Beyond Disco Dancing
or 150 dance strategies of Disco Doc
(avid nonprofessional dancer, 1960-2002)

 

Disco Doc dancing on his 60th birthday - Waikiki, Hawaii

February 5, 2002

 

 

   After having been recently grabbed at while dancing with strange women, I am motivated to record here some concepts I use as a popular dance club regular. What I write here is the result of dancing for quite a while, longer than the average person does in life. Suffice to say, I started dancing in the 50's and never stopped. I danced right through the different American dance crazes, including Rock and Rolling, Surf dancing, the Monkey, the Jerk, disco touch dancing, the Freak, Rap gestures and now Hip Hop and Reggae. There's of course many other types along the way. There's also the background of some ballroom dancing familiarity, such as the Cha Cha, Salsa, and Waltz. Then from the start, there is an influence of performing in a rock and rock band in the 60s. I was the band choreographer, creating stage routines for 5-7 musicians for performance contests (in our time, ending at 11-1-1) , always aware that enjoyment of the music included a professional visual presentation.  Want to record here that at 33 I truly felt like I was the best that I could be as a dancer as the Disco Doc, having readied and performed on national television for NBC's back then, top rated Real People Show and other programs and being in my prime. Worried at 40, at 50, waiting for the slip in energy, in muscle strength, and in ligament and tendon elasticity. Sure some of that is now gone at 56.  But most amazingly to myself, I feel that at the moment, which I know cannot last forever, I truly feel blessed to be, as a public dancer, "at the top of my game."  What I have loss in sheer power, stretch and speed I more than make up with smoothness, overall body gesture and presence, and advanced integration of combinations of the below due to further decades of practice and the fulfillment of dance expression.  Sometimes it is apparent out there on the floor that I may be the last, at least locally, to perform certain moves, a couple generations removed for those now frequently the clubs.  As such I then feel a sense of responsibility to keep the dance styles alive, as long as I can continue to perform it with the required energy and dignity, and not make an old fool of myself.  Only then shall I hang up my dancing shoes.

 

Here's what I bring to the dance floor-

 

1. Only dance to those songs that I feel like dancing to

2. Remember the initial popularity of the hit songs now played in the present as 'retro' music, including the steps as well as the past contemporary age identity with the song, the times, the moment in dance (history)

3. Think of the dance floor as a stage, think of audience and performance

4. Isolate out major elements of specific songs, for some it's the strong rhythmic bass or drums, for others it may special sound effects or an original tempo or mood

5. Improvise, think custom rendition for dancing to a song

6. Do different dance steps for each song as suggested by the song's energy and spirit

7. Select element of dance to create steps for, for example, the glide or slide during a transitional part of song

8. Listen to the lyrics, use body language to visualize the message of the song

9. Facial expression to express the lyrics of the song or the aggressive beat

10. Vary the dance sequences within one song, like a boxer, use combinations of moves

11.integration of styles across dance periods, decades

12.jester with head - for example, stick out lower chin to project defiance, machismo

13. Dance with 'attitude'

14. Or dance with total grace, slide through the beat, follow through on body moves with movement extended through extended arms ending with movement stroke leaving finger tips in mind's eye

15. Imagine in your mind's eye what your body looks like from audience point of view, just as ballet student watches self in dance studio mirror to see own body in action

16. Avoid jerky movements, seek smooth transitions of body parts, maintain control of over exuberance - example - out of control drunken dancers

17. Avoid bumping into other dancers in crowded floor conditions, always be courteous and use nonverbal communication to let other dancers know you apologize for a bump if it happens, that it's unintentional, that you know you bumped, and move towards a spot on the floor further distancing from the other dancer, who incidentally, may have been the one to bump one and is not in control as much as you

18. Sometimes lip sync the words to let audience know you are totally into the song, and know the words, and using the body to express these lyrical feelings

19. Sprinkle with ballet moves as necessary

20. Sprinkle with salsa Latino moves when indicated

21. Do the waltz and Cha Cha as warranted but not throughout the whole song

22. Do authentic past period moves/steps in contemporary music but only as sampling, flash backs to the past, then transition back into something more acceptable by today's contemporary young dance scene

23. "Disappear" sometimes into the crowd by replicating, mirroring what other dancers are doing, to show one's contrast in dancing not due to not knowing the latest steps, "showing one's age"

24. For classic best songs of past pop stars, mimic their on stage moves - such as Michael Jackson, John Travolta, Madonna, Elvis Presley, Beatles - bring their songs alive!

