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Music and motion in concert

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 01:55 PM

First of all, let me say that I wasn’t aware that dancing at concerts was, you know, a thing… something that people argue about, have websites about, etc.  But the Soundcheck crew assures me this is the case, and that today’s Smackdown is likely to get quite heated.  I guess the real question is, not whether it’s okay to dance at a concert, but what do you consider dancing? 

Personally, I am not a dancer – but I find it hard to listen to any reasonably rhythmic music without moving somehow.  In most of the world’s cultures, music and dance are intimately connected, and some African languages didn’t even have separate words for the two art forms until Europeans came. If the videos of our Soundcheck live performances widened out to include me (they don’t, and the world’s a better place for it), you’d see the foot tapping, the head bobbing – whether the performer is a hard pounding rock band or a jazz balladeer or a classical pianist. 

If I’m at a show in a club, say a place like Terminal 5 or Webster Hall where you’re standing the whole time, I will find myself moving slightly from side to side.  I don’t consider it dancing – and believe me, no one else would either – but I simply can’t stand still that long, and simply shifting my weight from one foot to the other, in time with the music, will keep my bad knee (soccer injury) from barking. 

But if someone was actually dancing, assuming they had the room to do so, then that’d be fine by me.  In the early days of punk, we’d pack into the tiny space in front of the stage at CBGB’s and simply pogo up and down.  It was a dance borne of necessity – there was simply no room to move laterally – but it also fit the music’s minimal aesthetic.  If there had been more room, I’m sure someone would’ve gone and made a spectacle of themselves. 

This seems to be the gist of the argument against dancing at concerts – you make a scene, and distract from the real reason people are there (which is apparently to stand stock still and receive musical input).  I think most concertgoers have seen this sort of thing (and there are some famous examples on Youtube).  I was at a Yo La Tengo concert some years back and a young guy off to the side was doing a weird, slo-mo movement thing that looked like Tai Chi as interpreted by a sick or injured squid.  Off in his own world, and completely divorced from the rhythm of the band, he wove his arms slowly in front of and around himself.  But he wasn’t in anyone’s way, and if you were distracted by him, it was because you were looking at him

Now, outdoor concert season is upon us, and there are lots of opportunities for people who are under the influence of one substance or another to wander into a park and hear music, and begin to react in bizarro ways.  That’s fine.  But if it’s a seated concert venue and people in front of you get up, and stay up, that’s another matter.

What do you think about dancing at concerts?  Leave a comment.  

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