Funk Dancing: The Magic & The Mystery

A Subjective Report on Jørgen the Norwegian Funk Dancer & His Street Dancing Class

Last year we hired a Norwegian programmer. Amongst the hobbies section of his resume was the intriguing entry "Funk Dancing". This greatly amused myself and others who have a mental age of 12 and it wasn't long before we started asking about it. To our surprise, Jørgen was only too happy to demonstrate. He funk danced on the way to lunch. He funk danced while waiting for a taxi. He funk danced while waiting for his computer to reboot. Once, I think he funk danced in the lift. The man was a funk dancing machine, forever executing complicated moves in some endless personal hip hop video.

But what WAS funk dancing? We'd seen many snippets, but never the full picture. This question was partially answered in the infamous team meeting earlier this year when Jørgen performed a full routine to a somewhat bemused crowd. But this was only one man's interpretation. Furthermore, Jørgen had explained that the class he attended here in Australia was actually called "Advanced Street Dance". This immediately brought to mind the early 1980s, specifically the breakdancing craze. (Author's Note: Neither Webster or Arnold from Diff'rent Strokes died from doing a headspin, despite the stories circulating around my primary school circa 1984). Jørgen explained that breakdancing was related but different, and while he gave a good summary, there was only option left: I had to see the class for myself. I also felt that after 6 months of merciless teasing I owed at least this much to him. The idea of attending the class did raise a few fears. Jørgen's street dancing class card featured a naked man with numbered boxes that were hole punched after each visit. He doesn't like sports. And...he owned a Pet Shop Boys t-shirt. Not that there's anything wrong with that! Nevertheless, I, your intrepid reporter, faced these fears and agreed to meet Jørgen at the class.

I arrived early, in time to see Jørgen's suitably theatrical motorbike-riding entrance. I met some of the other students while we were waiting for the ballet class to finish and discovered they weren't all crazy Norwegians. One girl was doing all these scary looking stretches and another guy told me he was a nightclub podium dancer. I immediately asked him if he'd ever danced in a cage suspended from the ceiling. As a geek, I don't actually go to many nightclubs, and have to experience them vicariously through fantasy films and literature. It is a well known fact that all the happening nightclubs in the future and/or other galaxies feature dancers in cages suspended from the ceiling. The club is always filled with vampires and alien women with more than two breasts. This particular young fellow wasn't too sure about this, but told me he was going to be in a podium dancing competition soon and was at the class to "pick up some new moves". One wonders what criteria are used to evaluate podium dancers1.

The room was a proper dancing studio with floor to ceiling mirrors, hand rails on the wall and a piano. Upon entering the students began leaping about in a dangerous looking fashion and entered into an alarming variety of exercises. I kept out of the way, lest someone ask me to join in. The teacher was a suitably funky looking African-American guy with a hip sounding accent. (Apparently the naked guy on the card.) After a little chit-chat, the funk began.

Street Dancing can be summed up in one word: Janet. This class could easily be named "How To Be In A Janet Jackson Video". Indeed, the first item of business in the class was the discussion of the new Janet video. It seems that both teacher and students were disappointed that there weren't enough new moves (!). After this discussion, the class warmed up by learning some new moves.

funk dancing class

A bad photo of the class taken by me.
See better ones here: funkdancer.com.

These guys were good. I speak as someone who can't do the "pat head while rubbing tummy" trick reliably, but I do know when I see others who are coordinated. As I watched, they learned dozens of moves before my very eyes. I didn't even know bodies could actually do some of the things they were doing, at least without injuring a major internal organ or losing the use of that particular limb forever. Jørgen was as good as any of them, busting moves (is that the correct youthful parlance?) with the best of them. However, I didn't probably see as much of Jørgen as I could have because rather more attractive female funksters (am I getting any better kids?) abounded. Sorry Jørgen.