25. Be free to female star moves as male, such as that of Madonna as much of good pop dancing is bisexual in nature

26. As male, exaggerate an "attitude" to add sexuality to the dance, after all pop dancing is for the young, for those looking for love, for attracting the opposite sex, a social courtship ritual

27. Execute smooth spins, keeping one's balance at all time, takes practice and can get rusty, especially with the attrition of mobility from underlying aging process

28. Wear nice clothes, suitable to a performer, dance with dignity, confidence and self- assertiveness

29. Walk with self-confident swagger or stride when not dancing but among the people around the dance floor; take on persona of performer, beyond "what people may think."

30. Drink, but don't over drink, as this can make one clumsy and awkward on the floor

31. Expand one's floor territory with available space by using motions that require more room; if a good dancer, other dancers will give you the right of way and even watch you as they dance

32. Try to influence the DJ to play songs you like, monetary tips help but most will try to resist being told what to play as they have their preprogrammed favorites, especially earlier on in the evening when they tend to play unpopular "side 2" music as people are 'kept sitting, not dancing, buying drinks" from the establishment to make money

33. Try to dance with a good dance partner, one that complements your dance style, the best actually integrating both partners into 1 dance routine

34. When dancing with a new partner, attempt to mimic her style and stick to it for a period, then break off to one's own intuitive moves

35. Show eye contact to your partner but feel free to close eyes to get more into the music

36. Change footwork to follow each dance step, then sometimes, only dance to every other step to change body rhythm.

37. Sometimes dance in "slow motion" by stepping to only every 3rd or 4th beat when everybody else is stepping to every intended dance step of the song

38. Contrast your body from all others by doing #36 or #37 as seen from the seated audience or balcony above as in my favorite dance club

39. The ultimate contrasting - making you the lead dancer - try to dance out of beat, stepping and body movements 'between' the beat, as if off key - if done wrongly it appears one is not on beat, a bad dancer; do it right and it shows awesome control and freedom from having to dance to prescribed beat of song

40. Try to smile sometimes.

41. On occasion and mood and song, sometimes emphasize head and neck gesturing, swings to left and to right

42. Sometimes emphasize hip motion, thrusting forwards and backwards, or sidewards or both

43. Do the macho gang-like urban 'walk' that you see in videos for appropriate songs

44. Do Rap hand and body gesturing as if holding microphone and singing rap, feel the Black spirit and attitude

45. Sometimes isolate just one part of the body and move it while the rest of your body remain stationary, still - for example the lower body dances while the head stays motionless and forward facing

46. Do robotic moves, here jerky is fine

47. Ok to do throwback old style disco dancing of the 70s to emphasize grace, full gliding motions, spins, help recapture a dance period for those who were too young to see, to appreciate

48. Add on Kung Fu derived wrist curls to follow through on graceful body movements, lead the eye from body torso, to extending arms, to fingertips via the wrist curl

49. Bend knees, swat, even fold arms like Russian for appropriate songs; takes strong thigh muscles

50. Run, exercise to have stamina to dance many dances at one outing on the floor

51. Don't sit at table between dances but remain standing and moving to the beat while resting, drinking, between dancing periods

52. Watch the better dancers, stay alert and try to learn their steps by watching; more important than specific idiosyncratic steps, try to capture their dance spirit individualized

53. Try to create special choreographed moves for specific songs, almost routines but yet spontaneous improvising on the floor

54. Always try to come up with a new move for yourself, challenge the body to be creative and do something different

55. Don't be a show off! - dance for the reward of dancing the best you can, dance for yourself (and your partner)

56. Try to leave the dance floor between songs but feel free to discontinue a song if it doesn't make you feel like continuing to dance at the same level; ask permission to leave floor from partner

57. Some military maneuvers, like "left turn, right turn, about face" march-like routines are good with appropriate music if not overdone; quickly change back to something more acceptable during course of song

58. Spin when partner spins first

59. A little disco touch dancing OK but do not do it too long in a dance because it really dates you

60. For suggestible songs or really long gone music, do the original Twist but only for a few seconds

61. Sit down for slow songs to rest

62. Take in the whole club environment - club layout, lighting, special effects, DJ and his booth, the crowd, the energy flow, the security and waitresses, the music, - enjoy the moment!

