What Constitutes Bad Dancing?

Elaine from Seinfeild

The Famous Elaine Dance: Epitome of Bad Dancing

I teach a lot of freestyle dance because it’s the one kind of dancing you need as a basic social skill.  It will never go out of fashion because it requires no skill except the very rare and useful attribute of not caring what other people think of the way you dance.  The people who come to me are worried that they’ll embarrass themselves on the dance floor.  Sometimes all they need is my professional opinion after watching them dance.  “Yep.  That’s dancing.  That’ll be $100.”

The truth is that the vast majority of freestyle dancers are doing some very basic repetitive move that expresses what they feel in the music and doesn’t look stupid.  Freestyle dance in its most common form is very much like moving in your seat to the beat at a concert, only standing up. So what is bad dancing?  In this classic clip from Seinfeld of the famous Elaine dance episode, everyone agrees that she is dancing badly enough to be an object of ridicule.  So what is it about her dance that is so bad?  She’s on beat and she’s even expressing the basic feel of the music.  What’s funny is that she’s totally lacking in grace.  Her movements are jerky and over the top.  Basically, if you’re going to dance in a way that calls attention to yourself you want to be really good.  Otherwise, you’ll be the opposite.

In this clip of the dance scene from Hitch, the dancing is comical because it’s so over the top.  Same idea, though.  Very attention attracting and even though you have to be a dancer to pull this off (see Dancers Make the Best Pratfalls), one crazy step after another lacks finesse and is just too much.  Ironically, the way Hitch is trying to teach his client to dance (made to look very boring in the film) is very much what I teach students who want to blend into the crowd and not call attention to themselves.  The character who is dancing in the Hitch scene has no self-consciousness. He’s having fun.  His partner is having fun.  I wouldn’t touch it.  Fun is what freestyle dance is all about.  It’s not a performance. And it’s not my job to judge it (unless they ask me to!)        

by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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