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Smackdown: Dancing to the Music

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

As the outdoor festival season approaches, our Soundcheck Smackdown series continues with a fierce debate about a highly controversial issue: dancing at concerts. Joining us to duke it out are Dean Budnick, executive editor of Relix Magazine and founder of and Steve Jacobs, co-host and producer of The Jukebox, a comedy and karaoke series at Brooklyn's Union Hall.

A dancer gathers a crowd at the 2009 Sasquatch Music Festival.


Dean Budnick and Steve Jacobs

Comments [43]


My opinion/experience is really similar to what Bill posted. I don't personally dance (more of a subtle head bob/swaying if anything), but generally I'm ok with it, and sometimes even enjoy it, when it's a fun pop show and the people dancing aren't being very obnoxious. But I was at a Battles show (with plenty of OK dancing) where a girl ran right in front of me and began flailing wildly. Everyone had to move to avoid being whacked in the face.

May. 18 2012 06:22 PM
V from Noo Yawk from Noo Yawk City

I was pretty peeved when I heard the part about Carlos Santana motioning to security guards to leave the lone dancer be. Way back in 77 or 78 I saw Patti Smith at the Lone Star Ball Room in Dallas, Texas. It was only very shortly after the Sex Pistols, and the crowd was pretty rowdy. About half of us wanted calm; the other half wanted chaos. Patti stood up for the chaos. What's wrong with standing, she sneered - "I'm standin', ain't I?"

Eff that. They ain't standin' on YOUR stage, are they? They're not interfering with YOUR space. Bet you'd have had something equally belligerent to say if any of your fans climbed up on stage with you and started flailing around. Same with you, Carlos. Performers have a 6 foot elevation. If I had a 6 foot elevation (and I'm not a tall person) I'd be more than happy to allow dancers to do their thing while I looked on. Oh, and I'd be happy to allow dancers to do their thing if someone paid me a few hundred thou for the evening. But as long as I'm the one shelling out, I don't very much care if the Pattis and Carloses like flailing fans. Not in my backyard - I mean 2x2.

The way to make everyone happy, I think, is to have a dancing section, either to the side or in the back. Or you can have a separate room with live TV reception. Stipulate when you buy your ticket whether you'll be dancing or not, and arrangements can be made accordingly. Sitters sit undisturbed; dancers dance uncriticized, and can drench each other in beer to their hearts' content. I wonder, though - if there WERE a dancers' section, how many people would actually opt for that? Particularly if they could otherwise have had a 2x2 in, say, 4th row center?

May. 16 2012 01:34 PM
Kelly from NY

Some like to dance some don't...I'm a dancer but I always try to make a conscious effort to stay to stay within my 2x2 foot box. You can still dance really hard without affecting those around you. I agree the energy flows both ways. The band is playing...if you feel the to it!! Just don't affect others!!

May. 15 2012 10:29 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

this warrants another show about the dreaded, out-of-date nyc cabaret laws alone!

May. 15 2012 02:39 PM

Hey I come from a punk background and if you do not dance it is at your own risk...all should dance that is the point of music it is by far a better more inclusive experience if you move. I am all for dancing, just knwo your surroundings, some venues you should stay in your box and others you can never hope to.

May. 15 2012 02:36 PM
Big Dancer from UES, NYC

I LOVED dancing at concerts but Jam-Band people ruin dancing! I was made to follow a boyfriend while he followed Phish around the east coast. 2x2 box you say?? FORGET IT! He was flailing and kicking wherever he found open grass (and often when he didn't) and I was so mortified by the end of the summer tour that we had to break up right away.

May. 15 2012 02:33 PM
Janine from NYC

how can anyone be against dancing? concert or not?

May. 15 2012 02:33 PM
Mickey from NYC

I was at a Rolling Stones concert in Toronto with my 6 year old daughter. We were walking around on the floor because there were so many people smoking pot I did not want my kid to get stoned. As we were walking around behind the seats my daughter was grooving to the music and I was twirling her around and people in the audience were loving it until nasty security guard came up and told us we could not dance. It turned pretty nasty with the security guard and the audience yelling at him to leave us alone. My daughter and I ended up leaving the show.

May. 15 2012 02:32 PM
Rob from Morristown

Excellent topic. I was an uptight headbanger until the late 80's - early 90's. From Black Flag fans to Grateful Dead fans, my friends eventually broke my plaster cast. B-Boys? Absolutely! Dancing equals enjoyment of music.

May. 15 2012 02:32 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

we had the pleasure of going to elvis costello's most recent tour, wherein he toured with the imposters and played all the most danceable hits. imagine our chagrin when we found ourselves stuck in the fat boomer section at the beacon. these people all kept to their seats the entire concert, holding up their cell phones to take pics, but otherwise, more vested in drinking beer and sitting. they glared at our 40 and 50-year old selves getting up to dance. who the hell could sit still during "pump it up??" people like that should just stay home and watch the DVD, pausing it for trips to the fridge.

