(for my buddy Dawn)
If it is one thing I have learned, or at least raised to believe anyway, it's that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. Be Anything! There are no ceilings to contain you! You are not a pre-fab person! "Shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you'll still land among the stars!" they'd say (uh, no they didn't; my parents weren't losers).
But that sounds a little exhausting, no? Which is exactly why I aim low.
My goal? My quest? My one mission in life? To win a Dance Off!
Let's start with my background in the Dancing Arts. Um....yeah, historically my education in this arena can be best described as..limited. There was the year of ballet I took at age 4 (here I am in my pj's practicing the routine for my upcoming recital).
Of course, having a built-in dance partner at home did help refine my interpersonal dance skills some:
Then it was the occasional family function where I'd perfect and perform my patented twirl move (I'm the one in white):
Some years later, my friend Mary Martha would hook me into the occult that is...God forgive me for admitting this, ....SQUARE DANCING. (dun-dun-dunnnn) I know, I know, but in my defense 1) I was in 2nd and 3rd grade when I got nabbed into this underground perversion and 2) I was holding out for the twirly 1950s-like skirt with the puffy slip that went underneath. And true to my hidden agenda, I quit almost as soon as I got it.
But as the years wore on, I began to break away from "my art" and became your average, ornery, tomboyish teenager who was obsessed with basketball and soccer; activities that did not make me self-conscious. Eventually both my sisters picked up "where I'd left off" and took Irish Step dance lessons, which for some reason, made me like dancing even less. I wanted to be "my own person" and Kate and Em both did things like cheerleading and dancing and wearing skirts.
But thankfully I entered my 20s and somewhere in that decade I got over it (and "it" being "a moody asshole") and here is where my sisters and friends are all, "and here is where we lost her forever." A friend of mine from my Boston soccer team brought me to a few hip-hop classes and lo, they were FUN! And a workout. And I probably sucked but whatever. I was DOWN. I was STREET. Of course, this was an awesome opportunity for my sisters make fun of me. "A few hip hop classes and now she thinks J-Lo." I didn't care. Clearly they were just jealous!
And this was also around the time Brit and Justin broke up it was rumored that they'd had this "dance off" in some Hollywood club. And with that the mainstreaming of a term that defined an event so silly and absurd to me, that naturally I'd have to latch on to it.
But, as my sisters had implied, a few hip hop classes do not a dance-offer make! Last year I'd made the mistake of taking my (much unwarranted) confidence coupled with some moves from a handful of dance movies I'd watched (Save the Last Dance, Honey, Center Stage, to name a few) and good-naturedly but yet, stupidly challenged a girl from my office on the dance floor. A 5' Latina chick who I would learn could literally dance my ass off.
But do I strike you as someone who gives up that easily? You can be lazy and still have goals, you know. The crux of my error? My issue? I needed to AIM LOWER. In basketball terms? I NEEDED A LAY UP.
So here, good people of the Internet, here it is:
How to (handily) Win a Dance Off:
Step One: Find someone who doesn't look like they'd ever been asked to dance, much less participate in a dance off.
This may sound mean but I am sorry, are we looking to achieve the goal of winning or are we going for Nicest Person Ever Awards? Exactly.
This past January, the day after I quit my job and 3 days before my birthday in fact, I went out with my friends to celebrate. I will mention, being in a really great mood helps, which for this evening was the quite the understatement. I spotted my victim, "Poindexter" and said to him in passing, "You, Me. We dance the way of Britney and Justin, dance off style. I'll let you know when our song is playing."
And I believe "our song" was Mariah's "Shake it Off" or one of her newer songs. Anyway, that's when I came a-knockin'.
Step 2: Enter the dance floor and give challenger false sense of security by opening with bum moves.
Yes, make it look like you don't know what you're doing. You lull them into your trap so that they're thinking, "oh yeah, I so have this in the BAG, man." So maybe do a nice white-man's overbite for good measure. Or some unsexy mouth breathing. Or both!
Step 3: Turn up the heat.
Blindside the guy. "Yes, I am dance goddess and you are lucky to be with me right now." Circle him, like I did. Wave your hands seductively in the air. Sexily shrug your shoulders. Wiggle your hips til he's dizzy. Go big! Whatever you got, work it. Next thing you know, the dance floor will part like the Red Sea and it is all yours.
Note: Your Heat *will* attract innocent bystanders.
You will need to release to locus of control temporarily by acknowledging these "Heat Stroke Victims" (as I like to call them), for they are innocent in all this for you really cannot realistically expect them to be able to control themselves with your moves, your heat so close in proximity. So let them onto the dance floor for a moment, give them a little thrill, but then politely push them back into the edges of the dance floor until you and your dance off partner are done competing. This is called "good form".
Lastly: Confuse the poor bastard.
Incorporate 18 different styles of dance into a 30 second segment if you have to (I used everything from hip hop to fake salsa to Brit moves to freaking Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance).
Also a fan favorite? "Making Shit Up". It is not as though there are judges who are gonna call a technical here. So why not? At this point, I think I am doing something of a mimed macarena praying to the heavens. Or I'm about to throw down. Whichever.
And, well, that's basically all there is to it. And "it" here being "kicking a little dance ass".
Hopefully you have come away with something from this guide. Print it out and fold it into your purse if you feel you need a handy reference.
So good luck in your Dance Off ventures. And remember: Aim Low.