'Dancin' in the Street' on 'Country Roads'
Summer’s almost over, and I’ve learned something: Summer
can be fun! I have written about county fairs, and
the delights or despairs of gardening. I have written about kayaking (love
it), and camping (hate it). I have written about, if not taken, my share of
vacations. (I am longing for one right this minute.) I was beginning to
wonder if there was anything new to like, or even dislike, about summer.
Of course there is! I just discovered the street dance.
In my youth, Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancin’ in the
Street” was a favorite. I could’ve bopped around
my bedroom to the thing throughout a summer
afternoon, if I hadn’t been forced to “go outside and play.”
Well, I’ve learned that street dances are the adult
version of going outside to play. We’ve had two of them in Bath County so
far, with hopes of more until winter descends. It is difficult to dance on
icy streets, while wearing insulated boots and heavy coats.
But, if all one must wear are shorts, a t-shirt, and some
dancing shoes, well, the crowds will come. We bring folding chairs. We bring
$5 for admission. We bring $3 for a hot dog or burger, chips, soda and
dessert. Imagine — an evening of fun for just $8!
Fun at a street dance consists of two chief facets: The
fun of dancing, of course; and, the fun of people-watching.
Some folks plop themselves in their chairs and simply sit
there. They do not dance. They do, however, watch with keen interest. In
fact, they could be said to gape.
There’s plenty to gape at, that’s for sure. Some of the
outfits chosen by dance-goers are quite gape-worthy. You know, just because
a manufacturer creates size 24 white stretch pants, with glittery
embellished stitching up the sides, does not mean that they should be worn
in public, with a size 6 black tank top and heavy black steel-toed boots. On
the other hand, steel-toed boots can come in quite handy at a street dance.
There is a tad more “wild abandon” demonstrated at a
street dance than one might think. The music switches from bluegrass and
country to classic rock and hip-hop. No matter who you are, or what your
interests, there is bound to be something that compels you to get up and
dance, dance, dance. And if you don’t actually leave your chair, you can
indeed sit there and move in some rhythmic fashion.
What propels me out of my chair is something like
“Locomotion,” which inevitably becomes a snaking line dance around the
parking lot. There’s a lot of laughing that goes on during such a spectacle.
A recent street dance was the ideal opportunity for local
politicians to stump for votes. Imagine their surprise when DJ Willie called
them up and then made them dance! Save for one fellow who hurried to hide
behind a trash can, the other contenders were good sports — if not good
dancers. They boogied to “Respect,” and then “The Twist.” These are tunes
every politician should know.
In case you didn’t realize — I didn’t — there are certain
“group” dances that can get hundreds of people out of their chairs and
moving in unison. The “Electric Slide” is one; how did I never manage to
learn it during the 20 years it’s been popular? The newest craze is the “Cha
Cha Slide.” The words to the song tell you how to move — four to the left,
five hops, and such — so it should be easy. It isn’t.
There’s one tune that is simply easy to learn, should you
have the chutzpah to do it. It is “The Chicken Dance,” and it sounds like a
rousing polka that might have played at a wedding in Jersey in 1956.
For some reason, little girls adore this song. They flock
to the floor and flap their wings, shake their tail feathers, and often even
cluck. It is impossible not to laugh out loud when this exhibition occurs.
One toddler in a sundress and tiny pink clogs was aroused
by this tune. Still learning to toddle, she suddenly began to walk
backwards, as fast as her little legs would go, around the parking lot. She
surprised even herself, and delighted us all.
In a big city, a street dance could invite kidnappings,
thefts and riots. But here in rural Virginia, it only invites laughs, and
more than a few curiosities.