Tuesday, June 12, 2012

You can dance if you want to (in the street)

You're sitting in your car on the way home from work, frustrated by traffic and stuck at a red light because the dickhead that just squeezed in front of you stopped for the orange light. And across the intersection there's some guy with a massive grin wearing headphones, flailing his arms about and shaking his hips.

The 'Kew Dancing Man'
And you just think, 'What .. the .. ffuuu...'

You would, right? I'm pretty sure I did the first time I saw 'Kew Dancing Man', Robin Madden doin' his thang. I'd hazard a guess most people's reaction to seeing him for the first time was bemusement, if not amusement. People don't do that; it's not normal!

It's a pretty brave move to dance at a busy intersection where many passers-by will wonder what the hell is wrong with you. But what the hell is wrong with us?!

Most people dance, yeah? If you don't, you should. It's good for your mind, body and soul. We dance in groups at music venues and celebrations, and some of us dance in the privacy of our lounge rooms (I assume other people do too), but once you dance alone and someone sees you, you stand to be mocked.

Imagine how onlookers, or even the police, would respond if someone started dancing inexplicably (who needs a reason?!) on the corner of Swanston and Flinders Streets.

WHY? I want answers goddammit!

Why do we feel unsettled - even threatened - by people who behave 'unusually' in public places (even if the same behaviour in a private space is perfectly normal) and feel the need to bring it down with mockery or worse?

Anyway, the second time you saw him, you generally, genuinely smiled - if not, go looking for your heart. He became a much-loved local celebrity even for blow-ins like me who worked up the road at the local Dan Murphy's for a couple of years. I never met him, but we loved his presence.

He was just a happy guy making people smile and enjoying himself. More of it please, society.

Sadly, he passed away late last month, but it was amazing to see the reaction and number of people talking about him on social media, as well as coverage in mainstream media. This is the kinda soul we ought to celebrate.

He probably brought smiles to the faces of many thousands of people. Just by dancing. That simple. A lot of 'successful' people will go to their grave with a fat bank account having achieved far less.

So let us not judge anyone who dances in the street or acts in a manner that is seemingly a little unusual to our own experience. Who the hell are we to do so?

Goddammit, there should be more dancing in the street. It is perfectly normal, it is good for the body, good for the mind, makes you and people around you smile ... I get strange looks just singing to myself walking down the street sometimes. What, these people don't sing? Meh, their loss (yeah, I wish I was that comfortable with unwarranted judgement!)

Why are people so quick to judge harmless breaches of the rigid, anti-social 'code of conduct in public places' that's become prevalent, particularly in the city? Imagine a tram - over 50 people squeezed into a confined space and nobody talks. Now that's bizarre social behaviour - a sociology study in waiting.

But I think the Kew Dancing Man proved that, if you're brave enough to break down these barriers, people love you for it. Social norms are made to be broken. May his legacy live on! Dance, dance, dance!

And remember:

'If life seems jolly rotten,
There's something you've forgotten,
And that's to laugh and smile and DANCE and sing!'

('Always Look On The Bright Side of Life', Monty Python)