Finding the Underground Dance Scene Hollywood Promised Me
"Bucholz this underground dancing craze is huge business," Cracked Editor-In-Chief Jack O'Brien said as I walked in to his office. "No it's not." "No it's not," he agreed. "Nevertheless, someone has inexplicably put out another movie about dancing. Which means that someone out there--women most likely--are watching it." I nodded, understanding where he was going with this. "Cracked needs content written for all the pretty ladies out there." "Exactly. And we need you to write it because" "Because to break this story we'll need someone to go undercover in the illegal dance scene, and as the columnist with the most unchained jungle heat," I said, leaping on to Jack's desk from across the room, "I've got the best chance of making it in and out alive." Jack stared at me for five seconds. "Yes. Because of your quantities of unchained jungle heat. And because you're not doing anything else." "Incorrect," I said, waggling my hips around rhythmically. "I'm doing this." ____ Putting on the most urban outfit I owned, I lunged my way down to the streets and began my search for the underground dance scene. Having conducted extensive research on "the scene" using Cracked's library of breakdancing VHS cassettes, I began searching all the usual places for illicit dance blowouts. I checked the abandoned warehouse, only to find it abandoned. Curious. The spacious loft by the docks was occupied by a software company, whose employees had minimal rhythm. And the subway station had people waiting to travel to various destinations around the city, and not exchanging dangerous dance attacks with each other. Was it possible that I was ridiculously out of touch with the day's youth? I was spared the answer ("Holy Shit, Yes") when I stumbled upon an ad stapled to a telephone pole for a breakdancing class at the adult learning annex. So that's where the youth of today spent their time! Edgy. And, at $59 for three 90-minute sessions, a good value. Thrift could also be edgy it seemed. ___ "Hello. My name is Chris Bucholz, and my style is Danger Pharaoh Sitcom," I announced to the assembled dance crew, silently praying they'd accept me as one of their own. "This is a sequence I call the Everybody Loves Ra-mond." I exploded a series of probably fantastic limb movements and face thrusts, building up what I imagined to be a really incredible sex-energy in the room, before finishing with a move I call the "Standing Leap." I stood there panting in the middle of the room, gauging the dance crew's reaction. "That's very enthusiastic of you," the dance crew's leader, our instructor Kathy, said. I nodded, agreeing with her. "Thank you, Sensai." My heat had impressed her. The rest of the class elected to introduce themselves without any demonstrative moves, possibly cowed by my savage dance rhythm, but not, as you might expect, cowed by the sight of me flopping out of my gym shorts. I had taken precautions in that area, and following the advice of a couple friendly guys on a breakdancing forum, had securely taped my genitals to my body, just like the pros. ___ "So when's our first dance battle?" I asked Kathy after we had concluded for the day, having worked on some fairly elementary moves like the top rock and the drop. It was all pretty basic. On the whole, the experience was quite a bit less underground that I would have hoped, although being in the basement of the adult learning annex, I allowed that it was technically below-grade. "I'm not sure I know what you're talking about," Kathy replied. "A dance battle," I responded. "Surely this dance crew desperately needs money to buy one of our dance comrades a new knee, or save the local dance octagon from a crooked land developer. We must be prepping for a no-holds barred dance competition against our hated enemy dance troupe with a huge winner-takes-all cash prize at stake? We Must Be." Kathy shook her head. "Nope. This is an introductory level breakdancing class Chris" "My dance name is Ronald Raygun," I corrected her. Kathy bit her lip and squinted at me. I knew from long experience with women that she was deciding whether I was mentally retarded or not. "Of course. Look. I appreciate your energy and enthusiasm, and understand that you've done a lot of learning on your own time, but I'm actually going to have unteach you all that stuff before we can make any actual progress." "Yes," I nodded, knowing the drill. "Like a training montage." "Sure." Kathy shook her head. "Anyways. You're a long way yet from any dance battles, Mr. President." "No, it's not like the president," I said, flustered. "Like the Ray-Gun. Gun. You know, pyew- -pyew-" I said. "Do I have to spell it out for you?" I knew the answer to that as soon as I asked. Kathy stared at me blankly. "You might want to pick a different dance name." "I didn't pick it. It was given to me by some guys on the Internet," I said recalling my research foray