Monday, August 22, 2011

childhood dance routines we'd rather forget.

Following a spirited Twitter conversation last week with Children of the '90s , stand-up comedian/fellow '90s enthusiast/generally funny guy Andy Shaw and I decided to team up for a blog post on bad childhood dance recitals. We know this is a topic that hits close to home for many of you, especially those born and bred during the '80s and '90s. Share your traumatic experiences with us, please. In the meantime, you can follow Andy's musings on Twitter here. Enjoy....and remember, YOU'VE GOT THE POWER!

Kim: Sequined headbands. Hip-hop songs blaring out of a static-laden sound system. Animal-printed, neon lycra. Six year-olds wearing red lipstick. Fathers hoisting camcorders bigger than their heads. While I may have just coincidentally described an episode of “Toddlers and Tiaras”, these things were also part and parcel of a dance recital in the ‘90s. Sure, it all seemed normal at the time, but so did a song by a dude with a mullet called “Achy Breaky Heart”. Why did we – nay, why did our parents – stand for such madness?!

Andy: … Oh, sorry, I was momentarily in a stupor thinking about a child with all of that stuff on. It boggles the mind. Here’s the thing, Kim. We are all guilty of having an embarrassing dance goblin in our childhood closet. We can blame our parents, sure, but they were just doing what everybody else was doing - if we were born 70 years earlier, we’d all have been drowning on the Titanic. But we’re 80s kids, so they sequined and neoned us to within an inch of our godforsaken but totally tubular lives. So it’s no

t a matter of why, I suppose, but how bad?

Kim: Excellent point, Andy. I’ll admit that things got pretty dark, and it wasn’t only because the stage lighting was on the fritz. I hate to harp on the costumes, but I distinctly remember a year when my mother rounded up all of the other moms to sew up an ill-placed, suggestive hole in the center of our tops. You’d think that the designers of children’s apparel would have considered this prior to peddling such slutwear! And then there was the music. It might have had something to do with the particular taste of my gum-snapping, 20-something teachers, but I ended up shakin’ my groove thang to some tunes that were either totally lame, completely inappropriate, or both.

Andy: “Peddling such slutwear” is a phrase to be remembered. I wonder if the dance instructors got a private kick out of the irony of making little kids dance to all that stuff, unaware of what the words mean. Ah, childhood. I can’t wait to make my kid dance to a Katy Perry song.

And now, the evidence...

Kriss Kross: “Jump” (Kim)

In short....wiggity-wiggity-wiggity-WACK. This routine was one of those perfect storms of a one-hit wonder, a low-budget after school program, and a composite of stretchy, black-and-fuschia fabric left over from real dance studios.

Performed at Long Branch Elementary School in Liverpool, New York at the end of my first grade year, we were deluded into thinking that merely enacting the song’s title – repeatedly – and switching lines during the “breakdown” formed a dance routine. But at least we weren’t wearing backwards overalls. Faces are blurred to protect the guilty.

Paul Revere & The Raiders: Indian Reservation (Cherokee People) (Andy)

What’s that? This song is offensive, patronizing, wildly inappropriate, and tries to capitalize on the sorrows of a people nearly wiped off the face of the earth?

You’d be wrong. This song is all of those things, plus a dance number for a group of children! Readers who have checked out my older blog have seen this photo before, but for those who haven’t, well, you’re welcome. It’s not every day you see a little boy in a pink Indian costume excited to dance to an 80’s rock anthem about Native Americans who are “so proud to die.”

That’s right. “So proud to live/So proud to die” the lyrics state, likely something the settlers shouted right before burning villages. Ah, western civilization. The fact the band is “Paul Revere and the Raiders” creates so many jokes, I don’t know where to start.

Janet Jackson: If (Kim)

In case you’ve forgotten about this little gem, here are some choice lyrics:

How many nights I've laid in bed excited over you

I've closed my eyes and thought of us,

A hundred different ways

I've gotten there so many times

I wonder how 'bout you

If I was your girl...

Oh the things I'll do to you

I'd make you call out my name

I'd ask who it belongs to

Clearly, clearly G-rated material that was suitable for seven year-olds to be gyrating and thrusting to. Thank the lord that the lyrics were too breathy and fast for any parents to catch on. Hell, even after dancing to it 50 + times, I don’t think WE caught on. This was also the costume that had the boob-hole. Just family-friendly stuff all around, folks! It’s a miracle we all turned out halfway normal (there was that ONE girl, though...I don’t think she ever fully recovered).

God: Jesus Loves the Little Children (Andy)

Perhaps overlooked in the anthology of childhood dance numbers, we’ve got Bible Camp music. I’ve been to more than my fair share of Bible Camps, so I got get Michael to Row the Boat Ashore, or B-I-B-L-E with the best of them.

Here’s the thing about Bible Camp songs: They all, and I mean ALL, have a series of hand motions with them. No reason, really, other than overly eager parents thinking the message of Jesus can’t be full appreciated without two sets of fingers curled together to signify a heart.

“Jesus Loves the Little Children” is a strange song to teach kids. First off, you’re telling them to identify people by their skin tone - “Look mom, it’s a red one! Like in Cherokee People!” Second off, the underlying premise here is that Jesus loves more than just the other middle class white kids. “Look how culturally sensitive our children are!” On a related reminder note, I went to a lot of Bible Camps.

Sidenote: That video is ultra creepy.

Rob Base & DJ E Z Rock: It Takes Two (Kim)

I really should have learned by this point, age 14, to stop indulging in these ridiculous routines. But the truth was, I did love to dance, and if the price was enduring a painful 3-minute dance for a year of fun combinations and warm-ups, I’d gladly pay it. I’ll never forget my teacher for this one, a nasally club chick who probably hung out at 18+ nights at “Ozone” just over the border in Massachusetts.

There was a lot of booty-shaking, booty-popping, and generally a lot of movements that made me uncomfortable because my trunk had (and still has) absolutely no junk. Our costumes, a crop-top and pants in a shocking neon green, could have triggered epileptic seizures. In this case, two were definitely not enough to make this routine go right.

We know you guys have similar stories (and perhaps even pictures!), so spill them in the comments. May the scarring memories live on!


  1. In school, my whole class had to do a dance to the Ghostbusters theme tune - we were about seven or eight, all had to wear jeans and sunglasses as our costume. I don't think the dance involved much other than us doing something akin to the grapevine back and forth and pointing a bit. Embarrassing...

  2. I love so many things about this post, and of course thanks for the shout out! We had a military themed dance routine, though I can't remember the songs...just the little spangly cadet hats. There was also some sort of poodle skirt Grease mix, the sequined leotard/santa hat combo for Jingle Bell Rock, and the fringed sequin headband for the Addams Family.

    Of course, I also spent 7 years as a synchronized swimmer, during which sequins again factored in heavily. We did a routine that featured the Monday night football song and we threw a girl like a football through legs arranged like goal posts. True story. You can't make that stuff up.

  3. these stories are all fantastic. keep 'em coming!