Over Columbus Day weekend, we had the incredible privilege of attending Nick’s sister’s wedding. We were thrilled to be in Minnesota to celebrate with Emi and her new husband, Matt. It was autumnally beautiful – great weather, lovely temperatures – with warmth and pure joy emanating from absolutely every corner.
The invitation said that the wedding was to begin at 6 p.m. and would be followed by the reception, cocktails, and dinner, with “awkward but enthusiastic dancing” (their wording – how fabulous is that??) to last from 9:00 p.m. until 1 a.m. (which, for the uninitiated, is 2 a.m. EST; I’m not good with The Math but I do time zones quite well). I assumed that Ella and Annie would ace their roles as flower girls (or junior bridesmaids; they insisted they were the latter), that they’d enjoy the party, but that they would start to fade relatively shortly after that. As such, we’d scheduled a babysitter to meet them at our hotel room so that Nick and I could
drink without guilt really let loose and celebrate with everyone. I had no idea how I would manage to stay upright until what felt like 2 a.m., but by God I was bound and determined to try.
I’m not usually much for dancing. I have dragged myself into a dance club (is that what they’re called? Would “club” suffice, or does that not imply dancing?) at the insistence of others exactly twice in my life, and each time I avoided the dance floor as much as possible. It’s not that I’m a terrible dancer… well, okay. I’m a terrible dancer. But it’s more that I typically just don’t have a whole lot of fun dancing. Watching people dance, on the other hand, is something I genuinely love, so I figured that I’d spend much of Emi and Matt’s reception observing from afar, joining in only when it seemed to be bridesmaid-duty necessary.
The girls, on the other hand, hopped on the dance floor as soon as possible – which, in this case, happened to be during Emi and Matt’s first dance. Ella’s elation and Annie’s twerk-ish expression make me smile.
I hadn’t had opportunity to cut too much of a rug prior to the girls retiring for the night, so once I returned from dropping Annie and Ella off at the hotel, I screwed up my courage and decided that I would make my obligatory appearance on the dance floor. When that dance was over, I thought I’d subtly slip away to one of the nearby tables to rest up and giggle at the other people shakin’ their groove thangs. Instead, I found myself not wanting to leave. It was fun! Nay, it was hilarious! There was laughter! There was exuberance! I was making a complete fool of myself and, for some reason, I did not care one whit! (Part of the reason may have been alcohol, but that’s just a guess.)
After my four-hour frenzy on the dance floor, both participating and carefully observing others, I feel that I am now somewhat of a dancing expert. Or, at least an expert in Almost-40-something White Girl Dance Moves.* In case you have not found yourself on the dance floor in quite some time, or in case you are not an Almost-40-something White Girl, allow me to more fully explain the crackerjack moves that are, apparently, all the rage these days.**
* Given that I am an almost-40-something white girl, I feel that I can make this ridiculous statement. Yes, it’s an obvious over-generalization and is meant to be absurd. Carry on.
** “These days” = at Emi and Matt’s wedding. Which clearly means they are absolutely true for everyone, everywhere. Carry on again.
Because I’ve seen only a few of the photos from Emi and Matt’s shindig with people actually dancing, I cannot provide you with much visual evidence. Knowing that it wouldn’t be much fun to see reenactments of me attempting these steps, I asked Annie and Ella for help and they graciously volunteered to be my models, knowing that I would post the photos here (which is yet another reason why having children was a good idea). And so, I present to you…
Dance Moves That Are All The Rage These Days, At Least If You’re An Almost-40-something White Girl (aka Me) Dancing At A Wedding
0) The Circle
I’ve started with ‘0’ because, as everyone knows, it is illegal for any wedding reception dancing to take place without at least some of the participants first forming a circle. The Circle is an effective tool for being able to dance oneself while simultaneously keeping an eye on the other dancers, especially if someone elects to start a move that is best when copied. The Circle is critical for when one must break out one’s most bodacious moves in the center of said circle (say, for example, The Worm… in your bridesmaid dress… across the reception-hall floor. OH YES, IT HAPPENED). The Circle is also useful for creating a space across which one may strut when one simply must stand next to another dancer at right that very moment. Which brings us to the actual dance moves, starting with…
1) The Squat
This is the most essential of all the moves, as it is the building block for everything else. You are not attempting to do a full-on squat like you would at CrossFit or during that horrible fitness test in gym class, but rather a half-squat where your knees are just slightly bent and your pelvis is tucked back. For this move to be authentic, you should step side-to-side between both feet as though you are keeping time or are about to start the Funky Chicken. Be sure to really dig into your heels so you can grind them into the floor later for support.
This one is a cinch. While performing The Squat, simply raise one hand in the air to salute a fellow dancer – most likely female – across the circle from you. You may point at her, you may wave your hand in the air, you may hail, you may fist pump – so long as only one hand is in the air and you maintain The Squat, you have affected the “Hey Girl!” properly.
As mentioned, I haven’t yet seen many dance photos from the wedding – but if ever there were an absolutely perfect Almost-40-something White Girl dance example, THIS IS IT.
First, we have formed The Circle (it’s a messy circle, but it’s there). If you look carefully, you will see an additional dance circle in the corner of the photo, just beyond the gentleman in the pinkish shirt.
