36. Dance like no-one’s watching.

When I first started this blog every day thing, I wrote down a list of potential topics in case I ran out of ideas. I’ve never looked at it. But on that list, tucked away toward the end, I had written five words; “dance like a white man”. It was my son’s fault.

This movie was based on my childhood. But the town only banned dancing after I moved in.

This movie was based on my childhood. But the town only banned dancing after I moved in.

My father was a big man. He was six foot four and over a hundred kilograms. He did not melt into the background at the best of times. But take him to a wedding reception, and he would really come into his own. Sooner or later, the DJ was sure to hit the right note. A song from the 60’s would come on, and my father would loom onto the dance floor. Then it was on. He wasn’t actually a bad dancer. He just had an interesting quirk or two. He would, for reasons I was never able to understand, stick his tongue out and roll it upside down. And he would spend at least half of his time with his eyes closed. Losing yourself to the beat is all very well if you’re a 65kg hippy dancing in the firelight out on the beach, but I always felt a little concerned for all those poor little grannies and maiden aunts and awkward teenage boys who suddenly realised that they were sharing a small wooden platform with an enormous blind man who was lurching around at a healthy clip with his tongue hanging out like a basset hound on a hot day. I’ve never seen myself dance. Others have. From a suitable distance. This is probably better for everyone. When I was at school, I used to play squash. It was no easy thing to find someone willing to play with me. This was not because I was particularly good. Nor was I particularly bad. I was, however, particularly likely to draw blood.

What do you mean you're not keen for another game?

What do you mean you’re not keen for another game?

It’s always been quite hard for me to understand. I could always do what needed to be done. My racquet was always in precisely the right spot to send the ball back at the spot I had chosen. It was just that I seemed to have little or no control of where it would be before and after that. People got hurt. I could do a somersault or a flick flack. My body would go through the prescribed number of rotations, and I would land on my feet. But I had no control of where my limbs would be during the process. People got hurt. And so it is when I dance. I have more elbows than everybody else, and my hips seem to be capable of leaving my body to exact a terrible revenge on anyone foolhardy enough to carry a drink across the dancefloor. People get hurt. Then my son was born. And lo and behold, the cycle was broken. He had rhythm! Long before he could talk, he would tap along in perfect time to whenever we played a song. If he was really into it, he would bob up and down like a tiny headbanger, never missing a beat. He was brilliant. Then he went off to school. Life went on. A year or two passed. And then one day, he came home and stood in front of us, chest swelling with pride, and said “Mom! Dad! Do you guys wanna see my moves?” Of course we did. He was our little Fred Astaire. It was going to be so cute!

He used to look like this, too, but then the school took away his pimp-cane.

He used to look like this, too, but then the school took away his pimp-cane.

He dashed off to put on what he described as “Some beats!” He cleared a space on the carpet. And then it started. It was breathtaking. His body began to shudder and twist like one of those charismatic preachers feeling the spirit. I leapt to my feet, thinking he’d had a stroke. A foot shot out and hit the door, slamming into it hard enough to send him flying in the other direction. We thought he was going down, but he grabbed the corner of a table and flung his legs up into the air like a kicking mule. He paused. And then he really did go down, collapsing to his knees like that guy in Platoon, and toppling forward   onto his elbows. We thought it was all over. But then he began to quake and shudder again. My wife dashed off to get a coathanger to stop him from choking on his tongue. His arms began shooting out like a cat trying to catch the red dot from a laser pointer. His legs flew out to one side and he began to scoot around in a vaguely defined circle before he spun over onto his back with his arms folded and one foot up in the air. “What”, he said, like the world’s most self-assured pile of builder’s rubble, “did we think of THAT?!?” Holy shit! I left my wife to stretch the boundaries of diplomacy and went to pour myself a drink.

Amateurs! My boy can do all of these moves at the same time!

Amateurs! My boy can do all of these moves at the same time!

Sometimes things turn out for the best. His friends introduced him to a game where you get points for dancing like Michael Jackson. Thanks to the twin miracles of peer pressure and Skinnerian conditioning, we might just be OK. But I’m not going to write about what  bad dancers we are. From where I’m standing, we’re actually looking pretty good. Because I just Googled Peter Garrett. Peter Garrett is an interesting guy. He’s a politician in Australia. He’s a bit of an environmentalist and a social activist, but like all politicians he wavers between commitment and compromise. But that is not always who he was. This is Peter Garrett.