63. Try crossing your feet and spin around, initiating movement from hip

64.Get good spin movement by using extended arms and shoulders to initiate momentum of trailing whole body

65. Try placing weight and directional momentum of both arms and hands going one way while the rest of your body moves contra-laterally

66. Use expressive quality of hand positions for special effects - such as cross hands over chest (like deceased), hands in pockets as one struts, or raised fist in defiance

67. Sometimes glance at audience (those not dancing, holding their drinks or sitting at tables around dance floor) and see if they are watching which spurs you on to dance well in the moment

68. Select a person watching and mentally dance for that spectator's enjoyment

69. Get out there unto the floor when it is not yet crowded in order to have room, capture an audience, besides warm up to a higher level of dancing later in the evening

70. Buy your partner or other partners a free drink(s)

71. Come early so one can secure one's favorite table, place next to dance floor, get into the mood to dance before others do

72. Don't position yourself far away from the dance floor as the music gets progressively softer away from the floor speakers; don't get stuck in the conversational, non-dancing sections of the crowd

73. Enjoy feeling the dance beat pulse over your body, let the bass pound against your ear drums, get carried away by the music!

74. Of course go to a dance club that plays your favorite type of music - could be disco, hip hop, ball room, Latin, Reggae or rap, among others

75. If it is a song that is theme for a movie, consider using the dance to describe the movie's story or spirit

76. Video tape yourself and study if possible

77. Wear the proper dance shoes, ones that have hard heels, not rubber, so one can slide, spin and not be unintentionally braked by too much friction between floor and body weight

78. Dance with several partners if the situation occurs and attempt to bring up the energy level of the whole group; in my case groups of single women dancing together without waiting to be asked to dance by the opposite sex

79. Display publicly disappointment when the DJ plays new song with terrible transition of beat from former song, disjointing the rhythm of the dancers, making many fed up and walk to the exits of the dance floor; let the DJ know that you know when they 'screw up,' make mistakes

80. Don't dance to bad selections by the DJ, your dance participation is a vote in the eyes of the DJ in charge of getting people to dance; sit it out until music guides others also unto the floor

82. Use memory of watching musicals and mimic when the urge comes - remember Fred Astaire?

83. Incorporate some movement from jazz and "modern dance"

84. Sometimes dance by acting out movements that on stage musicians use, such as sidesteps, strumming a guitar, pulling the handle that makes the guitar wale like Santana can do, raised hands and simulate pounding on the snarl drums

85. Walk about the dance floor, not dancing, then flow back into dance steps

86. The ultimate dare - for moments - freeze, stop dancing - make as if time stopped and you are a frozen figure, then melt back into the flow of the dance, the contrast in time and space is fantastic

87. Don't fall into a repetitive step routine and become ordinary, boring, just a part of the crowd on the floor; if so it's time to take a rest and leave the floor

88. Believe you are a great dancer, good enough to dance in front of Kings and Queens, good enough to dance on television in front of a national audience (I did)

89. Bring in touches of other types of dancing to appropriate songs, such as Western, Swing, Jitterbug, Charleston, etc.

90. A bit of ethnic or cultural interpretations are nice too - such as Thai -Buddhist movements, Hawaiian hula motions

91. Try different dance clubs for change of scenery, DJ song favorites, different crowd

92. Stay in touch with the current generations dance scene, style; don't become obsolete but dancer with sense of history and broad repertoire of moves.

