Saturday, 20 May 2017

Saturday, 20 May 2017 10:51 pm

Oh. My.

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I opted to celebrate my 35th birthday three days early due to family convenience. Tonight happened to be Nerds Trivia Night at Politics & Prose, so we went to that after I opened my presents. My brother-in-law was tired and never does have much confidence in his trivia abilities, but we talked him into coming with us. Good thing, too, because he knew some answers the rest of us didn't. He and my sister did not stick around for the final results. Too bad for them.

The theme of the night, as we gleaned from the poster, was Cher, who had her birthday today. We bombed severely on the visual round, which entailed matching Cher album images to titles. Dad thought we were going to get one of the lower overall scores -- until they started announcing scores from least to greatest. First place had only 23 points out of a possible 36; usually it's more like 33.

We remain convinced that the graders messed up in giving us 19 points instead of 21. Another team lodged a comparable complaint, tho admitting they wouldn't have won or placed. Still, if not for this error, the ensuing events probably would have been less interesting.

When two teams tie for a prize-winning place -- be it first, second, or even last -- one person from each team enters a dance-off, to be judged by the audience. A team could forfeit instead, but that has yet to happen. Since I was the only halfway-young member of our team, I was tapped and offered no resistance. I didn't actually get nervous until I was one of two guys standing in a cleared space, waiting for the song.

Please understand: I used to fear public dancing more than death. It was one thing to do a choreographed dance in a play, but improvising for fun? I felt altogether too gawky. At 15, I even once snatched my hand away from an attractive girl who wanted to dance with me at a gathering with only about a dozen people, most of whom were not in the room. This fear abated gradually, but tonight I was literally being judged by maybe a hundred people.

If this were a livelier Cher number, I might have been in real trouble. Instead, it was "Welcome to Burlesque," from the little-appreciated movie Burlesque (2010) with Christina Aguilera. (It was included in the music round of the trivia, but absolutely no one got it.) This tango is open to interpretive dance, as the host said.

My mind raced back to the last time anyone was impressed at my dancing. I was 13, in an avant-garde camp production. The song was Rusted Root's "Back to the Earth." In our practice, I thought the beginning of the song evoked the kindling of a flame (less evident in the linked recording), so I imitated a growing flame myself. The director told me to keep at it, only with more dramatic movements.

So tonight, I started out similarly: eyes closed or nearly closed, moving my arms more than my legs. Occasionally I'd do a yoga-like sweep. The important part in my mind was to keep changing it up. Not all motions very abstract. Maybe a little sultry, in a facetious way.

Because of my mostly closed eyes, I couldn't rightly tell which of us got the most cheering. I later learned that the other guy gave up after watching me for a bit.

Somehow, this feels like more of an accomplishment than the time we came in first. Or either of the times that I supplied the night's best team name.

Sadly, neither of my parents figured out in time how to work the video function on their phones. Well, sadly for them. I'd just as soon not show the Internet. But I don't mind telling you all about it.

BTW, one of my presents was Just Dance 2017. That ought to prepare me for next time, if there is one.

Alas, the organizer will be quitting soon. I almost want to take over for him. Perhaps I will do something like it someday. If so, I'll have to decide whether to subject others to the dance-off.

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Stephen Gilberg

July 2017

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