Near the end of the class they went through a routine they know well, and bugger me with a toasting fork if it wasn't just like having a Janet video right there in the room! I was impressed. It had been laughably suggested to me that were I to attend this class tonight, I too would come home with a naked man card. I scoffed at this, but, I admit, I would have joined right there on the spot if my dancing weren't a threat to the appendages of fellow class members. I don't think they have a remedial class with padded walls. However, I learned enough to make a few short notes on funk dancing for the beginner2, which may prove useful to myself and maybe others one day.

Perhaps one day we'll see Jørgen and his cohorts in a Janet video. Maybe they'll star in their own show. I believe Jørgen should do some choreography and mount a stadium sized production called simply Funk Dance. Combining punishing contemporary latin-funk routines with instrumental interludes of traditional Norwegian drinking songs, it could be the new Riverdance. It could be Hair for a disillusioned generation, a fresh breath of air for the post-rave set, a reason for Video Hits fans to leave their houses. Do it Jørgen. The world needs you. (Plus, dude, do you have any idea how many chicks that Riverdance guy pulls?)

That night I learned what funk dancing was, but I also learned something more. We all have dance within us. It needn't be funk in reality, only in spirit. Boogie, cha-cha, latin, ballroom, Paul's Miscellaneous Random Limb Movement, whatever3. Cast aside your inhibitions and dance! Thanks, Jørgen, for helping us discover the funk within ourselves.

And thus, with apologies4 to the Lennon Estate, Imagine:

Imagine a world of dancefloors

It's easy if you try

We could dance forever

With no one asking why

Imagine all the people

Dancing every day...

Imagine we're like Janet

It isn't hard to do

No one to judge or mock us

And no inhibitions too

Imagine all the people

Dancing funk in peace...

You may say I'm a poofter

But I'm only having fun

I hope someday you'll join me

And we can go to number one

Imagine dancing funky

It needn't be a dream

No need for sleep or resting

One big dance machine

Imagine all the people

Dancing all at once...

You may say I'm a dreamer

But I'm not the only one

I hope someday you'll join us

And the world can funk as one

 

I hope you enjoyed that insight into the fascinating world of funk dancing. Now you can read Part 2 - Funk Dancing: A Personal Odyssey?


Footnotes


1I'm thinking of something like this:

Podium Dancing Championship Marking Form

All Marks Out Of 10

Please Write Clearly

Criteria Score
Gratuitous consumption of free drinks
Shameless lack of clothing
Size of external sex organs
Completely unsubtle dirty dance moves
Use of podium
Use of pole
Size of desperate crowd of the opposite sex surrounding podium
Cage technique (if applicable)
Theatrical overkill


2And thus...

Paul's Guide To Funk Dancing For Complete KnobheadsTM

Be like Janet in just 10 minutes with Paul's 6 Easy Funk Dancing Principles!

Funk dancing is a state of mind. Just remember these 6 easy principles and Janet will be on the phone before you can say "My brother is a total headcase".

  1. Love yourself. Make sure you like looking at yourself in the mirror a lot. You'll need to do it a lot when practising funk dancing.
  2. Remember, you'll be sweaty and scantily clad too, so be careful you love yourself like this too.
  3. Be groovy, not graceful. Graceful nancy-boy Billy Elliot moves are no good. Movements have to be fast and funky. Remember, you are FROM THE STREETS. You are A BAD ASS.
  4. Be dirty. At least half of your dancing moves need to either directly simulate or at least evoke some form of sex or violence. Wear skimpy clothes. (See also Principle 6).
  5. Stand at the back. That way, when you fuck up there's a better chance you won't be seen. If you're particularly paranoid, stand at the back corners and you'll probably be out of frame during Janet's close up.
  6. Don't be fat.

3Except line dancing which is filthy hellspawn and should be banned.


4Not even Yoko deserves this.

See also: Part 2 - Funk Dancing: A Personal Odyssey?

©Copyright Paul Bird 2001