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November 15, 2005

No Slow Dancing

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Any readers who can't tolerate "Back when I was young, sonny, we did it this way" screeds have my permission to scroll to the posting below.

Okay...gone now?

[Ahem.] Back when I was young, well make that when I was of courtin' age, I liked to take dates out dancing. Especially gals I was dating for the first time.

The reason for this (in my warped opinion, of course) is that slow dancing (anyone remember Johnny Mathis records?) can give a couple an opportunity to discretely find out how physically "in synch" they are. Another reason is that if the girl dances cheek-to-cheek (itself a message) and her cheek feels almost hot, well, you get the idea. Plus, it's an enjoyable activity in its own right.

Nowadays I find it hard to find a place with a band that can play slow-dancing music. Or classic swing.

Back when I was young (oops, said that already); back in the early 60s dance bands usually played a mixture of tempos -- slow, Latin, swing, rock 'n' roll -- and played each one straight. Recent experiences suggest this isn't being done. Here are two examples:

The bands at San Francisco's Top of the Mark a year or two ago did play a variety of music, but the "slow" songs didn't have a single, well-established beat. Instead, they wove two tempos through it. I suppose this indicates skill and creativity, but I found it hard to follow; rather than enjoying the dance, I had to concentrate too hard on following the tempo I wanted to use.

Recently we were at Harry Denton's Starlight Room atop the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, billed as San Francisco's top night club. The band played what struck me as disco-type music all evening (actually until I had enough and we bailed out). That's it. Oh some pieces were a dab slower or faster, but the differences were hardly noticeable.

Okay, I freely admit I'm a walkin', talkin', bloggin' fossil. I'd pretty much wrapped up my courting by 1971 and whatever happened night-life-wise since then was offstage for me. And from what I read, dating seems to be a whole lot less mannered or discrete than it was before The Sixties bulldozed that aspect of our culture. Plus, I hate arguing against the market: the Starlight Room was packed, so clearly the music being dished out is what folks want these days in San Francisco anyway.

Oh well, when I get married I get to pay half the piper's (actually deejay's) fee, and Johnny Mathis it will be.



posted by Donald at November 15, 2005


If it makes you feel any better, there are plenty of men (all ages) who have slow-dance CDs in their living rooms.

I suppose they're the most likely to request all "fast" songs from DJs.

Have you looked into Latin dance? A lot of it, while fast-ish, is close contact.

And what of group dancing? (Doesn't the electric slide date to your day?) I've always found group dance, even if it apes the choregraphy of a well-know video, charming. Have you head about the Thriller tradition in Lexington?

There is nothing that can kill romance - not the boy-girl kind, and not the festive occasion type.

Posted by: j.c. on November 15, 2005 8:17 PM

Well, darlin', you need to come to Texas. More specifically, to a nice ol' dance hall like this here place.

'Course, you might need to purchase some manly footwear and learn how to dance without slippin' on sawdust beforehand...

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on November 16, 2005 12:28 AM

A world without slow dancing would be a very sad place.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 16, 2005 3:18 AM

True, Michael! How else would Catholic girls at an all-girls school learn about boners?

Posted by: communicatrix on November 16, 2005 11:53 AM

Slow dancing belongs to the era of long-term courtship. I'm 25, and the dances my age group grew up on and still practice are mostly variations on the theme of instant gratification and showing off the goods (disclaimer: I grew up in the MD suburbs of Washington, DC; so my experience is typical of liberal areas but probably not of conservative ones).

With most relationships limited to the short-term, qualities that matter in the long-term -- like gentlemanly behavior, proper etiquette, culture, chivalrous gestures -- are becoming irrelevant. Mating having devolved into "lions on the Discovery Channel" pattern, most females are increasingly stressing qualities that would make a good sperm donor, basically good genes: sheer height, looks, social status (proxy for IQ and aggressive confidence), etc. In order to land Mr. 6' Lawyer With A Condo, who himself has turned to short-term strategies, females realize they have to show off the goods and hint at easy sexual access. And that ain't no time to slow dance.

Again, this is probably true for "progressive" areas where the legacies of radical feminism still influence women to view marriage as a prison; and where rampant illegal immigration has wiped out the middle class, making a young woman's choice that of Mr. Works Two Service Jobs or Mr. Lawyer. All the gentlemanly behavior in the world won't pay for private school in an elite neighborhood. I say "progressive" b/c courtship in these areas is mating at its most barbarous, as compared to the more egalitarian scenario where gentlemanly behavior can be taught and acquired laregly regardless of height, looks, or IQ. I'd say Iowa or a rural Black community is your best bet for finding slow dancing intact. Or western continental Europe.

Posted by: agnostic on November 16, 2005 2:07 PM

Sorry to continue, but to tie in the death of slow dance with the rise of something else in its place, I noticed 2blowhards blogged on increasingly frequent girl-on-girl action:

This is just another example of what's taken slow dance's place. It's not about sexually pleasing the other girl, since they're straight. It's about stealing all the attention away from the other girls in the room. Intra-sexual competition is fierce among reproductive-age women in progressive / expensive areas where mating has shifted toward the short-term end of the spectrum. They're fighting for the attention of a tiny number of alpha-male types, and instead of it being every woman for herself, a few smart reciprocal altruists team up together to slaughter the competition. Sure they split the spoils of alpha-male attention, which creates the possibility of squabbling over the booty (sorry), but it's better than the crap-shoot of winning a war of all against all.

For comparison, look at countries where mating on the whole is still a long-term affair, say Japan or western Europe outside of the UK vs the progressive / expensive areas of the Anglosphere. How prevalent is the "Coeds dry-humping on spring break" image in the respective areas? Slow dance just doesn't allow one to slaughter one's same-sex competitors, so it's better suited to areas where intra-sexual competition is low -- not San Francisco.

Posted by: agnostic on November 16, 2005 3:36 PM

Er, don't know what went wrong w/ the link there. Must've copied another open window. The link to girl-on-girl is here.

Posted by: Agnostic on November 16, 2005 3:38 PM

Donald, clearly, you should move to my neighborhood.

Almost every morning on subway platform to Manhattan I meet my 2 former gym buddies, both Russian-American females, early 40's. They supply amusing installements of "to be continued" Adventures in the Dance Studio (they have switched to dancing after our favorite gym instructor quit). Very popular evening activity among middle-class Brooklynites (and some regulars come from other boroughs, too, especially replanted Italian gentlemen). Too bad my girlfriends don't commute is never boring. When I told them I know how to dance so called Boston waltz (working the floor in squares) they got embarassingly excited.

I'm seriously tempted to join.

Posted by: Tatyana on November 16, 2005 9:08 PM

Agnostic, your are fucking brilliant. Or just honest and true. Or, hey, whatever I need to say to scam you into a potentially fertile one night stand.

I can dance swing (and play it Goodman-style), but WTF is the point supposed to be today? I can't reasonably pretend like I'm tapped into the dominant memes.

Posted by: J. Goard on November 17, 2005 4:17 AM

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