No, that is not Lurch from the Adams Family. That is the lead singer of Midnight Oil. I loved Midnight Oil. The music was good. They were socially conscious. They were environmentalists. The singer looked like an axe murderer. But I had missed something. In my search this morning, I found this; Is it not a thing of surpassing beauty? Peter Garrett is the single worst dancer in the history of mankind. If you see worse, you can be sure that it’s all a bit of a joke. An act. But I have to believe this is real. Midnight Oil were singing about human rights. They were not a novelty act. How had I missed this back in the 80’s? The man is an inspiration. He has not been cursed with a single, awkward style. He tackles them all with gay abandon. He is as fearless as he is uncoordinated. If you haven’t done so, give the video a look. It’s like the van Gogh’s Sunflowers of human movement, something beautiful and disturbing plucked from a twisted and tortured psyche. It’s all there. He flails his arms around without moving his feet, like a man stuck in hot tar. He pushes his arms around like the world’s most uncoordinated mime, desperately reaching for the walls of a see through box made mobile by high doses of LSD. He does jazz hands. Jazz hands! He tackles the Michael Jackson spin with reckless abandon, covering fifteen square metres while trying to turn on the spot. He thrashes the air in a public road like he’s being attacked by bees. He sashays, hands on hips, like a schoolgirl model. He stamps out imaginary fires. He will try anything. And fail. The only unifying theme is that his feet are reluctant to keep up with his body and his arms have disconnected from his brain and are desperately trying to escape that terrifying, cavernous head.

He is required by law to wear a wig and a large pair of sunglasses when he goes to children's parties.

He is required by law to wear a wig and a large pair of sunglasses when he goes to children’s parties.

He has a gift. A rare talent. He is a work of art and I wish he was ours. Because he looks like he’s having a ball. It’s like he sat down in front of a mirror when he started out and said “Right. I’m the front-man for a band. And I can’t dance. I can either sit there on a stool like a muppet, or I can set the world on fire.” And that, my friends, is why the beds are burning. But don’t worry. He’s doing his best to put them out. I do apologise if seeing that upset you. I know that there are lovers of beauty and grace out there. Aesthetes. And I put you through that. Sorry. Don’t worry. I’m going to make it up to you. Here is a clip filled with style, and poise, and elegance, to bring balance back to the universe; Holy, as I said earlier, shit! I just hope you were sitting down when she cut the noose. And set it loose.

59 thoughts on “36. Dance like no-one’s watching.

  1. My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find many of your post’s to be exactly I’m looking for.
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  2. Louella says:

    I’ve not had the pleasure of REALLY seeing Peter Garret Dance prior to this moment.

    Awesome. He dances without fear. A bit like how I sing.

  3. […] It was quite fun to see where the ideas came from. On Monday, I was going to write about Bushbabies. And then I read in the news that the lead singer of Yothu Yindi had died. I liked Yothu Yindi. So I Googled them for old time’s sake. And up came Midnight Oil, who were apparently quite close to them. So I Googled them for old time’s sake. And up came Peter Garrett. Who dances like a PCP addict with Alien Hand Syndrome. Post sorted. […]

  4. windhound says:

    This is so helpful. I always thought that I hadn’t become a famous singer because I couldn’t dance now I know it was simply because I can’t sing.

    • 23thorns says:

      Give it another try. not being able to sing never slowed Bob Dylan down.

      • windhound says:

        There speaks a man from a very safe distance. I’ll just add an ability to sing combined with great stage presence and writing skills on my reincarnation wish list. Thanks for the encouragement though, your words could have just tipped the balance if in fact I had any vocal talent but was just being rediculously shy and unfashionably modest.

  5. Johna Till Johnson says:

    Wow, fantastic post! And at 1:51 on the Peter Garrett video, check out the rather impressive squat he does…

  6. I agree with narf… as an Aussie it was so promising and then So disappointing to witness Garrett’s devolution in the Labor party…. he should have gone into politics as an independent – that way he would have at least retained some respect…. as it is he should have stayed in music :-/

  7. The Wertis says:

    Very funny — glad I found your blog.

