Metallica admirer Roger Scruton deplores the asocial / asexual dancing of modern music, but gives a big big-up to formation dancing and paired dancing
from the essay "Dancing Properly", published in March as part of the collection Confessions of a Heretic
“jerk on to the floor in obedience to the puppet master at the desk”
“tend to avoid contact with each other, since there is no agreed convention as to what form their contact should take”.
“They are dancing at each other. The difference between ‘at’ and ‘with’ is one of the deepest psychological differences we know. It is exemplified in all our encounters with other people – notably in conversation and in sexual gambits … The decay of manners that we have seen in recent times is to a large extent a result of the loss of withness and the rise of atness in its stead. Rudeness, obscenity, the ‘in your face’ manners of the new TV presenter – all these are ways of being ‘at’ other people. Courtesy, manners, negotiation and deference are, by contrast, ways of being with.”
in these older dance styles, partners “touch, swing around each other, move together in an attempt to recapture withness”.
whereas techno-type music is a “grotesque caricature of music in which rhythm is mere beat and melody mere repetition”, and which is "loud enough to make conversation impossible and, provided the pulse is regular enough, to jerk the body into reflex motion, like the legs of a galvanised frog”
in the Guardian interview Scruton recalls how
“In the traditional dances, physical contact was permitted in a way that it wasn’t in everyday life. The electricity of physical contact has gone therefore from young people’s lives. For us ageds, I can remember the tingle in your fingertips when you touched a girl’s body anywhere. That’s part of it, but also that touching as a courtesy has gone.”
“I love Viennese waltzes and polkas, and especially cèilidhs and old-fashioned formation dancing... I like rock’n’roll too. Young women especially love the idea of formation dancing … Once it’s on offer, people go for it. There’s a kind of ignorance.”
on Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" - “There is no violent drumming, no amplified bass, none of the devices which – I am tempted to say – substitute for rhythm in so much contemporary pop. This withness is felt by the listener as an urge to dance, an urge to look around for the person whose hand could be taken and who could be led on to the floor.”
in a way, he's not wrong exactly ... techno dancing is "autistic" but while it's asexual, maybe (some genres are pretty sensual) it's not asocial - in the massive-ification experience of being jointly subjected to overbearing rhythm, collectively synchronised to a pulse
despite loving Metallica (I'm assuming he's not ever heard metal in concert, at bodyshaking volume) Scruton also is unaware - seemingly - of the haptic dimension to amplified music, and especially to electronic dance music - sound as immersive, enfolding, penetrative, audiotactile..... this individualised (yet shared) surrender to overwhelming sound
Would Uncle Scruton approve of the dancing in this?
[via Karl Kraft]