Dancing Through College

So in the past few years, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon amongst millennials and I’d like to contrast it with my own college experience.

So yes, this is going to be one of those “When I was your age” moments.

Don’t worry millennials, you come out looking good in this one.

But let’s go back even further…to high school and I can remember my first high school dance.

I was terrified. Not of asking anyone to dance, but simply of dancing. I didn’t know how to dance really. My parents were older and they didn’t know any of the latest moves. I could certainly slow dance with a girl, but first I had to get a girl to like me and I was having a bit of trouble doing that. I spent that first dance pacing around the outskirts of the dance floor, under-confident and disappointed. For the next four years, I never really got dancing down, but I at least had the guts to get out there with friends and move a bit. One of our teachers, Mr. Campbell was a great dancer and he showed all of us a few classic moves.

Advance to college…dancing was still not high on my list. At the end of freshman orientation there was a semi-formal dance and when the music started, two Jesuits got out on the floor with two freshmen and started the dancing off. It was marvelous to see all of us just jump out onto the dance floor together. No partners, no pressure–just a bunch of freshmen dancing.

My college roommate then, was a fantastic dancer and had a way with the ladies. I remember him telling me that a bunch of girls out on the dance floor came over to him and said “Hey are you going out tonight?” and he would politely decline. Cool as a cucumber. I sort of danced around and one young woman and I locked eyes at one point and danced together for a bit. It didn’t turn into a relationship or anything but freshman year was off to an OK start for a shy guy who couldn’t dance too well.

Fast forward to today. I would say I’m a “passable” dancer. But something happens to me when I dance with my Marion. Everyone says it. There’s an intimacy between us that is hard to describe. Together we are pretty good swing dancers and we enjoy it. Not bad for a guy who has gained too much weight and doesn’t have the best knees anymore.

Back to our college students. I’ve noticed that dancing is different for them. There was a bit of a pecking order in my day with dancing, a kind of survival of the fittest. If you couldn’t dance, you just got left out.

But for college students today, dancing is a bit more of a communal practice. Sure people show off their moves and there are “dance battles” and some move better than others and get a bit more attention for it, but then something happens.

“Hey everyone, let’s do the wobble!”

Line dancing has a new place with this generation. And there’s a bunch of experts that will say this is because they have grown up in an over-programmed way, to the point that they can’t just get out there and boogie on their own. They need some kind of organizing mechanism to enable them to even dance.

I ain’t buying it.

The truth is that this is about inclusiveness. Milennials have a tendency to try to include everyone, to get everyone involved. I noticed this at our bonfire at Canisius the other night that when they did some kind of line dance everyone got out there and danced and when they didn’t, a good deal of people left the floor.

And then …

Cha cha slide gets everyone up again. I’ve even seen this one at the ballgame.

So I brought up my observation with my colleagues who confirmed my suspicions and then I asked some of my students about it.

“It’s the only kind of dancing we do.” That line was repeated to me many times, by many different kinds of students. One also noted that “Well, once you learn the steps, that’s all you need to know to be part of the dance. And you can learn by doing..it doesn’t take much to learn.”

True enough. It’s very inclusive and seems to be a way that even someone who can’t really dance is able to dance without fear. The dances are easy enough to do.

So you go, students. Keep dancing together.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: