How to Dance in Polite Social Settings

by Roo on August 14, 2010

in sketchy, storytelling, tutorials

As displayed so nicely above in the subject line, this is about dancing.  Upon the commencement of reading this blog post, you will click on the Contact page, find my email address, and send me an email expressing your gratitude.  Or, you’ll X out this screen, and send me an email with the subject line “Idiocy and Blogging: An Essay.”

This is for people at both ends of the dancing spectrum:  the napkin folder sitting at the table mentally judging the wedding favors and the exuberant pelvic thruster who kicks her shoes off at the first note of “Dancing Queen.”

Two stories:

The first.  I was recently at a local school fundraiser.  It was held at a hall with dinner, dancing, and a live band – it was a great time.  People were a little shy about getting out onto the dance floor.  For the first forty-five minutes or so, it was virtually empty – except for one woman.  She moved in circles up and down the dance floor.  She bobbed her head.  She thrusted her pelvis.  She sang – loudly.  She did that sexy undulating hip movement all the way down to the floor – and then fell over.  She pulled a chair out onto the dance floor and made suggestive movements.  She pulled a random guy out onto the dance floor and made suggestive movements.  Obviously, this has turned into an after-school special on why the excessive consumption of alcohol ruins lives and causes eyeballs to spontaneously combust.

Turns out, this woman is a sixth grade English teacher.  The principal was there.  Her coworkers were there.  Parents of her students were there.  I have no idea what the Monday after was like for her, but I imagine curious looks were involved.

Second story:  You’ve lived it, probably.  You’re at a wedding.  People are awkwardly bopping to an 80s song.  You know you should celebrate with the happy couple and dance a little, but you’re feeling self conscious and can only manage a toe tap and a chair groove at the moment.  Maybe you’ll get up there at the next song.  Or the next song.  Or the next song.  But then you kind of resign yourself to the fact that it’s just not happening and you silently beg the caterers to bring out the friggin wedding cake already.

Gentle reader, it doesn’t have to be this way.  To the exuberant, embarrassing over-dancer, feel free to do whatever you please.  Everyone loves a fun wedding guest, and I personally raise my sparkling punch glass to you.  But, if you find yourself in a delicate social situation (say, your boss or local clergy have arrived), you may want to read the following.  It’s dance-lite for the timid.  It’s basically… Getting By on the Dance Floor with the Least Possible Effort.

Start by counting.  Note: I tried discussing this with my musician husband, and he was like… Oh, count like this.  1, 2, 3, 4 – 2, 2, 3, 4 – 3, 2, 3, 4.  And I was like… WAT.  No.  Can’t we just count to 8?  And he’s like, why 8?  And I was like, the measures.  And he was like, you don’t actually know what you’re talking about, do you?  And I was like, right, buuuut…

Whatever… time signature, measures, blah blah.   :)

When you listen to a song, mentally count to eight.  There are generally four beats in a measure, so this would be two measures.  Here, a Justin Bieber song:

I was like ba-by, ba-by, ohhhhh.
……………1     2    3     4   5  6  7  8

Like ba-by, ba-by, ba-by, noooooo.
……..1    2    3     4    5         6   7  8

And some Proud Mary for you:

Left a good job in the city
1             2       3   4        5 6 7 8

working for the man every night and day
1                2             3       4        5         6      7    8

Slide your feet from side to side in time with the beat.

1 (step left) 2 (bring right foot to left) 3 (step right) 4 (bring left foot to right).  Repeat through 8.  Start over again at 1.

Look at you!  You’re dancing.  Keep it at that level (i.e., no squats or thrusts) and call it good.  It’s almost fool-proof. And you can’t really go wrong with your upper torso, unless you’re being obnoxious on purpose, but if you’re feeling extremely self conscious, bring your drink on to the dance floor with you, so you only have to figure out what to do with one arm.

Oh, and smile a lot.  It’s fun, right?  :D


Dang.  DANG.  I just found myself in the middle of that awkward group-circle where people take turns dancing in the middle.
Ugh.  I hate that.  Try to stay two-people-deep on the perimeter of that circle to avoid getting sucked in.  That thing is like a black hole.  But, if you end up in the circle, do something quick and fun – utilize the sprinkler, the shopping cart, or my personal favorite, the shovel – then get the heck out of there.  Three seconds, then go.  It’s always strange when people dance in the middle for a full two minutes.  The group of on-lookers never knows what to do.

My feet hurt.  Can I take my shoes off?
Nah, dude.

I hate to dance, but I don’t want people at my office to think I’m a shmoe or a stick-in-the-mud.
Talk to people a lot, and then get on the dance floor for the big group dances.  Everyone will be out on the dance floor, and if you’re not with them, you’ll stick out like a non-dancing sore thumb at Table #7.  Head out for the cha-cha slide, the electric slide, the YMCA, but not the macarena.  Are you kidding me?  Were you considering it?  NEVER the macarena.  And head out to the dance floor for the slow songs.  Slow dances are virtually impervious to destruction and embarrassment.

I like doing that thing where I put my left hand behind my head, and I grab my ankle with my right hand and jerk back and forth ridiculously.  Can I do that?
I mean, I guess.  If you’re a frat boy.  And it’s a frat party.  And you have no shame.  No, it’s cool.  I mean, it’s not COOL, buuut.. it’s cool.  If you like it.

I love this.  I’m a new person, and I want to dance unabashedly and unashamedly.
Yeahhhh!  Ooo-ooh, ooo-oot!  Just kidding.  It’s not the early nineties, and that was a little strange then, anyway.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine August 15, 2010 at 8:02 am

LOL…I love your illustrations…You crack me up. Thanks for your insights into this not often discussed issue. “I folded my napkin into an origami crane”- hilarious!


Roo August 15, 2010 at 10:49 am

You’re totally right, Christine. No one talks about it, but everyone feels it. Like humidity.. or Lady Gaga.. or something.


Mandy [Mandy's Yellow Corner] August 15, 2010 at 10:23 am

Hehehe, what an adorable tutorial! I’m bookmarking it for the next wedding we have to attend :]


Roo August 15, 2010 at 10:50 am

I’d like pictures please. Extra points for video! :)


jenna August 15, 2010 at 8:31 pm

LOL!! roo i love you!


Roo August 16, 2010 at 9:24 am

I love you, too!


alexis August 16, 2010 at 12:58 am

dood. you’re funny. glad i stopped by from mama kat’s community, because goodness knows i need a laugh when it’s eleven p.m. and i have like 85 shirts to iron.

the tutorial is awesome, but i didn’t even need to read it because i’m puerto rican. just kidding. i mean, i am puerto rican, but not all of us know how to dance. i do, though. still–good tutorial.


Roo August 16, 2010 at 9:24 am

85 shirts + 1 wet washcloth in dryer = shirts that are still wrinkled. Never mind. Hope ironing was fun.

I think Puerto Ricans may have five extra joints in their hips because recently I went to my friend’s wedding – and they’re all Puerto Rican – and they did all these moves that I swear I do not have the anatomy for. A little jealous.


Melinda August 17, 2010 at 8:20 am

the drawing was the best!
stopping by from sits


Roo August 17, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Thanks, Melinda!


Stephanie Lynn August 17, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Hi Roo. This is probably one of the best posts I have read. So funny and oh so true! I may have to print it out and pass it around =) I’ll be featuring this today. Stop by and grab a featured button if you like. Thanks so much for joining the Sunday Showcase party! Hope you have a wonderful week! ~ Stephanie Lynn


Roo August 17, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Awwwwww Stephanie Lynn, thank you! I saw it in Google Reader and was all whaat whaaaaaat! Very excited! :D


stephanie September 2, 2010 at 8:38 pm

so i’m stalking you while the husband watches football and commenting on yet another post tonight, but i have the ANSWER to what to do in the event of “awkwar circle dance” issue: the jump rope.

grab two friends who also don’t want to dance awkwardly in the middle by themselves and have them spin two ends of a “rope”. get in touch with your inner second grader, take a minute to time it and jump in. feel free to do as many twirls and tricks as you like.

if the jump rope goes well for you, have your imaginary rope twirling friends grab another imaginary rope and proceed to impress EVERYONE with your double dutch skills.

this accomplishes three things. (1) you’ve successfully wowed everyone there with your amazing dance move (2) your two rope twirling friends are in debt to you for saving them from the awkward dance circle and (3) if you’re like me, you tripped over the real jump rope in second grade and had to get stitches. the jump rope dance move will be much kinder to you.


Roo September 2, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Hahahahaha oh Stephanie. That’s fantastic! I will totally remember this for the future. Maybe How to Dance Vol. 2?


jenna baggs June 21, 2011 at 12:56 pm

LOVE this idea, doing at a wedding in a couple weeks, maybe video ;)


brandi September 5, 2010 at 8:54 am

this is funny stuff!


Roo November 7, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Thanks, Brandi! :)


Kara September 18, 2010 at 12:27 am

This has got to be the most entertaining/funniest post I have ever read. Seriously.

I totally know what you mean about the 8 count…I was a dancer many moons ago and we used 8 counts. My husband is a musician also and we have had the EXACT same conversation LOL!!

Love your drawings. This tute was just too cute for words!

Kara @ mine for the making


Roo November 7, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Hey Kara! You should post a dancing video. We could collaborate. A how-to video tute. Yup.


Taylor October 1, 2010 at 9:06 pm

seriously, I love the way you write, too funny!


Roo November 7, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Haha, thanks, Taylor!


Kelly October 5, 2010 at 2:43 pm

SOOOOO funny! Cracking me up over here!


Roo November 7, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Hahaha, Kelly! Thanks! (Five years late.)


Liana November 29, 2010 at 7:54 pm

As a musician AND a dancer, I have authority to tell you that you’re actually more right by counting to 8. In dance you almost always teach and learn choreography in 8 counts, it’s just easier that way since you can group more together. For music though you would be counting like your husband did because that’s counting the measures (you were almost right when you said the measure part…except the opposite of right. S’aight). But you can tell him you were right and give that burn right back.


SaucyB March 11, 2011 at 5:42 pm

VERY funny. The whole hand behind the head/grabbing ankle move just shouldn’t be done by anyone. ever.


Alicia April 6, 2011 at 1:02 pm

DEAD!!! This is too funny…. Love it


JDaniel4's Mom April 28, 2011 at 8:17 am

Where were you when I was in high school. I totally could have use this advice!


Shelby April 28, 2011 at 8:24 am

“I like doing that thing where I put my left hand behind my head, and I grab my ankle with my right hand and jerk back and forth ridiculously. Can I do that?”

I am really good at that….
but i only save it for house party dance situations… when i’m not in a dress.
but seriously i can rock that move


Candace April 28, 2011 at 4:59 pm

I am actually going to use this SERIOUSLY to teach my husband how to not dance like a stripper in formal events. THANK YOU! You little life saver! This was educational AND hilarious!


julie gardner April 28, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Dear Roo,

So glad you liked my dancing. I do, too.




Wombat Central April 29, 2011 at 8:56 am

Sage advice, and LOVE the illustrations.

In our house, if you do that stepping left to right dance and then add a high knee feature to it, you’re successfully doing the Wonder Bread dance. Perfect for any awkward social dance moments.


jenna baggs June 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm

ok roo, if you need to use me in more posts…just ask first ;) LOL, hun i really needed this! want to dance, can’t, and too worried what folks will say…so i am taking notes and trying it out!


Janice (5 Minutes for Mom) August 21, 2011 at 11:16 pm

you are hysterical!!! I love you!!!


Joani October 19, 2011 at 9:35 pm

This is awesome, and much appreciated. I do wish you would give specific information for what to do with that one remaining arm, though.

Perhaps in the future you could address how to behave at a live rock concert, in the audience, in a chair, of course. I never know what to do with my head and arms in between the rounds of “woos”. You are a hero to the awkward among us.


Kathy February 5, 2012 at 6:17 pm

A year and a half later—still valuable information, still funny—the drawings are….priceless! :)


Shop with Me Mama (Kim) February 7, 2012 at 12:20 am



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