting from one corner of the room to the other, like a pinball on crack.

Class ends and endorphins are running high. I ask the dancers leaving the studio for one word about how they feel. Answers range from exhilarated to tired to fantastic.

I feel liberated. I've finally gotten out from behind my air sax. I've silenced my self-doubt and instinct to please. That said, I'm still not quite ready to retire my hip-thrusting, pointing shtick from my repertoire. It really is quite a show stopper!

Comments

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  • By Linda Lawrence

    From New York, NY, 06/04/2009

    Is there a Dance Dance Party Party in New York City. Who do I contact?
    Thanks.

    By Diane Kelley

    From Bellmawr, NJ, 04/01/2009

    I would LOVE to start a DDPP PARTY in my area or attend one in Philly

    By Cory Willoughby

    From Sudbury, ON, 01/08/2009

    Hey there
    Cute as a button article! I am thinking of trying to start a group here in Sudbury Canada. Any tips?
    Thanks
    Cory

    By Paul Johnson

    From Los Angeles, CA, 01/29/2008

    I really enjoyed Anne's piece. Are there similar groups for men?

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