into the breaking forum prior to hitting the streets. "Dammit. Dammit! Do you think they were fucking with me?" I asked, again knowing the answer. "Oh no, my balls." ____ As is the nature with training montages, the next two 90-minute sessions passed quickly, a blur of sweat and laughter and temper tantrums set to upbeat music. By the end of it, not only had I become an introductory level breakdancer, I had earned the respect of the rest of my dance crew, and forged bonds that would last a lifetime. "Good luck with your eye surgery," I told Ellen, the 45-year-old mother of three who had become my closest friend. "I know everything will work out just fine," I said through a mask of tears. I moved to hug her, but she resisted, knowing that open displays of emotion were not "street." After Ellen beat a hasty retreat, I turned to see Kathy approaching me. "Hey Ronald" "It's Chris again. Chris Turbofunk Roosevelt." "I know you were interested in seeing a real dance competition. Myself and some of the students from the advanced class will be participating in a thing next week. You might be interested in seeing what you can do with a bit of practice." She gestured at a poster on the wall of the room. "Holy shit!" I yelled, because I was excited. "We have to win this thing! For the reason. To beat the them. I won't let you down coach!" "You understand that you'll only be a spectator right?" Kathy said. I noticed she was jabbing her finger in my chest while she said it. "I understand," I said solemnly. "I promise I will only dance in self-defense." "That" She shook her head. "That won't be necessary. Just sit down and stay still and enjoy the show." ___ I'm not gonna lie: The Chips Ahoy! Ultimate Street Jam was distinctly less gritty and urban than I was expecting, and having moved up to the multipurpose room on the main floor of the Adult Learning Annex, was no longer even technically underground. Yet despite the venue and the fluorescent lighting and the PA system with the slight hissing sound, it still was a dance battle, and it Still Meant Everything. While I waited for Kathy's turn to take the floor, I sized up our enemies. They were mainly students from the advanced class, and actually all seemed like pretty nice guys. I even recognized one of them - he volunteered down at the soup kitchen where I sometimes got soup. He waved at me. I shook my head sadly. Once friends, now enemies. Dance-war is hell. Eventually Kathy's turn came around. But instead of striding confidently onto the floor, she waved over one of the... dance-arbiters I guess... and said something quietly to him. I stormed down to the warm-up area to confront her. "What happened?" She looked at me with that look people get when they see me. 'Oh, Christ' the look says. "I twisted my ankle this morning," she said with a shrug. No hesitation. "I'll have to take your place. We have to defend our introductory breakdancing dojo's honor!" "Chris, stop..." "Kathy, no. My whole life people have told me I'm too small to be a breakdancer..." "I guarantee that no one has told you that." "Well now's my chance to show those people that I don't listen!" "Chris, this is the Chips Ahoy! Ultimate Street Jam. This is the big time. You're not ready for this!" I moved my finger to her lips. "Be still. I won't let our crew down." Turning to face the dance floor I held my arm in the sky and yelled, "Wolverines!!!" ___ For obvious reasons I couldn't take notes while I was dancing, and the tape recorder which records every conversation I have fell out of my shorts quite early in my routine, along with, predictably, my genitals. So there's little physical evidence of what happened during my performance. Keeping that in mind, I think I'm being fair when I say that I made an enormous ass of myself. While many of the earlier dancers had appeared to spend large portions of their routines levitating off the ground, I spent rather more time stepping on my own hands. Seeing this, I made the tactical decision to ignore the moves taught during class (which clearly weren't good enough) and opted to make up something spectacular on the fly. Which is how I ended up kicking Kathy in the face, knocking over the Chips Ahoy! refreshment table and then kicking Kathy in the face again. Although I was sure that my funk-jaguar heart gave me an innate natural ability to funk-jaguar-rock the shit out of anything I chose, it was clear I lacked the practice to really compete at this level. And, admittedly, the desire. Even now, with the tape-wounds on my balls mostly healed, I knew that dancing was not the life for me. Fearing the embarrassment and stony silence and possible assault charges that would greet me when my routine ended, I decided to dance a hasty retreat, and solemnly thrashed and flopped my way through the doors of the multipurpose room and out of dance forever. _______________________________________
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