Defying American customs that say you will be struck down from on high if you even think about having an alcoholic drink outdoors, this weekend I managed to enjoy my first margarita of the year while sitting outside listening to an old fashioned country rock band. Contrary to New York thinking, no ill befell me, and I didn’t become an unbearable lout incapable of controlling himself. Just for your information, that only comes after four margaritas, and has nothing to do with whether I’m outside or not.
The Special One and I were easily the youngest adults at the event, with the band cracking out covers of venerable classics such as Bobby Darin’s “Dream Lover”, Roy Orbison’s “Only The Lonely” and Aqua’s “Barbie Girl”* to meet the musical tastes of the gathered throngs. To be honest, half way through the second margarita, they could have knocked out some snuff metal and I’d have been perfectly happy.
Half way through probably the second number that we saw, a man and a woman got up and started dancing in that vaguely self conscious way that you generally see from the people who take to the dancefloor at a wedding reception after becoming tired of waiting for the newly married couple to take their first dance. Their bravery inevitably encouraged others to get up, and before long there were plenty of people, erm, getting their groove on.
At first I thought it was the tequila, but after a while, I began to notice that at least 75% of the aforementioned groovers were actually line dancing – performing exactly the same routine alongside each other, including complicated skips, shoulder drops and head sways in time to the music. And not just one or two people in their own routine, either – more like a dozen or more silver haired dancers racing through an elaborate routine. It was like watching the video for Achy Breaky Heart, back when Billy Ray Cyrus was just a man with an embarrassing mullet, rather than Hannah Montana’s dad.
Line dancing is one of those traditions (on both sides of the Atlantic) that I think should only be performed in an extremely controlled environment. Namely ‘in your own imagination’, rather than ‘in public where people you might know could possibly see you.’ Nonetheless, there is something faintly mesmerising about watching it, and not just because you’re laughing at Norah, the latecomer with two left feet who can’t work out the routine and ends up tripping poor Ernie half way through an unlikely linedancing version of Smells Like Teen Spirit.
The strange thing is that these people had no caller yelling out the steps, but danced a perfectly choreographed routine for every song. They weren’t an organised ‘troupe’, as people came and went over the course of an hour or so, but even so, each person knew exactly which move went where and when. I kept hoping that every change of song by the band would cause each indvidual member to burst out into a different routine, but somehow they all knew inherently that if “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” starts playing, you take two steps to the right and click your heels together.
Such was the level of knowledge that I am now of the opinion that linedancing is part of the initiation procedure into the cult of America. Given that I am now going through protracted immigration proceedings, I am convinced that I am going to be tested by immigration officers not on my knowledge of the American constitution, but which steps should be performed to “Chantilly Lace”.
I’m packing my bags to go back to the UK already.
* Of course I was joking, and ‘Barbie Girl’ wasn’t sung by the band. It was ‘Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’.