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rainier ridao GRDpPpKczdY unsplash 760x434 - Dancefever

Dancefever

Text by MARINA MAHATHIR
SOME 25-odd years ago, a cleft-chinned young actor donned a white suit, showed some deft footwork and unleashed a phenomenon called disco fever. Suddenly everyone was pointing their fingers skywards as a group of falsetto-voiced brothers accompanied their moves. I was one of those caught up in this dance craze, spending university evenings at the Gay Disco on Mondays and the Soul Disco on Thursdays and whatever other discos on other nights. I even won a disco dance competition once.

Back home in KL, the legendary Tin Mine disco was the hotspot. Many a Saturday night was spent polishing slick moves on the dance floor. From today’s perspective, what we did might be called line dancing but at the time, it was cool to be able to do a routine with friends to the latest songs. Never mind if we did the same routine for each and every song.What was great about disco fever was that we all learnt how to dance. To be able to execute some complicated steps was considered the height of cool. We danced and sweated, then we had a drink, then jumped onto the dance floor again ’til the wee hours of the morning.

Two decades have passed by and my disco dancing days are pretty much over. The body would rather curl up in front of the TV at home than put on high heels and heat up a dance floor. Besides, disco dancing is no longer fun.

For a start, no-one else on the dance floor looks like they were born before John Travolta put on his white suit. Fresh-faced young things fill the discos (or clubs as they are called these days) dressed, oddly enough, in the same fashions as those in the Saturday Night Fever days: batwing sleeves, glittery make-up, strappy sandals. Young men now, as then, stand around awkwardly, trying not to show that they are even remotely interested in what’s going on on the floor.

Secondly, nobody really dances anymore. They may stand around and shake a bit but there’s no style to it, or any form of choreography. You do whatever comes to mind. Which is a necessity since music these days hardly has any distinguishable beat. Techno or house music, in my book, is one endless stream of noise. My youngest brother, who aspires to be an occasional deejay ( short for disc jockey, though I doubt if anyone knows that anymore), once played me a house album which, he claimed, had about 20 songs on it. I could not tell the difference between them, let alone dance to them.

Thirdly, whereas before you celebrated the songs and the singers or bands for coming up with great rhythms to shake your booty to, nowadays the real stars are the deejays. In my disco days, deejays certainly helped to create the right atmosphere by playing danceable songs but they did not become phenomena in themselves. These days, clubs advertise the deejays, with all sorts of creative nom de turntables, to attract people and some apparently earn almost as much as the singers or bands themselves. They travel from country to country playing at clubs and parties, attracting huge crowds. The spotlight thus has moved from the dance floor to the turntable so what is the need anymore to know any dance steps?

The only thing that has not changed is the records themselves. Technology may have evolved but deejays still prefer playing vinyl records. The odd thing is their young audiences hardly know what these are. In a quiz I once observed, young people did not know that RPM stands for Revolutions Per Minute because you don’t need to know that with compact discs. The other thing they find impressive about records is that you can play them on both sides.

I watched my teenage daughter and her friends recently at a party where a deejay spun his records and tried to get them to sweat a little bit. It seems that young girls these days, though dressed more expensively than when I was that age, are more self-conscious than before. Or perhaps they are afraid they might shake their coiffures loose. They all look like they need someone to teach them some steps first, preferably similar to those that models use on the catwalk. In any case, they never cut loose on the dance floor like we used to.

Boys of course haven’t changed at all. They could not dance in my time and they still can’t today.

Perhaps the state of modern music is so monotonous that young people don’t tap their toes anymore and therefore never learn rhythm. I can never keep still if a James Brown record is ever on the loudspeakers no matter where I might be, much to the mortification of my daughter.

But I felt vindicated recently when, after cajoling and coaxing my daughter and her friends to risk perspiring to little avail, the deejay at her party pointed at me as I strutted my stuff, “SHE’s more happening than you all!” Better still, one young man in all earnest sweetness said to me, “Auntie Marina, you put Ineza to shame!” Indeed!