During the early 1990s, I spent a lot of time dancing to African music at L.A. clubs, often with my wife. We did the best we could out there, given our whiteness, and besides it was fun and great exercise. Then a lot of the great visiting African musicians began to have visa problems, and the African clubs basically dried up. I will still put on a Tabu Ley mix and cut the rug at home once in a while if no one’s around, but I miss the experience of moving with a lot of people to tribal rhythms in a hot room.
There’s a weird flip side to this, though. One of my guilty pleasures for quite some time has been watching old videos of white people dancing extremely lame. Suffice to say, the Internet is a cornucopia of riches. Thank God soul music was born, because the late ’50s and 1960s featured some of the lamest white dancing we may ever see on the planet, and it’s all fantastic. Just feast on this gem for starters:
Granted, they’re amateurs, they’re kids, and it’s somewhere in Iowa, but the sheer lifelessness of that video is almost mind-numbing.
It’s also incredibly mystifying, because the Big Band Era just fifteen years earlier gave white people a dance craze that was fluid, snazzy and stylish. I mean, look at these people:
Pretty darn awesome. Of course, it didn’t take long for African-Americans to blow our asses out of the water in this regard…
Maybe we were just too intimidated on the dance floor, and it was time to retreat into our stiff, unsexy and creepily misogynist ways. Take it away, Royal Teens!
Not sure exactly when the “Go-Go Girl” was invented, but it was a staple of white dancing lame-osity throughout the decade. Whether it be during a performance by the Gentrys…
or “I Fought the Law” by the Bobby Fuller Four, a song so epic that the Clash covered it. Here, the go-go girls come complete with guns…
Did surf music and the Beach Boys help this dire situation? You be the judge:
Dick Clark’s American Bandstand was certainly not immune to the the lame white craze. Check out these boppin’ teens strutting their loafers and Keds to the Reflections’ “Romeo and Juliet”!
Maybe a black artist like Bobby Day and his hit song “Rockin’ Robin” could bring out some talented dancers. Nope, just more lame white people:
Perhaps foxy Joey Heatherton could be an inspiration on the dance floor. Errrr…sorry.
Hullabaloo along with Shindig were two ’60s TV shows largely responsible for keeping the dancing culture in years of quicksand. Here’s their classic rendition of the Batman theme song…
Nancy Sinatra, daughter of Frank, had a huge hit with “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”. The performance? Walking is an understatement:
The Disco Era in the ’70s got us out of the doldrums for a while, but produced a whole new breed of lame white fashion and dance challenges that have lasted up to the present day:
My feeling is that if you’re going to go lame, GO LAME ALL THE WAY. I’ve posted this more recent Finnish video (not Swedish) at least once a year, because I simply can’t get enough of it.
But wait…What’s this? A white dancer who had every move in the book? This guy doing “The Nitty Gritty” in the ’60s was far and away the exception.
There is hope, though. One of the best ways to rise above white dancing lameness is to first accept it, then work and work until acceptable dance movement is reached. And no one understood this better than Napoleon Dynamite.
We can do this, white people. I think we can really do this.