  8. ART by IMI says:

    “better to punch into the sky than punch you in the face” I wonder how many people thought “better to punch YOU in the face!” I am not violent yet I thought that! really funny.

  9. Lex says:

    Okay, by the time I made it to prancercise I burst into such laughter that my husband came out of hiding (He’s playing video games in the office) to find out what all the commotion was about. Thank you, I needed that. 🙂

  10. I’ve been told that I dance like Peter Garrett. Not sure if I should take that as a compliment or not haha.

  11. Lyn says:

    I got about halfway through the Garrett video clip before feeling extremely embarrassed for him. How can he go out in public? I’d be afraid of being a laughingstock if I danced like that. Oh, I forgot, he is a laughingstock …he’s a politician. Another wonderful post Mr. 23Thorns. I look forward every day to what you will present us with next. Long may your keyboard clickety-clack.

  12. ‘My kids want to know why I’m laughing so hard. My laughter this morning was nearly the equivalent of Garrett dancing. I think I’ve frightened and greatly entertained my kids.
    Garrett has been a rather large (and epileptic) disappointment. He came out with guns blaing for the insulation scheme, full of passion and bounce (like his music) but after the scheme all went terribly wrong he pulled his head into his shell and as Narf7 says, hasn’t been heard of since until yesterday. No doubt he will hide in his hole again until sometime around the federal election in September (I think) this year.

  13. Mmnm says:

    The 80s seem like an unbelievable period… I’m now slightly sad that I missed all of that. darn it mum couldn’t you have had me a decade earlier?

    I’m afraid I disagree with you- I think Peter Garrett dances better than any prancercise routine. The latter gets you weird looks, whereas the former is guaranteed to earn you respect (ish)

    • 23thorns says:

      It will certainly earn you a lot of space on the dancefloor.
      The 80’s were fun, but we pay the price now whenever we see pictures of ourselves.

      • Mmnm says:

        I thought a lot of space on a crowded dance floor = respect 0v0a

        you know, like how people just stops and move away and observe you in revered silence and cheer after you’re done (optional?)

      • 23thorns says:

        In my family’s case, people cheer if we don’t get hospitalised.

  14. PinotNinja says:

    That prancercise video gets me every time. EVERY TIME. Once it starts, I just cannot look away. It provides the perfect combination of humor and horror.

  15. Forget about “Walk Like An Egyptian,” Peter Garrett shows you how to “Dance Like An Epileptic” instead. Take that Bangles!

  16. narf77 says:

    You just burned a hole in my brain with this post and have left me curiously disturbed…while we are all united in our unrest, here is the obvious cause of all of this dance-dance mayhem. The ruler of the dance (so to speak) who was obviously both Mr Garretts and Ms Rohrbacks style guru (does ANYONE but serious anorexics and megalomaniacal rock stars actually wear pants like that and think that they can get away with it?!!!!)

    Watching Mr Jagger is like having your mouth washed out with soap (and perhaps my brain will heal now…)

  17. narf77 says:

