Monday, July 03, 2006

Do black folks know how to dance anymore?

For 8 years now I've been watching black NYC's under 40 set slide into a pathetic display of unoriginal groovin'. You know what I'm talking about...the part grind, part wave-your-hands-in-the-air, part two step? Sure our folks have still got rhythm, but they don't know what the hell to do with it anymore except to simulate sex on the dancefloor.

We used to be free, letting our bodies be conduits for sensuous rhythms and beats. There was a time when black folks used to get down! Sure sexuality was always a part of our movement, but nowadays seems like all we want to do is profile. A jiggle here, a little ass in the air there, and voil√° a video ho is born.

I recognized this as a serious problem when I was out dancing several weeks ago at a local gay club and there was no deep house, no disco, no R&B even. There were no fabulous queens tearing up the floor. Almost all the boys were thugged out, "dancing" to the only music playing: hip hop. What is the world coming to when fags don't even break a sweat anymore?

My worst experience to date, however, had to be at a barbecue I attended over this past July 4 holiday weekend. Things started out well enough with an early evening music mix of classic R&B and disco jams. Sure we'd heard them all god knows how many times before, but the sounds of Chaka, Yarborough & Peoples and Teena Marie can and do always get a Brooklyn party started.

As darkness fell and the crowd began to really feel the liquor, the atmosphere changed. A group of husky Latinas headed toward the dance floor. Feeling those several Kettle One and tonics I myself had imbibed, I was right behind them. Just then the DJ changed up the flow and put on some popular hip hop songs. The wind came right out of my sails as I watched the women light up with glee. With absolutely no shame in their game they proceeded to switch and tick in front of the entire group of men, women and (young) children at the barbecue. Oh not THIS again! Girl don't you know that all that long hair does not make you Shakira?!!!

The lascivious glares of the party's intoxicated men quickly curdled the vodka in my belly. Sure I had dealt with a meat market before, but this time it was different. Two young black girls grinded among the portly women on the floor. Our table watched the men watching these little girls move, and the implications were disturbing. I finally got up from my chair and approached the two pre-teens.

"Girls, how old are you?" I asked.

"Thirteeen," replied one who was engrossed in a handheld videogame. The other piped up, "twelve." Jesus these girls were young! Where the hell were their mothers? Weren't they peepin' how these nasty men were checking out their adolescent daughters' moves?

"Well ladies," I continued, "I think you are really great dancers, but you should be careful about the kind of attention you could be attracting with those sexy moves." The girl with the handheld pretended to ignore me as she took in my admonition, while the other focused intently. "I just want you two to be careful. Take it from me...I have been in situations before where I aroused interest from people I did not want to be interested. Although you may think you want it, you really don't want that kind of attention just yet. Leave that to the grown folks. Y'know what I'm sayin?"

"You mean grown folks like you?" asked the 12 year-old. The vidiot turned up from her handheld to catch my response.

"Well, I may be grown but I still don't want that kind of attention," I gestured over to three drunken men sitting along the edge of the dance area. I turned back to eye the pair's response and they nodded in agreement with me. Satisfied that I had made my point, I retreated back to my seat. The two young girls continued to dance - albeit in a more age appropriate manner. Finally the 12 year-old scampered off the floor. I felt relieved. Just then the vidiot wrapped her arms around one of the most egregious offenders on the floor.

"Hey mama, are we going home soon?" she asked the woman.

"In a little while baby," she replied, "I'm still getting my groove on!"

My friend leaned in close to me and said, "and now you know why them girls are like that, huh?" I turned to look at her and she shook her head in disapproval. "There ain't nothin you can do about it when her own mother's like that." I turned back to catch the young vidiot switchin and tickin right along side her mother, as a tall, boozy brotha sandwiched between them.

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