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Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.

The Power
of Negative Dancing

By Lou Pechi

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Lou Pechi logo Some people tell you that if you don't know the dance you should dance behind the line and watch the dancers in the line in front of you. The Power of Negative Dancing takes just the opposite view. You will pick up the dance much faster if you look for the two best dancers and join the dance line between them. That way you will have two good dancers on each side who will direct you on which foot to step, especially if it is one of theirs. Such positive or negative feedback will let you learn the dance much quicker rather than struggling with the dance alone behind the lines. The same goes for when the dance is in progress and you want to join the line; don't go to the end of the line -- instead join the line in the middle. That way you will not have to wait until the end of the line reaches the spot where you are standing and miss half the dance.

If you don't know the dance very well, get in at the head of the line. That way you cannot make any mistakes, because as they say: "The leader is always correct." If someone else is already leading the line, just step in front of them. They will assume that you are just a beginner and don't know about the accepted rules of joining at the tail end of the line and they will probably be too embarrassed to correct you. And if they do, just tell them that you will be happy to let them lead the next dance.

You can make the dance much more exciting if you hum the melody as you dance. It is even better if you know how to whistle. If you know the words to the song, don't just mouth them, sing them out loud even if you can't carry a tune. If you don't know the words to the song, make up words that approximate what you hear. Some of the most creative songs have been made from such transliterations. "Čuješ Mala" became "Jewish Mama," more appropriate words for the original meaning of the Serbian words "Listen You Little One," and the words to Ciuleandra became "She forgot to lay the eggs." Isn't this more exciting than the original words. In any case, singing makes folk dancing more ethnic, as we mix our ethnicity with theirs. After all, we are the ones who are preserving their culture, so it behooves us to add our own interpretation.

When it gets to styling, be creative. Some of the original Serbian dances require stately arms down while dancing. Don't let that keep you back; go ahead and swing your arms up and down to express your exuberant feeling about the fast beat. Moving your arms up and down will also keep you cooler, as you allow the air to circulate in your armpits. If you encounter resistance from your neighboring dancers, just yank their hands in the direction you think is correct. Loosen them up; there is no reason for them to be so stiff.

The Power of Negative Dancing is sure to instill a sense of confidence in you. You will not be afraid of trying any dance, even if you have never seen it before.

Besides, what are you risking? What is the worst that can happen? The group might just change the location and the time without telling you, or they just might ask you politely not to show up again in their group. The worst that could happen is for them to purposely trip you, or bop you one over the head.

I hope you follow the Power of Negative Dancing rules only during this year's April Fool's season and never use them any other time . . . or would you?

As appearing in "Dancing with Two Left Feet (43)," Folk Dance Scene.
Used with permission of the author.