93. Invite old friends who have not seen you dance recently so they serve as gauge how you have improved (while their style faded into obscurity with passage of time)

94. Realize that the average person does not dance longer than 1-3 years in their life, usually during courtship or mate seeking period, then are out of the scene, having "got tired of it" or "outgrown" or left the "meat market', appreciating the extra duration to enjoy and develop as a pop dancer given to you by the Almighty; be thankful for an extended rich cultural life

95. Realize that the longer one practices at anything, including pop dance - a style without a formal school of dance (like ballet, ball room, jazz, hula, etc.) the better one gets

96. For the fortunate, who really love and remain dedicated to the dance, there may be the possibility to get to a certain level that is beyond the normal, a space where it's like dancing in heaven, in perfection, with ultimate creative freedom, with development that keeps going out on Saturday nights fresh, unpredictable, even after all the years

97. Share the joy of dancing with others, the partners, the children, society in general

98. Be oneself, don't hide behind conformity like limiting one's dance to the latest steps; be an artists on the floor

99. Consider dance performance as an artist; put one's individuality and creativity into the effort when dancing

100. Forget dance contest - why be judged by others; who best understands your inner feelings, what you are expressing, to yourself, to the external audience, your conceived contribution as only one within a dance and social environment, at this fleeting moment in time; in a few hours the place is empty, still with no sound, a mere shadow of the energy released a few hours prior.

101. Don't get stuck doing the same old thing, dance outing after dance outing, year after year

102. Don't be one of the flock of sheep that dance in unison only to the latest approved and generation identifying dance style.

103. Express through the dance whatever feelings are expressed in the songs, such as pain, sorrow, love, sexuality, ethnic pride, attitude, defiance, patriotism, regret, hope, happiness, pure bodily energy, enlightenment, frivolity, youth, passion, urban or country living, being alive, living in the moment.

104. Think of your body as a moving work of sculpture, think of multimedia effect of sound, movement, light, bodily action, and personal creativity

105. Consider your dance a personalized dance rendition different but yet related to how all others dance to it or have during the heyday of the song

106. Feel a sense of responsibility in keeping past dance styles and music alive in a contemporary setting; be a 'living legend' for dance sake (or other generations' sake!)

107. Dance at least once a week to be at peak performance in moves, in general dance conditioning

108. Don't drink to the point where you should not drive after leaving the club; be socially responsible and safe

109. Be dedicated to expressing, keeping alive, all the dances through time of your life

110. Feel free, feel love, feel sexy, express one's self!

111. Respect other dancers, no matter what their ability; at least they're out there dancing!

112. Remember that you personally are not important but the dance is, and dance to respect all those who danced before you and will after you are finished

113. When available and visible from the dance floor, try copying the steps of the professional performers in the music video

114. Imagine you're a puppet, and swing forearms and hands listlessly, flaying erratically about with upper arms held horizontal outward from the torso

115. Imagine your arms and legs are rubber or like rags and dance with four limp limbs (or just upper limbs)

116. Bend both knees and jump with both feet off ground, short or longer heights, stay with the beat

117. Think you're a clown and pantomine lyrics with imaginary white gloves on

118. Trail one foot behind the other to start full circle spin starting at the hip

119. Imagine you're a matador,  chin held proudly up, both arms vertical with hands clapping to the Spanish beat, and stomp with feet

120. Michael Jackson's moonwalk slide

121. Lead the body movement with the shoulders as the first part of body to move into new space, new direction

122. Do the "walk in stationary spot"  by strutting forward with 4 hip movement sequence - right hip forward with step, then other side, then first foot backward for trailing 3rd step and lastly the other foot back for follow-up trailing step, all in rhythm with musica1. Like No. 121 but no trailing 3rd and 4th moves, just keep walking/strutting with hips thrust forward with each step, with male attitude

123.Even as independent solo dancer, sometimes come in close on your partner and in a pass, gently hold her waist from the back to show comfort and control with ease

124. DJs with mix two different songs at the end of one, with the other overlaid and slowly get louder to eventually eliminate the first song; an opportunity to dance simultaneously to two different songs; usually if the DJ is good, related in beat, tempo and feeling; challenge to do transition as dancer between the songs and also be the first to pick up the first notes of the new emerging song before it becomes obvious to all

