Social Dancing

Social dance is intended for participation rather than performance.

I was born into a theatrical family. My father was a theatre producer who evolved to become a filmmaker. Shakespeare’s plays were implanted in my brain long before I reached my teens. 

As far back as I could remember, singing in my household was like breathing. It happened because it was part of being alive.

Often, my father sang opera at his desk, my mother sang pop songs in the lounge and my sister sang the songs she learnt from school, all at the same time. To me, that was a normal scene in a normal day.

Later, both of my sisters were professional singers in America and my brother had his own band for many years. I was the black sheep in the family, preferring to use my pen instead of my voice. But I loved music.

My love for music extended to dancing. Dancing as a performing art comes in so many forms – cultural, theatrical, ceremonial and so on. Each has its own specific repertoire of movements, historical period and place of origin. Each one of them can be presented by an expert in a formal way.

The New Vogue dance style is an Australian form of sequence dance that originated in the 1930s; most people called it “Ballroom Dance”. Nowadays, those types of dances are mainly organised by the people who teach them and the attendees are paying students.

1950s rock ‘n’ roll broke the conventional style of social dances. Couples began dancing as individuals for the first time, leaving the uniform way of sequence dancing behind.

Line dancing is popular for people without dancing partners. The days of sitting along the wall waiting for someone to come over and ask for a dance are over. Even the Hollywood film industry has made females as heroines for the past few decades. Women don’t need men to ask to have a dance; they dance whenever they want, for as long as they like – on their own. Women are gracious, they don’t mind if men join in the line to dance on their own either.

Here, I am talking about social dancing in Victoria, Australia. Social dance is a category of dance that has a strong social context. It is intended for participation rather than performance.

Currently, a few ethnic communities run their own private clubs, providing dinner dances for public customers. Dances like the waltz, quickstep, tango, cha-cha, rock ‘n’ roll and line dances are popular.

Permanently or randomly, rock ‘n’ roll only events are held in Victoria. Rock ‘n’ roll enthusiasts follow wherever they lead. The black and white coloured shoes, poofy and multi-coloured round skirts, thick head-bands and everlasting energy.

Watching people dance can be entertaining sometimes, especially those who have learnt a few fashionable performance movements from the dance classes and try to show others what they’ve got – stiffly pointing their arms towards the ceiling or sideways with their head tilted un-naturally or their back bent backward. The first-time watcher would easily conclude they had suffered a stroke – who would be trying to perform on the public dance floor? No one with a sound mind would risk other patrons’ safety, blindly dancing with an insect-like robotic style, totally ignoring others around them. It becomes more hilarious after seeing it happen again and again. Don’t laugh at them, for at least they try. They might never succeed as performers but they do supply us with some entertainment.

One thing that puzzles me most about these robotic dancers is why many of them have zombie-like expressions. Most folks dance because they love the rhythm of the music. That’s why most of them, if not all of them, always dance with a happy expression on their faces. We wonder if they lose their zombie expression, would it ruin their insect-like robotic style? Hmm…

A hired companion is not uncommon on the dance scene. One doesn’t really need to be an accomplished dancer to be hired. Some people like to be seen in public with partners. Dancing isn’t the focus; the individual has their own reasons. They often pretend to be a couple; if you think you saw it in the movies, the fact is far more interesting than fiction.

When you feel bored in Melbourne, go to the social dance scene, you would be amazed by what you would find. Of course, it goes without saying, wait until the pandemic is over.

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