May. 15 2012 02:32 PM
Randy Deutsch from Riverdale NY

I don't mind dancing, however sometimes I feel that the dancers are more concerned about being the center of attention than actually grooving to the beats. I dislike these narsicists for whom the music seems secondary.

What I hate at concerts are the people who seem unable to stay put. They're constantly up and about; going for drinks, going to make calls, texts, etc. I just don't understand why they came in the first place. All this activity makes me furious!!

Also, I hate when people are disrespectful to the opening acts - talking and making noise. Perhaps as an older person I'm particularly concerned about "manners"

May. 15 2012 02:31 PM
Ralph Notaro from New Jersey

Although I would not dance at a symphonic concert @ Linclon Center, I'm not above doing a little 'air conducting'.

May. 15 2012 02:29 PM
Lisa from New Jersey

It's a uniquely NYC too-cool-for-school thing to NOT dance, and sort of wierd really, especially in a loud club environment. Go to the UK to enjoy some insanely joyous crown participation at concerts. More fun.

May. 15 2012 02:28 PM
elaine from brooklyn

a concert is a chance to share your love of the music with other like-minded souls. I LOVE dancing at concerts and anyone who objects to other people having fun should go home and watch youtube videos.

May. 15 2012 02:27 PM
Sean from Brooklyn

If your there to just listen to the music sit in the back cause the party is in the front and you are just in the way.

May. 15 2012 02:26 PM
Andrew from Manhattan

This is a prime topic that saddens me to no end, New Yorkers hate to dance. It's as simple and unfortunate as that. I have never been to so many fantastic concerts where people stand around like statues staring at the stage while I rock out and look like a fool who doesn't care. I'm not going to say that they're wrong, as it's a person's right to dance or not, but if you're going to a concert with any sort of beat you need to expect that people are going to dance. If you don't want to be around dancers, stay at home or sit in the grandstands. If you don't know how to dance or think you look stupid dancing, who cares. Just let the music move you. This isn't classical music, it's rock and roll (or equivalent). As in I'm rocking and rolling on my feet. There's one thing to be said for being against mosh pits and turning the crowd into a riot, but moving your body to the groove is good for the mind, body and soul. Not only is dancing a ton of fun, but it gives energy to the artists that they in turn feed back to me and my fellow concert goers. We spend far too much time in our lives not dancing to not dance to dance music at a concert.

May. 15 2012 02:25 PM
Jack Macco from Astoria

My band played a gig on Cinco de Mayo on 26th Street,(NYC).
I wasn't sure that our music was going to go over well at all
with the demographic at this party.
Soon the whole room was dancing and we knew that we had connected.
It was the greatest compliment when people who don't know you
or most of your music, are dancing for hours and want more.

May. 15 2012 02:25 PM
Sandra from New York

Newport Jazz Festival, Arturo Sandoval, the Whole Audience broke into a Salsa Session! I've seen the Electric Slide breakout at concerts on the lawn! Awesome!!!

May. 15 2012 02:24 PM
Jordan from Brooklyn

I play in a band called "Tortured Soul" that plays soulful house music. We have actually discussed paying a RINGER (an uber enthusiastic fan member) to inspire the audience to start moving, dancing and getting down. That's how necessary it is for people to be able to dance at a concert

May. 15 2012 02:23 PM
Sandra from New York

Newport Jazz Festival, Arturo Sandoval, the Whole Audience broke into a Salsa Session! I've seen the Electric Slide breakout at concerts on the lawn! Awesome!!!

May. 15 2012 02:22 PM

Acting too cool to dance, standing there and looking bored has been an unnecessary weight on live music performances for decades, perhaps centuries.

May. 15 2012 02:21 PM
Lewis from Manhattan

Since you used Reggae concerts as an example, I totally think dancing at a live show is wonderful as long as people stick to their own small area. Dancing is the natural expression of the ecstacy engendered by excellent live dancable music. It expresses your appreciation to the band and to others in the audience which enhances the experience.

May. 15 2012 02:19 PM
dancing queen

how does your non-concert-dancing guest feel about singing along? I guess I need to remain both motionless AND quiet ....

May. 15 2012 02:19 PM
Mary P from downtown

It depends...

Did I or didn't I?

Flail psychedelically at Grateful Dead shows? - nuh uh. Not once not ever

Get my groove on with the anyone from Royal Family Records at an outdoor venue? Definitely.

Dance standing on my seat at Sly and the Family Stone at MSG 1971(?) Oh yeah - and sang with the rest of the E train crowd the whole way home.

