It's Valentine's Day! The popular sentiment among Internet residents is that this is a day for depression and sadness. I think they're wrong. In fact, if you ask me, I say Valentine's Day is the least depressing "holiday" of all. A lot of people disagree with me on that, including my guests on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast.
Joining me to celebrate this day for corporate expressions of love are Kathy Benjamin, frequent Cracked contributor and author of the book Funerals to Die For, and my comic friend Dave Waite, whom you may have seen on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, among other places.
We talk about Valentine's Day, which naturally leads into a discussion about drugs, depression, and the god-awful film Silver Linings Playbook. We also talk about dancing, which is the subject of this article.
Love makes a person do crazy things. Sometimes, dance is one of those things. It was with me, anyway. Someday, it could be for you as well. After all, dance lessons make a fantastic last-minute gift. It's like you're not even buying a gift. You're just buying the right to promise someone that the two of you will get together to enjoy a gift later, that gift being professional instruction on how to do the Hustle.
Should it ever come to pass that you decide to make good on that promise, don't just dive in all reckless like. A little planning will keep your dance lessons from becoming a disaster. Here are a few tips to keep in mind ...
Why in the hell am I taking dance lessons? I'm assuming that's the question most of you have right now, because I'm so manly. Dance lessons don't really jibe with the rugged nature of my usual pursuits, which typically center on eating hot food and dismissing bands for bullshit reasons. That's all work stuff, though, and I definitely didn't do it for work. I haven't done anything work related that required me to move for any extended length of time in at least 10 years.
No, I took dance lessons for one reason ... love.
Not the love of dance, or anything wacky like that -- romantic love. My girlfriend really wanted to take dance lessons, and I really want to make her happy, so that means I'm dancing.
As you can see here, I'm as surprised as anyone.
As luck would have it, when this idea came up, we were living right around the corner from the Dance Doctor, the most authoritatively named dance studio on the planet.
For when your dance moves are the wrong kind of sick.
We've since moved, so that information is useless to you now, crazy bastards of the world. It was super useful to me at the time, though, because it meant learning to dance wouldn't interfere with my commitment to driving in Los Angeles as infrequently as possible. That's my kind of activity.
Besides, there's no one else I'd rather dance with. There's no one else I would dance with. I have history on my side when I say that. I love her a lot, and that comes in damn handy during dance lessons.
More on that later. For now, let's talk about the other most important thing to keep in mind.
"If you can walk, you can dance." That's the slogan plastered across the banner that hangs overhead at the Dance Doctor.
I'd seen the place plenty of times. I passed it each morning during my grueling commute to the office (about a five-minute walk, but very touristy). I'd never been inside, but now here I stood, looking at that banner, and I didn't believe it. Not the part about being there; the Dance Doctor is open to the public, like any other business.
There's also a mirror ball, just like at most other establishments I frequent.
It was the banner I didn't believe. I've heard similar theories put forth about writing and comedy. "If you can write, you can be a writer." "If you can talk, you can be a comic." Lies. Those are definitely lies. It takes natural, God-given talent to do what I do, and don't let anyone convince you otherwise.
If anyone was going to prove that theory to be true about dancing, I was as good of a candidate as any. I definitely only brought one of those talents to the table when we arrived for our first lesson.
From L-R: The talent I have, the talent I don't have.
Luckily, I was at the perfect place to test the theory, which probably explains why the banner was hanging there in the first place. See, the Dance Doctor isn't just the name of a place to take dance lessons; there's an actual doctor. His name is John Cassese, and now that I think about it, he probably isn't an actual doctor. He does make house calls, though.
But he's always at the studio when you need him.
The walls of his office are lined with pictures of celebrities who've called for his services at various locations all around the world. He earned his degree by helping people who find themselves suddenly in need of the ability to dance on short notice. Dance emergencies, if you will.
My dance needs were no emergency, fortunately, but John Cassese was still uniquely qualified to handle the situation at hand, which brings up the next thing you should keep in mind when exploring the idea of taking dance lessons.
If you're hoping to stick with a new endeavor, ideally you want it to be as personally enjoyable as possible right out of the gate. A good way to make sure that happens when you take dance lessons is to learn a dance that holds some sort of personal entertainment value or meaning for you. If you enjoy country music, learn to line dance. If you like swing music, learn to swing dance (and stay as far away from me as possible, weirdo).
You're ruining Johnny Rockets for everyone else.
If you just show up and say "teach me to dance," there's no telling what step you'll learn first. If it's something that involves music you hate, that will definitely infringe upon your overall enjoyment. With that in mind, the girlfriend and I decided to learn the Hustle, because that involves listening to the Bee Gees a lot. If you don't like the Bee Gees, you're too dead inside to dance anyway.
Oh, hey, that's a clip from Saturday Night Fever, a movie that's about as intrinsically linked to the Hustle as the song the dance shares a name with.
How qualified is John Cassese to teach a person how to do the Hustle? Approximately this qualified:
That's an instructional video that can be found among the special features of the 30th anniversary DVD edition of Saturday Night Fever. We were literally in the best possible place to learn the Hustle. Not too long after we started learning, though, I was reminded of something else I'd failed to keep in mind regarding dance lessons.