We Admit, Dancing Ain't Easy, But Here Are Five Best Dancers of All Time

New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman offers his insights, opinions, and observations about the local scene. This week: The struggle to keep one's cool while getting jiggy with it. 

When you get right down to it, dancing is an awfully peculiar pastime. While some people may appear graceful, most dancers look just plain silly. That's because these days, there doesn't seem to be any discipline involved. Time was, some mandatory lessons were involved, and attendance at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio was a given right of passage. Curtsy and sway, grab your partner, and doe-see-doe. Stepping on your partner's feet was an unforgivable sin, but the ability to complete a twirl and do a pristine two-step guaranteed instant elevation to first base and perhaps beyond.

Most South Florida clubs require some degree of efficiency when it comes to managing yourself on the dance floor, but most of the people I observe -- the guys in particular -- look like rank amateurs at best and pathetic goofballs at worse. They shake their limbs with way too much abandon and wear facial expressions that suggest they're undergoing electro-shock therapy or some similar state of convulsion. Writhing on the dance floor like an intoxicated hyena is apparently perfectly acceptable. You can twitch and groove whatever way you see fit, but to me, it's all absurd.

When I was growing up, we had our established moves, be it the Twist, the Swim, or the Watsusi. One particular dance craze was called the Batman, and while I'll admit that it was based on a pretty bizarre premise, it at least gave us a routine, particularly when it came to establishing our stance.

Call me old-fashioned, but that lack of discipline seems to me to be part of the problem especially for those of us who are more rhythmically challenged. What annoys me even more are the people who actually believe they've mastered a smooth move. Their confidence simply pisses me off and makes me resent them even more.

I'm no Gene Kelly, and sadly, avoiding the dance ritual isn't always possible. There's conga lines at weddings, the inevitable hora, and the Macarena, a communal exercise in which all who participate are expected to have a rudimentary knowledge of choreography.

In those situations, I feel like everyone is staring at me, knowing full well that I'm an amateur who can't hide the fact that I have no idea what I'm doing. Cue a couple of tunes that are actually apt at this juncture -- "Dancing Fool" by Frank Zappa and "Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance)" by Leo Sayer. Haunted by my fragile psyche and my low self-image, I hear those two tunes in my head like some people hear demonic voices. 

Let's look, then, at some of history's greatest dancers, who perhaps can teach us a thing or two. 

Sammy Davis Jr. and his tap dancing...

Fred Astaire doing his famous "ceiling dance"...

Gene Kelly while "Singing in the Rain"...

Michael Jackson doing the Moonwalk for "Billie Jean"...

James Brown, simply being James Brown...

Ah, if only we could live in a world where all dance hall denizens were similarly endowed. Where there are no conga lines, no horas, no Macarenas.

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Lee Zimmerman