Replacements yes
Ronnnie Size yes

Okay I guess mostly yes....

May. 15 2012 02:19 PM
james from UWS

Give me a break it's a concert not a library. If the Old People don't like it go to City Winery!

May. 15 2012 02:19 PM
Martha from Manhattan

As a veteran of 100+ Grateful Dead shows back in the day, if you didn't dance, you missed the bus.

May. 15 2012 02:19 PM
Kristina from Ocean Grove, NJ

I would have to say dancing and watching people dance is my favorite part of going to a concert. Seeing other people dance and enjoy the music along with me is a binding experience. I am going to see Rancid in Boston next week and I can't wait to dance until my feet feel like they are going to fall off with people I don't know!!

May. 15 2012 02:18 PM
Larry from UWS

Doth though kvetch to much?

May. 15 2012 02:18 PM
Jerry from Queens

Dancing in concerts depends on the group and the venue,i.e if you go to see chk chk chk in an open area venue, you have no choice but to let loose, if you want to see Molly Hatchet in a seating venus, sitting is probably the best option there.

May. 15 2012 02:18 PM

Agree that the video taping with iPhone or otherwise is highly distracting!

May. 15 2012 02:17 PM
John from Brooklyn

I feel like I'm listening to a reenactment of Footloose where those evil kids win in the end.

May. 15 2012 02:16 PM
Lunah from Philly

One time at a show (The Blow) my friend ad I were dancing at the back of the venue (Webster Hall) and another concertgoer, presumably jealous of her moves and our good time, threw a half-empty gin and tonic at her feet and legs.

May. 15 2012 02:15 PM
RIck from NYC

I understand both sides, but REALLY, some people just go OVERBOARD! It's just a matter of RESPECTING your fellow human being's PERSONAL space.

May. 15 2012 02:15 PM
Steve from Brooklyn

I could not be more firmly on the pro-dancing side, but I had to go to jam band concerts for living, I would probably come down on the other side too.

May. 15 2012 02:15 PM
Frank Grimaldi from EV

I enjoy people around me having a good time. I also find it great when I'm at venue and I feel the floor literally vibrate. BUT! - Please, please, puh-lease put your damn plastic glass down and your hair in a rubber band. I don't like going home drenched in beer I didn't drink or having been hair wipped.

May. 15 2012 02:14 PM
kp from nj

What I want to know can you listen to music you love and NOT move? I think there is something wrong with the folks who just sit there and stare. The whole point of a live concert is that you get to interact with the artist. If you want to just listen, stay home with the CD.

May. 15 2012 02:14 PM
Jon from Manhattan

Worse than the white man's overbite, more awkward than freshly butchered chicken, more embarrassing than epileptic eruption, more painful than a misplaced paroxysm is concert dancing.

May. 15 2012 02:13 PM
Bill from NJ

I'm fine with folks doing watever they feel at a show - they paid their money to get in, right? But at my last show at a fairly crowded Maxwell's, a clearly blissed out on something gal directly in front of me was doing some dance that would have done Elaine Benes proud. It was beyond obnoxious, and I had to try very hard to stay out of her way. Show a little respect, people?

May. 15 2012 02:13 PM
John Weber from NJ

When the artists are REALLY trying to get the crowd to dance, and they won't, I find that so uncomfortable and awkward. Someone should invent a device to tell bands when there is dancing potential or not. If it is just not happening, the band should stop trying. Avoid the awkwardness.

May. 15 2012 02:12 PM
Jenna from UES

Clearly the United States is still stuck in it's puritanical routes. Go to a country like Dominican Republic, those people dance EVERYWHERE. Supermarkets, laundromats, buses and especially concerts.

May. 15 2012 02:12 PM
Platypus Daron from Astoria Queens

Music and Dance are inexorably linked. It's common sense to expect to see some booty shakin' at a P-funk or James Brown show. You buy the ticket knowing you'll see it.

One good example I remember was J.B. at Avery Fischer Hall (Lincoln Center) back in 2004. The seats did sort of get in the way, but still everyone stood and shook/swayed as best they could. Even bolted down chairs and hallowed stoic halls cannot stop the Funk.


The Platypus

May. 15 2012 02:11 PM
Siouxie from Bronx

If you're totally into the music, especially if it's R&B or funk or dance music, you're gonna be moving. Only Long Island db's or people who are not moved by the music stand like poles.

Back in '89 I saw the Stones, and was shaking my groove thing - but not bumping into anyone or anything - and security kept shutting me down! Boo hiss.

May. 15 2012 02:10 PM
John from Brooklyn

Yes. Of course! Dance. It's a celebration of the moment...of actually being there - unlike the zombies watching the show through their iPhones.

May. 15 2012 02:10 PM

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