125. Bent arms and both upper arms and hands moving back and forth laterally at the same distance, like car window wipers, hip moves in opposite direction of hands

126. The patriotic salute; don't overuse

127. During unimportant transition between songs, use time to fix hair, wipe sweat from face, tuck in shirt, all while looking like its part of the dance; visually downplay the importance of the music of the moment and suggesting the beginning of an important sequence or new song

128. The leap

129. The multiple spins, in a circle around your partner or revolve totally around her at the center

130. Have arm and leg on one side move together as a pair balanced by opposite motions of the paired upper and lower limbs on the other side

131. Have both arms and hands, along with one foot all form parallel lines and move in one action to one side of body, all three balanced visually by the remaining foot supporting full body weight

132. Avoid speeding up with excess exuberance and be conscious to keep whole body looking smooth, avoid jerky motions that can crept in even if correct with the beat; it still will look jerky to the casual eye

133. The old side shuffle, disco of the 70s, not the 80s.

134. Flashes from the past - the Wave, the Monkey, the Jerk, the Hustle, the Margarita, the Continental, the Twist, the Duck (flapping elbows)

135. Bend both knees slightly at same time, stand in place, like initial Beatles performances

136. Double step or torso movement for each dance step dictated by song

137. 1950's wild rock, including the pushup

138. Running start, then slide along the floor

139. Waddle stepping forward - knees and toes pointed outward from center of body and walk forward in beat

140. Move hip and knee on same side one way then the other side the same, like a elastic rubber band from hip to toe

141. Bend with hands alternating touching different front of knee, keep switching knees and hands as knees alternate between touching and pointing out, stand in place

142. Pivot on both balls of feet moving both heels in same direction, then pivot on both heels and move toes also in sane direction, thereby moving body laterally with series of alternating ball of feet and heels pivoting, then go the other way

143. Dress all in black, with florescent of white accent lines along arms, legs, torso, optional white shoes - the line figure dancer

144. Mimic movements of dancing gorilla, arms droop low and hands low to ground, rock shoulders as step

145. Sometimes point toe of extended leg, like in ballet- follow through on line made by straight leg

146. No. 145, but also extend figure line by extending contralateral arm and fingers to create one line from toe to fingerpoint diagonally across body

147. Mimic skating to music on ice

148. Reduce visible body size by lower head, bend knees, drop elbows and hands over abdomen as in fetal position, then spring out, legs extended and arms straight up, forming an "X" with whole body

149. Repetitive skips

150. From all of the above, be intuitive in selecting which to use for a particular song and in what order, to express specific purpose for the dance at the moment - emphasizing the beat, the meaning, the emotion, the era. Therefore any song can be danced to according to selected criteria of  the dancer. In dancing the song, try to create a unique combination from the above listing to complete a one time integrated dance rendition that can be appreciated, both by the spectator and by the dancer - as self expression through creativity, intuition, extended practice, style crossovers, and invented personal moves.

151. Initiate spins can be started by starting inertia for turn by leading body by elbows and/or shoulders.

152. Select your shoes carefully; rubber soles less slippery but hard leather heels easier to spin on; naturally high heeled footware makes it more difficult to dance.

153. Hairstyle adds to the overall presentation; for example, military haircut versus ponytail.

154. For gain in stamina as a club dancer, must dance consistently every song for at least 30 minutes; ideally go at least 1 hour on the floor to get the cardiovascular aerobic benefits.

155. Dance at least once a week, attempting at least 30 minutes minimum per dance floor outing. With time on such a schedule, practice and dancing regularly to at least 10 songs in a row leads to better personal styling.

156. Let the lyrics characterized your standard dance steps; through gesture, animate your style to the lyrics.

157. A good dance workout leds to perspiration, a good indicator to take a break and drink fluids to not get dehydrated; use a less than inspiring song to leave the floor and refresh for the next series of songs.

158. For retro laughs, mimic the hip jerking and elevated arm with finger pointed moves of John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever," as used in 2003's "Charlies Angels - Full Throttle," but don't over do it.