The Science Of Bad Dancing

From the teenage years forward, every modern male is bedeviled by the same nagging question: how do I dance without looking like a spastic imbecile?

John Travolta may be the only man alive who is truly confident in his dancing abilities. Most other guys are worried that their attempt at a cool dancing persona in reality mirrors the humiliating leg-kicking, arm-jerking efforts of Elaine on Seinfeld. And, if you’ve seen your average guy on the dance floor, you know that those worries are painfully well-founded.

Fortunately, science now offers an answer. Researchers have studied how women respond to dance floor moves, using neutral, genderless depictions of dancing figures in an attempt to take personal looks out of the equation. The results are surprising. It turns out that women like large movements of the head, neck and torso, as well as quick movements that involve bending the right knee. Putting all of the moves together looks something like the funky chicken — except that there is no apparent relation between arm movements and perceived dancing ability.

What about the study tell us about bad dancers? Click on the link above, and then click on the short video that women uniformly found to represent bad dancing — then tell me if you haven’t seen the precisely the same pathetic, shuffling, inane moves on the part of 99.9 percent of the men who give dancing a shot. And guys . . . take a good look, and then vow never again to trip the light fantastic unless it’s at one of your kids’ weddings. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.

Dixie Electric Company

When disco was king during the mid-’70s, discos sprouted in shopping centers across America like mushrooms after a long rain. During that era, the Columbus disco of choice was called Dixie Electric Company and was located in the Great Western Shopping Center, far out West Broad Street. Behind its unassuming storefront facade it had everything you wanted in a disco — a checkered, light-up-from-underneath dance floor, a disco ball, strobe lights, a smoke machine and siren, and a DJ who could sense the best times to move between fast songs and slow songs and the songs that were best suited to make the transition and could hit the strobe light and disco ball at the crucial moment in Fire by the Ohio Players.

My high school friend JD and I used to go to Dixie Electric Company occasionally, just to see if we could screw up our courage and successfully ask girls to dance. The women seemed to show up in dense, impenetrable packs and sit at the tables nearest the dance floor, while the guys would hang out in the dim periphery or near the bar. If you summoned the gumption to ask a girl to dance, you had to make a long walk to the bright area near the dance floor, and if the woman turned you down after sizing up your hair, clothes, general appearance, and likely dancing abilities it was a very public humiliation. Much better to go up with your friend after spotting a female twosome who seemed like good candidates and ask them to dance at the same time, so if you both got turned down you could share a self-deprecating laugh as you slinked back to your table in the cavernous depths of the club!

I have to confess that I liked a lot of the “disco music” that they played at the Dixie Electric Company, even though I didn’t own very impressive “disco outfits” or know any dance steps beyond the beginner-level “Bus Stop.” Still, I thought dancing was a lot of fun if you weren’t horribly self-conscious about it. JD and I had some good times at the Dixie Electric Company, and in recognition of that fact I have called the “disco” playlist on my Ipod “Dixie Electric Company.” The first 20 songs are as follows:

Get Down Tonight — K.C. & The Sunshine Band
Stayin’ Alive — Bee Gees
Funkytown — Lipps Inc.
Lowdown — Boz Scaggs
Got To Give It Up, Part 1 — Marvin Gaye
I Will Survive — Gloria Gaynor
Play That Funky Music — Wild Cherry
Fire — Ohio Players
Neutron Dance — The Pointer Sisters
Turn The Beat Around — Vicki Sue Robinson
Love Hangover — Diana Ross
That’s The Way (I Like It) — K.C. & The Sunshine Band
Jive Talkin’ — Bee Gees
Boogie Nights — Heatwave
Jungle Boogie — Kool & The Gang
Disco Inferno — The Trammps
(Every Time I Turn Around) Back In Love Again — L.T.D.
Dazz — Brick
Fly Robin Fly — Silver Convention
Car Wash — Rose Royce