Everybody Dance Now!

state_cc.jpgDancing was always a constant in my life.



After spending my evening ringing in the New Year at a local sports bar, I returned home tired and ready to hit the sack. But before closing my eyes to 2008, I decided to turn on the TV and channel surf. To my utter surprise and extreme delight, I saw that both MTV and VH1 were showcasing videos from years past. And these weren’t just any old videos, mind you; they were some of the best-ever dance videos from the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Now if you know anything about me, then you know that particular time in music history was my absolute favorite. Back then I was still a kid, and as a child, my only primary responsibility was to be a good student. Luckily, I was smart and easily mastered my schoolwork. As a result, I had plenty of extra time to indulge in my two favorite hobbies: dancing and dance music.

I remember strutting my stuff around my parents’ house, busting a move to songs like Snap’s "The Power," Technotronic’s "Pump up the Jam," MC Hammer’s "Pray" and Nenah Cherry’s "Buffalo Stance," which dominated the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Freestyle, club or house music—whatever you want to call it — the infectious sound was everywhere from 1987 to 1992, and man, was it hot! When C&C Music Factory and Martha Wash famously commanded "Everybody dance now!" that’s exactly what my friends and I did. I mean, who could possibly sit still in the midst of such great grooves?

Dance music for the masses. Dance music for every young person to enjoy. Back in the day, dance music was all about getting down and having fun. Pure dance for dance’s sake — nothing more, nothing less. It was music that you could listen to without supervision, without trying to hide it from your parents because you were scared they might not approve. Back then, there was no need for "Parental Advisory" stickers to deface dance album covers, since the music was never derogatory or overtly sexual. Even hit-makers like Janet Jackson ("Rhythm Nation"), Paula Abdul ("Straight Up") and Exposé ("Come Go With Me") weren’t selling sex; they were selling the power of music to make you get up and feel good.

And if you wanted to look good, too, well then you headed straight to popular mall stores like 5-7-9, Merry-Go-Round, Networks, Contempo and Oak Tree. These fashion meccas catered to the whole "Club MTV" segment of the young population: minimum wage-earning teens and 20-somethings who didn’t mind spending $30 on paisley rayon blouses, V-neck argyle sweater vests or I.O.U. sweatshirts. Unfortunately, I wasn’t yet old enough to get a job, so my wardrobe was limited to what I could talk my mom into buying.

Perhaps that’s what I relish most about those years, the fact that I never really got to truly experience life the way I wanted to. Not only couldn’t I work at the mall since I wasn’t 16, I also couldn’t go to the cool, hip, trendy nightclubs where the "older" teens hung out. I had to settle for listening to the radio, watching music videos and faithfully tuning in to dance-themed television shows like Dance Party USA, The Party Machine With Nia Peeples, and Friday Night Street Party. So even though I couldn’t physically be in the clubs, I was totally there in spirit in every other way I could be.

From the age of three when I was first introduced to dance through a kid-friendly class called Creative Movement, right through to college where I was captain of the dance squad, dancing was always a constant in my life. And even now as an adult, I still make time to take dance classes ranging from hip-hop to salsa to electric slide. I simply love feeling the rhythms and moving my body to the beat—exactly what I found myself doing as I happily watched those classic videos on New Year’s Day.

I can’t help it: Dancing is a big part of me. And so are my cherished memories, beloved songs and treasured music videos from 1987 to 1992. There was something extra special about those years when dance music reigned supreme. I’m glad I was there. And you know what? I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. | Retannical D. Russell

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