The other night I attended a semi-outdoor concert (it had rained all day, but cleared up enough for the band to be inside as the audience spilled out into the surrounding area) featuring a Bruce Springsteen tribute band. It was lots of fun. There was a group of kids there, 5 or 6 of them, who all had "Born in the USA" shirts, with their birthday on the back, and they were among the most entertaining part of the evening. I'm guessing they all slept very well that night, because they just danced their little hearts out to every song in the first half of the show. They were having fun, completely uninhibited, not especially good dancers, and I would guess that everyone in the audience found them completely charming, as my husband and I did.
And then there was this other guy, this adult. He also started dancing, right up there with the kids. He too was having fun, completely uninhibited, and not an especially good dancer. (He was also a lot taller, so he made it harder to see the band.) I watched his dancing with some degree of interest because it was well, unusual. I also watched the reaction in the audience. There was some eye-rolling, some laughing and not particularly subtle pointing. I was actually recording the harmonica playing in this video, but you can get an idea of the dancer's performance just off to the side.
Anyway, the juxtaposition of the delight of the kids dancing right next to the odd-ness of this man dancing got me to wondering. At what point in our lives does joy for dancing become weird? I often try to make up scenarios in my head for the reasons a person might do something. I find this particularly useful in traffic, when someone behaves like a jerk. "Maybe they just got a call that their wife is in labor and things aren't going well." or "Maybe they are going so slow because it is they know it is their last trip to the hospital and they just don't want to face what they have in store." Stuff like that.
So for this guy, I was imagining what might lead him to just absolutely not care that he was kinda making a spectacle of himself. Maybe he just got out of rehab. Maybe he was celebrating being cancer-free, or maybe he just got the opposite diagnosis and had been given only a short time to live. Maybe he just retired. And of course, maybe none of those things; maybe he just likes to dance and was not about to let society's rules say he couldn't do so on a beautiful spring night.
For the better part of the first half of the show, it was just him and those kids. And then one woman, who didn't seem to have any connection to him whatsoever, got up and started dancing with him. It was so great, and it was just like this video of the "first follower." You may have seen this one at some leadership development thing:
What was interesting to me is Thursday night's dance party worked EXACTLY as the narrator describes in the video above. The first dancer attracted some attention, but it was the first follower who really got the dancing started. After she sat down, a few more people got up to dance, and then a few more - momentum! But after the ice was broken, it was hard to find a spot in the dancing area because it became so crowded.
Although the dancing man did make me a bit uncomfortable at first, I have to hand it to him for starting the trend that ultimately made the rest of us follow his lead. Maybe he was aware of the eye-rolling he was inducing and maybe he wasn't. But he wanted to dance, and he wasn't deterred when he didn't get immediate accolades. And maybe he didn't even care that much when people finally started joining in; he just did what he felt compelled to do.
I didn't get in to the Google Innovators program this round. But I'm going to take a tip from the dancing man and keep doing what I think needs to be done for digital literacy and digital citizenship, and hopefully others will take notice and join me on my quest. I hope some of you will follow me!