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Let me confess: I can’t dance

Published: October 21, 2011
Section: Opinions


Hello, my name is Morgan Gross and I can’t dance.

Now, before you start with the “everyone can dance,” “you just need to try it,” “don’t be so hard on yourself” stuff, let me assure you, this isn’t some exercise in self-deprecation or fishing for compliments.

I’m not secretly a ballerina, who is just trying to be modest so that you’ll be more impressed when I start pirouetting. I’m not just saying it to get out of dancing with you and I’m definitely not exaggerating.

I am a good person with many positive qualities—I’m just not physically graceful. I can’t dance and I’m sorry to say that it’s always been this way.

My history with dance has been long and sordid, with only one thread of continuity woven throughout: my lack of skill.

In my first few years, I can only assume that my dancing skills were at a similar level to those in my age group. I wiggled and scooched to the music and all of that cute stuff, but only because it was the only motion I was capable of.

Once I got a little older, my mother—as what I can only imagine was a cruel joke—signed me up for dance classes.

Looking back at videos of recitals past, I know for sure that my issues with poise have been lifelong—my childhood dance videos are not pretty. It is easy to assume that once my parents, loved ones and multiple instructors realized what a mess I was, they would kindly tell me that dance was not my thing and kindly direct me to the French horn or some other activity that featured less risk of me injuring myself and those around me. This, however, never happened; I continued to participate in—and genuinely enjoy—dance classes until the ripe old age of nine—when I broke my ankle and was unable to participate in practices.

I never returned to dance classes, so my next interaction with dancing in public came at what is generally accepted to be the most awkward period in every person’s life—bar mitzvah season.

I went into my first bar mitzvah, the same way that most 13 year olds do, blissfully unaware of the shenanigans that would take place once the dance party started. So, after services, candle lighting and dinner were done, the DJ instructed all of the kids in the room to get onto the floor and do the cha cha slide—perfect, because my 13-year-old self loved that song. The music started, I started moving and everyone stared … but not in the good way.

As a singer, sometimes songwriter and overall appreciator of music, I understand the motivation of the dancer; the feeling of being so moved by music that you’re compelled to … well … move!

Thanks to one too many dirty looks during the first few bars of Nelly’s anthem “It’s Getting Hot In Here,” however, I suppressed my natural inclination to boogie. I passed through middle and high school as a wallflower, always conveniently ducking into the bathroom for extended trips while my friends ventured into the crowd, and turned my back on dancing permanently … or at least, until this past August.

When I applied to be an orientation leader, I had no idea what I was getting into. Looking back on my own orientation, I should have remembered the countless hours of dance partying and sporadic choreographed numbers that my orientation leader partook in. Unfortunately, I did not have this foresight and was not prepared for the amount of dancing in my future—or what would come as its result.

At first, when I heard music start and saw people jump to their feet, I defaulted to my standard bathroom breaks, but I quickly realized that one can only “go to the ladies room” so many times until people start thinking that you have a urinary tract infection. I had to face my fears. I had to face the music and, as it turns out, it wasn’t as bad I thought.

Slowly, I came to realize that—even though I looked really dumb—no one was looking at me weirdly. Even more strange is that, not only was I not causing a scene, I was enjoying myself! Dancing was great and relaxing and fun!

The lesson to be learned from my story is twofold.

First: If you ever see me at a party and it looks like I’m having a seizure on the dance floor, it’s probably fine—just me, getting my groove on.

The second is a little cheesy, so just stick with me and suppress all gagging and retching until after the column. I will never get back the years of dancing that I missed because I spent too much time worrying about what my classmates thought. Luckily, thanks to my orientation experience, I learned that when I stopped caring (and started moving) everyone else stopped caring too. Just think of all the Cotton-Eyed Joe I missed out on!

I will never be a great dancer but, from now on, if you see me at a party, I’ll be shaking my groove thing (for better or for worse).