Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why Do We Dance? Three Behavior Patterns.

One of my best friends left the country a couple of days ago, so we had a good-bye party in her honor. About 20 people gathered up in one of our local pubs. It’s a fairly roomy place and by that I mean it has about 3 large rooms that communicate with each other making it almost look like it’s one big space. We had cocktails, fun talk, met some really old friends whom I don’t get to see as often as I had in the past, did some catching up.

Later in the evening, as the beverages started piling up, the music went from “decent volume” to a lot louder, most of the people got up and started dancing. Which was perfectly fine and to be expected. What didn’t make perfect sense in the beginning was that all these people, from all these tables, got extremely crowded in the one room with the bar. Technically it was as if you had a large space and all people insisting on occupying only one third of it, in spite of the squashing and tripping one over another, then pulling up from the floor and acting as if nothing had ever happened. It was only awhile later that others started dancing in the other two rooms, giving each other space to breathe and to move freely.

Both groups were obviously having fun, but what determined the different “crowd” behaviors and what can that tell us about the people involved? Way into the past, back when things seemed simpler, no waxing was necessary and basic survival was everything, humans lived in caves. Back then, crowding one into the other was a very simplified mean of survival for the group, because it provided heat, security and a sense of belonging (which are found on the very base of Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs; you’ll find it on the “Needs” article written in January). Even in an experimental environment, lab rodents will most likely stay close to each other if put together in a roomy confined space.

But in this day and age, we don’t need to rely on our basic survival instinct (if we still have it) when we’re fine and secure in our own homes with central heating, microwaves, computers, internet, supermarkets in every neighborhood. No fear of invaders, no need to hunt down your lunch so as not to starve. All humans have to do is be the obedient little sheep of society in exchange for survival. Humanity has gone soft and so have its instincts. Still, can it be that once the music goes loud in a crowded place, basic impulses rise and a dysfunctional survival instinct shoves the majority of dancing people into a stuffy corner? Could be… but it’s not what I believe happens.

In my view of this particular aspect, there are three types of people:

1.      1.  Those who dance because they love dancing, because that is who they are and it makes them feel great: “Honest Dancers”. You’ll probably see this category dance with the same pleasure home alone or in a club, be it crowded by others or not.

2.     2.   The “Exhibitionists” are those who dance because they love to be seen by others, they love being watched, they get a sense of pleasure from knowing that attention may be showering them from every angle. You don’t see these people dance alone (unless in their minds they’re living a fantasy of being surrounded by others), these guys and girls will always be eager to go to a club to dance (more emphasis on the public place than on the dancing itself).
3.      3.   Those who deep down inside would be happy not to dance at all, but they do it because they want to be labeled in a certain way by others. They’re aware that they are being seen dancing, yet they don’t get the pleasure and thrill that the second category does. They will shake those hips and move that body any and every way the music dictates so that they will be labeled as a party animal or as a fun, open person or so that they won’t be labeled as shut-ins, mood killers or just plain boring. These people are ”Camelions”, you won’t spot them unless you already know they have self-image/esteem issues, fact which they always try to mask somehow.

The crowded room with the bar was probably filled with all three categories, mostly the “Exhibitionists”, who love to be seen by as many as possible, while the other not-so-crowded areas hosted the remaining “Honest Dancers” and “Camelions” Why? Because Honest Dancers can be found anywhere and Camelions may have a target audience they want to give a certain impression to, and that may consist of one or two people to tens or more.

Dancing was used here as an example for certain types of behavior, but one can see these patterns concerning other aspects as well. You just have to look around yourself and you will find more examples each and every day. It will make you wonder: how much are the things we do indeed things we do for ourselves because they define us and how much are they done for us to be knowingly seen by others while doing them, so as to be labeled in a desired way?


  1. And the funny thing is Honest Dancers are sometimes seen as the socially awkward ones. Especially because they don't need to join the crowd to dance or even when in a crowd, they can dance alone. I've been pittied, hit on or kindly scolded by "friends" for dancing on my own on many occasions. Because, you know, having fun is a social activity and it doesn't equal enjoying yourself. /:)

  2. Most people don't comprehend the complexity of "enjoying yourself", it can be done in so very many ways! ;)

  3. i remember one night at the pub...
    nothing unusual, just the friday night gang gathering for a drink.
    i was sitting at a table in the corner, sippin me wine, smokin me cigars, not giving a fuck about them labels you were mentioning regarding the 3rd type, while everybody was up there, dancing and knocking themselves out trying to play one of the three roles you were talkin about.
    i was enjoying myself just sitting there and proping my head on the table, staring at whatever. that is until my sight stumbled upon her.
    she was tall, suple and smoothly moving to the sound of liquido's narcotic. nothing out of ordinary so far. but then something happend. i noticed a detail taht blew my mind off for some reason. she was dancing with her 'eyes wide shut'. and in a moment full of magic™, as though she wanted to glut my view, she opened her eyes in a slow motion blink, just enough to let the spark out and set me on fire, and looked straight into mine, like she felt i was watching her and wanted to put a spell on me. which she did. cuz i found it very hard to take my eyes off her, but even harder to make the smallest move, for i strangely started to shake to the core, my heart was pumping like i've climbed a mountain, but coulnd't go further down in the valley of delight. it's like i was paralysed.
    meanwhile, next song started to play, ocs - cine e de vina?, which was yet another mind fucking song to dance to, and she was doing it right, singing it and playing the innocent devil responsible for my state of mind. with a evilish smile on her face and the eyes closed, of course. and the certainty that she's got me mesmerized.
    by the time i managed to snap out of it and get a grip on myself, the music got really lame and boring, and she got lost somewhere in the pub. though we cought a couple more glimpses, and while i got a couple more glasess to get me going, the time was too late and the moment was all gone, so she took off, left me wondering what was she thinking of when dancing in her own neverland...
    anyways, could this be possible that she was somekind of mixture between all three kinds of 'dancers'? because it seemed that she was really enjoying to dance, not in the middle of the crowd, but next to it, and surely loved to get the attention, though she looked like being kinda isolated in her own world.
    and i wonder if in some cases the chemical reactions you get in this kind of situations can be too dangerous, just like a strong drug that knocks you off, cuz there sure was something in that blink of the eye that left me stupefied. or just stupid.

  4. Dancing is one of those social behaviours I enjoy watching but not partaking in. If there's a party going on, you'll find me sat quietly in a corner, looking on and being an 'inhibitionist'. It's fascinating to see people having fun and expressing themselves, and interesting to watch the social dynamics and body language, especially as alcohol starts to loosen folks up. Even just examining the effort chameleons and exhibitionists put into their every movement is exhausting, but somehow watching an honest dancer is like seeing poetry in motion because they're not stifled by expectations or limitations.

  5. Malice, sounds to me the girl was a wonderful Honest Dancer who was very much aware of how good she was at it.
    Wildcat, I also like to sit and just watch the dancing happen sometimes. It depends on the feeling, really. But it's fascinating every time, people can show a lot of who they are by dancing, even things they consciously wouldn't want to show, and all that without saying a single word!

  6. I’m not a dancing person in public. I prefer to sit and watch other people enjoy themselves but whilst doing so I am conscious that I am being labelled as 'boring'. Each to their own I always say.

    I dance, and sometimes even sing badly! : O, when I’m by myself. Its just who I am.