projects and writings of T.A. Burkholder
In September, 2016 I started a year-long personal challenge of doing something each week that I’d never done before then writing about it. This is week 11.
I was seven when Saturday Night Fever was released. Of course, at that age, I was a good decade away from being old enough to actually watch the movie, but that didn’t stop me from getting the LP with it’s big centerfold of photos: The four-panel shot of Tony Manero in his white suit on the lit up dance floor. Stephanie in her leotard, in her off-the-shoulder red dress. My friends spent more than one afternoon playing the record (that I still own) and trying to copy the poses in the pictures and copy the moves we’d seen on Dance Fever. My sister and I even had a routine (and by that I mean about 30 seconds-worth of uncoordinated dance steps that then unravelled into either giggles or accusations of “doing it all wrong”).
Seventies disco has its haters, but it’s the music I loved as a kid and the music I returned to in college as a reliable source of joy in an otherwise difficult and depressing time. Every night of my freshman year I played “Boogie Shoes” off that same LP as a way of warding off the darker, more difficult hours that arrived after dinner. And then there were a couple different dance parties held in celebration of John Travolta’s birthday that I actually organized. I loved disco so much, needed disco so much, that I went against all my usual loathing of parties to actually throw some myself. They were very happy occasions.
This is all to say that in light of my current dismay over the state of our country, disco suddenly came back to me in a rush. And not only the music, but the desire to move to it. My dancing days out in the world have withered away almost entirely. I bob in my seat over my beer, but almost never bother to stand up, let alone get out on the dance floor. I’ve never been much of a dance-around-the-house-when-no-one’s-home kind of person either. Sure, it’s happened now and then, but not for a long, long time.
Then one day last week, overwhelmed with the barrage of bad news, I typed CHIC into Pandora (because this band is responsible for the ridiculous lyrics “Don’t be a drag. Participate. Clams on the half-shell and roller skates. Roller skates”). Then instead of sitting down in front of facebook and swaying half-heartedly to the music, I danced by myself in the small rectangle of carpet in my home office. I had all the moves. Then I did it again a few days later and again a few days after that.
It probably helps that my house is kind of chilly and dancing around to keep warm is useful. But it’s also just good. The music is hopeful and silly and sexy. For whatever weird reason, my body knows how to move to it with a sense of confidence that I never have with other music. And it’s good to not care. It’s good to not care what I look like or what other people think about it. It’s good to have some music in my body and to feel the joy of that and to have that be enough, if only for a little while.