You will note that one of Emi’s other bridesmaids, K (in the silver sweater and rockin’ blonde hair) and I (yes, I’m wearing a lei; don’t ask) are really feeling The Squat.
Finally, please note that our dear friend H is performing the “Hey Girl!” to K and me, with her right index finger pointed righteously upward.
THREE MOVES IN ONE – BAM!
Sadly, there are times when the delicacy of The Squat will simply not suffice; you must feel that music and get even lower to the ground. This is where the Power Squat comes in handy. (Note that this is different from how you will get down to the ground when the “a little bit softer now” part of The Isley Brothers’ “Shout” is played and everyone flattens themselves onto the dance floor; the Power Squat is far more rhythmic and athletic, obviously.) For added effect, you may do mini fist pumps while in the Power Squat.
Part of what makes The Squat such a fantastic building block is that, while in it, you can perform additional classic moves – the Swim, the Sprinkler, the Cabbage Patch, etc. In this case, Annie has incorporated the Bus Driver (complete with mini stank-face, which is totally necessary while performing the Squat Driver in a circle so that you can properly entice the people across the Circle from you).
Okay, so no one uses lighters anymore at concerts, instead replacing them with cell phones, but the concept is the same: you wave that arm overhead, left to right and back again. While dancing, no cell phone is necessary (although it may certainly be present) and your hand may be empty, but you can still thrust that arm into the air and move it to and fro. Don’t forget to keep your Squat intact; abandoning the Squat is grounds for immediate disqualification (or at least being elected as the person who needs to go get the next round).
For this, you will need at least two people (more are certainly possible). While still performing The Squat, reach out and clasp the hand (or hands – go on, double up) of a nearby dancer. The Grab is best executed when you look your partner square in the eye and make a stank face. This is not meant to be an elaborately choreographed routine; it is merely to gain physical contact with another dancer. Be careful not to lean back too far, nor to rely solely on the person whose hand you are grasping to hold you up; wedding reception dancers are notoriously unbalanced and depending on anyone for support is a risky proposition.
When you need to get close to another dancer (trust me, you will) and back-to-back moves are unsatisfactory because you cannot see your partner’s face (see also: unbalanced), the Shoulder Press comes in handy. This way, you can continue to perform The Squat (duh) while cozying up to someone else and looking them in the eye. Bonus points for smiling, nodding, and awww yeah eyebrow raising. This move can be carried on for several moments, then can easily segue into the Grab or the Spoon (see below). Or you could decide to separate and rejoin the rest of the dance circle, giving a quick “Hey Girl!” to one of the dancers across the Circle from you; the possibilities are endless.
Sometimes, you’ve just got to get close – I mean really close – to your fellow dancers, and the Shoulder Press simply isn’t cutting it. Enter: the Spoon. The beauty of the Spoon is its simplicity – all you need to do is come up from behind, join your dancing buddy in The Squat, and make your presence known. Nothing complicated or intricate. No need for introductions. In fact, apparently you don’t even need to have met the other person before performing the Spoon. (I’m convinced that, while being Spooned at the reception, I was touched in places that had previously only been seen by my husband, children, or mother – by somebody to whom I hadn’t even been introduced.) You can also perform the Spoon with someone with whom you’re intimately acquainted.
Look carefully: H’s husband [pinkish shirt] is in the process of starting the Spoon as H performs the “Hey Girl!”).
FOUR MOVES IN ONE! BOOYAH!!
There are many (many) more moves, of course, but these nine (don’t forget The Circle) should get you through several hours of very happy boogie-ing down. Dancers in situations like these enjoy a shared experience, where everyone loves everybody else, much like communes or cults. While you are dancing, it is beautiful and wonderful; only after you successfully pull yourself away and look back do you realize the slightly bizarre and potentially questionable relationships you had with everyone involved.
The best part about these moves is that they require no formal training and can be performed by absolutely anyone. You need not be an Almost-40-something White Girl, nor attending a wedding, and you certainly don’t need to have even one iota of rhythm or natural dance ability. What you do need is the desire to have a boatload of fun, the willingness to make an absolute ass out of yourself, and a lot of stamina.
(Be forewarned: if you decide to wear your heels for the entire four hours that you are dancing – especially if you do not normally wear shoes with any sort of heel at all – your feet will really not appreciate it.)
As an added bonus, dancing like this is tremendous exercise. Turns out, maintaining The Squat for such an extended period of time puts a surprising amount of strain on your quads. Unless you’re an ultra-marathoner or the stunt double for The Hulk, you’ll likely awaken the following morning to discover that you can hardly walk and your entire body below your armpits will ache for a minimum of three days… which makes these Almost-40-something White Girl Moves both a cardio workout and a strength workout.
Fun, laughter, incredible memories, and you can scratch Going To The Gym off your calendar?? Sign me UP!
Two-and-a-half weeks post-reception, I’m no longer in pain (save for the agony caused by the emotional humiliation). Looking back on that night, I can’t quite believe it was me out there – but I’m damn glad I decided not to be an observer. Yeah, when the rest of the photos appear (there were an awful lot of people taking an awful lot of pictures), my quads may grumble all over again, but you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be giggling.
In the meantime, I have these sweet new moves to practice. After all, I am an expert now; that reputation was hard-earned and I’m not about to let it go any time soon.