Dirty Dancing–collab entry

Ah! Something I can write about! I think! Let’s see, shall we?

Now, if we’re actually talking about Dirty Dancing the movie, well, then, my goodness. I have a long history with that movie. It came out at the perfect time for me: I was in a stage where I liked romance, and 60s nostalgia, and the idea of “camp,” with like, dance counselors and stuff. I liked rolled-up shorts…I think that’s one of those hidden fashion trends that we’ll never see in the History of Fashion books, the ones that only ask designers what people should be wearing. As far as I’m concerned, in 1987 what one wore was white Keds with two or three colors of scrunch socks artfully arranged so as to display all two or three colors, a white shirt, a bandanna (color coordinated to one of the sock colors) as a headband, and rolled up Dirty Dancing shorts. Maybe a string bracelet or two, just for kicks. I’m pretty sure we even called them Dirty Dancing Shorts, and I know there was a lot of debate as to how long they should be and how, exactly, to roll them up, and so on and so forth.

I even liked Patrick Swayze, with his huge hair and oddly ferret-like nose. I certainly liked the soundtrack to the movie, which I’m pretty sure I could still recite perfectly from memory. “Sheeeeee’s like the wind, through my dreeeeeams. Something, something else, close to meeee.” “DON’T tell me what to say! and DON’T tell me what to do! Pleeeeaaase something something else, something, when I go out with you! Cause! You don’t own me!” There’s more. I can do more. Want to hear me do more? “Baaaaaby! Oh woh baaaaby! My sweet baaaaaaby! You’re the one! Nare nare nare nare, nare nare nare nare! Na na na na na! Na na na na na!” I wanted to be able to dance, and to do elevations, and to have a tall, oddly aged-looking boy with feathery hair come and take me out of the corner. The night we met I knew I! Needed you so!

Sometimes a movie just becomes part of your personal history, whether you like it or not. I’m sure that, given the choice, I’d rather devote precious brain cells to stuff like memorizing poetry or being able to balance my checkbook, but there you have it. Nobody puts Chiara in the corner!
I’ve had the time of my life!

Whew. Let me calm down here a little. Wooo! Okay. Okay. I was dancing last night, actually. My bellydance class had an open dance class, which means you get all dressed up in all your bellydance finery and go on down to the studio and do tribal-style for an hour or so. I took August off from bellydancing, electing instead to do waltz, which was clearly a stupid move. Now I’m back at a class I’ve done on and off for a couple of years, and which I like very much. It’s very low-key and there’s an emphasis on being cute and funny, which I love. I like tribal style a lot. It’s not “traditional” bellydance at all, you know, not like what they were doing hundreds of years ago in Egypt or Algeria or Iran or anything. It also doesn’t involve wearing high heels and a sparkly bra into which people are invited to stuff singles. Tribal style is big on the West Coast, and is entirely American. It borrows from a lot of different dance styles, including cabaret (the kind with the sparkly bras), traditional Indian and Persian folk dance, and flamenco. Mixed in with whatever people want to do.

The cool thing about tribal is dancing with a troupe…you might have a little solo once in a while, but the emphasis is on group work. You stand in a special formation, and you follow the leader, pretty much. Everyone knows the moves and the cues, and the leader leads and everyone follows her. A good troupe can make this look completely choreographed because they’ll be totally in sync with the leader, but in fact it’s improvised. It’s like swing dancing in that there’s a vocabulary of dance moves, and you just do them whenever you want to, in a stylish manner. Of course, swing dancers only dance in pairs, and they tend not to wear huge turbans and clanky jewelry and tassel belts. Tribal is really beautiful when the dancers know what they’re doing. It’s pretty fun too even when the dancers have no idea what they’re doing.

So that’s what I did last night after work. I put on my best gear, which, thank you for asking, involves a long red skirt that I made two years ago and still have not hemmed, black harem pants, a saffron-colored choli top, a black coin belt, and a blue and purple turban. And a necklace and earrings. I danced for most of the class, and hung out and talked for a while in between times. Ate some hummus and pita and olives. It was very giddy and exciting in a funny way, like we were all really proud of ourselves (and our costumes!) and were all laughing trying to get the cues right. Sometimes people would dance together and sometimes people would just sort of groove out on their own. It was so much fun…about the most fun you can have on a Wednesday night after a long day at work when your boyfriend’s out of town and all your friends are too tired to hang out.

I think it’s important to dance. You get to think with your whole body, not just your brain. People smile when they do it. Dirty Dancing was seductive for that reason; the idea that you can change your whole life by learning to dance is pretty revolutionary, when you think about it. Imagine if dancing, whether wearing a shimmy belt or cut off jeans and keds and a pink leotard, was something that everyone did as a matter of course. If everyone liked to do it and did it for an hour a day. How could that change us, change the way we live?

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