The Breakdance Story

I used to be a breakdancer.

Thirteen years ago when I was entering college, I was a terrible dancer. To most people that wouldn’t be an issue. But my perception of college was that dancing would be really important. I envisioned an ongoing series of dance parties–both frat and ballroom–and possibly a number of West-Side-Story-style dance-offs. College was full of dancing, and if I had no rhythm, I would be ostracized.

For some reason, I pictured breakdancing as the pinnacle of rhythm. I had probably seen a video on YouTube (or whatever we had back then…TV? I can’t remember a time before I could watch videos online on demand) and thought I had seen the best dancer ever.

So I joined the breakdancing club at Wash U.

The details of my dancing career aren’t the point of this story, but I’ll say this: I had fun in breakdancing club, and it proved a lucrative way to meet women (including a half white/half Japanese beauty with purple eyes–purple eyes!–who will forever remain etched in my memory. I think she’s either a model or a character in Final Fantasy XVIII now)…but I never gained a sense of rhythm. I could do some of the breakdancing moves like the 6-step and a few freezes, but I couldn’t link together any of the moves. I probably looked like a robot, if a robot could be really bad at The Robot.

That was 1999-2000. Eventually I stopped attending breakdancing club meetings, and the years passed by.

2005: After a friend’s wedding, I was sitting at my table finishing my dinner when the dancing portion of the evening began. People circled up as they do at weddings, and a few little kids were pushed to the middle of the circle. They had a grand old time running around in circles.

At some point, there was no one in the middle of the circle for a while, but the circle remained intact. There it was, a big, wide circle with no one in the middle. And it dawned on me.

This is it, I thought. This is my time. This is what that year of breakdancing was for.

I kept sipping my fuzzy navel, trying to find a reason not to plunge headfirst into the middle of the circle. But I couldn’t think of one. So I tossed back the rest of my drink and stood up. Let’s do this.

Before I could take a single step, a guy who had been sitting a few tables over leaped into the middle of the circle and performed the single best breakdancing routine I’ve ever seen in my life.

The guy was a blur of legs and handstands, headspins and twirls. He juked in and out of freezes like a dancing mime, and his transitions were as fluid as water. It was amazing.

As I watched, I eased myself back into my seat, realizing that I had come this close to a monumental embarrassment. Not that people would have mocked my hapless routine–I’m sure they would have enjoyed seeing a grown man do what would appear to have been a series of somersaults on the dance floor. But next to that gazelle king of breakdancing, I would have paled in comparison.

And that, my friends, is why I gave up breakdancing for good.