    Kudos Mr 23Thorns…Peter Garrett is our answer to Eddy the Eagle of U.K. Olympic fame…a man who was our hero. An environmentalist who rose up through the musical scene gyrating and flailing and “Doing the Zombie” WAY before anyone else thought about it. A man before his time…but we are all starting to suspect that he had been studying one “Arnold Schwarzenegger” whose rise to fame was all so very carefully calculated. Mr Garrett rode into politics on the coat tails of his musical and “dancing” (if you can call that dancing…) fame BUT as soon as he joined a mainstream political party we never heard from the man again…he was going to make changes…he promised to jump up and down for the little man…we were going to see treaties for the Australian Aboriginal and redemption for the underdog who had been force fed asbestos and uranium as daily rations in the mines to feed the worlds unsatiable hunger for raw materials (and glow in the dark watches…) but suddenly Mr Garrett shut up and was most conspicuous by his complete and utter silence about anything. I thought he was dead until last night where he broke his silence to pay homage to the lead singer of an indiginous band who had died. No doubt he will scuttle back to his electorate and his safe job and his lurch sized suit not to be heard of again until he needs a little bit of political and musical grandstanding to either sell a few back copies of some of his albums (the kids might need a car for school…) or to beat up some votes for the upcoming election… by the way…Arnold Schwarzenegger is coming to Australia! I can barely contain myself…I am thinking of lining up in the no doubt thronging streets (we Aussies LOVE ex-bodybuilders who throw high profile mariages into the bin for the love of a nice homely housekeeper…) but that would involve leaving my “Island Home” and the comfort of my pyjamas…as inviting as an aging (and alarmingly more wrinkled) Mr Schwarzenegger is, methinks my hot water bottle is more attractive to me at this moment in time. Feel free to fly over and worship at his feet. You never know, Mr Garrett might come out of enforced hiding and shake his hand…there are more ways to skin a vote garnering cat than kissing those revolting babies you know! By the way, beatboxing breakdancing psycopathic offspring are a serious sign that there are some unusual gene combinations contained within both you and Mrs 23Thorns…I can’t wait to see what the hobbit is capable of…(flight perchance?)…GOOD LORD! Is that a woman? I am reminded of one “Salad Fingers” a dark creation spawned from the mind of one Mr David Firth (no relation to “Colin”)…I won’t even put a link to his work here…I am too afraid that your breakdancing prospective cult leader son might stumble across it and get infected…I think that this “lady” might be related to Mr Salad Fingers (NOW I am afraid! Imagine if she and Mr Garrett had children…now THERE would be some serious genetic codex gone wrong!)

    • 23thorns says:

      Schwarzenegger, Narf? You surprise me.
      I thought you might have a thing or two to say about the good Mr Garret. Isn’t it sad when the heroes of our youth let us down. At least your guy just went gray. The heroes of our struggle turned into a bunch of bloody thieves.

      • narf77 says:

        Maybe they should take a lesson from Mr Garrett and just bugger off into the background 😉 I guess there are worse things than a rockstars political aspirations 😉

  18. carolinecarryson says:

    Thank you for the side splitting laughter. !!!!!!!

  19. trendbytes says:

    Is that prancercise video for real?? And who the hell wears white skintight leggings at any age? The top half of her looks like she’s going to lunch at the country club, then forgot she had worked out that morning…WTF!

    • 23thorns says:

      Apparently she’s been doing it for years. The only thing potentially unreal about this is that hair. Unless she’s used model airplain glue as conditioner.

  20. :-O My eyes, my eyes…

  21. cari365 says:

    HAHAHAHA, brilliant post!!! Give this a try….I had ‘Passenger – let her go’ (acoustic version) playing on my pc while reading your post, then I killed the sound on the midnight Oil vid….holy shit, HAHAHAHA. 😀 Give it Thorns Mr 23!

  22. Buzzwordz says:

    I am rendered speechless by that last video. I avoided watching it as it blazed through my facebook feed this past week, but when it shows up on my favorite blog, all the way from South Africa, I had to watch. Now I can’t unsee that can I?! Holy Shit indeed, you owe me new eyes.

  23. hares on the hill says:

    Prancercise: another reason why I prefer animals to humans………

  24. I hurt something laughing at the Prancercise vid. I really did. And the cats are looking at me funny. The stick-insect presenting the vid is an inspiration. Not. I’d rather get my exercise dancing like Pater Garrett 😉

    • 23thorns says:

      You must admit that there is something bizarrely graceful about her, like an alien from a low gravity planet. That might explain why her hair doesn’t move in the breeze.

  25. ruthewalker says:

    Holy Shit, indeed. Am now inspired…but for what, I am not at all sure. I guess the main point is that we move the music as it move us, for better or for worse. And hopefully in many cases, no one has a video camera or cell phone handy. Thanks for my morning smile.

  26. A van Vuuren says:

    hahha Thank you for the chuckle-
    Loved Peter Garrett’s biodanza – Great blog read

  27. lbotlbot says:

    the best thing at weddings is the dad dancing! Peter Garrett could be an inspiration for them all.

  28. Jocelyn Hers says:

    What can I say? To misquote the song ” The foot bone ain’t connected to the ankle bone, the leg bone ain’t connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone ain’t connected to the hip bone…”

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