WAYS TO DANCE
Dance like nobody’s watching.
Dance like everybody’s watching, but nobody’s filming.
Dance like everybody’s got their cameras out, and the little red lights are blinking so you
know they’re filming, but everyone’s head is also turned, so that technically, nobody’s
watching, even though soon, millions of strangers will have the option of watching.
Dance like all your problems are somebody else’s fault.
Dance like you are the greatest dancer in the history of the world… only pretending to
dance like someone who only kind of knows what they’re doing, whose anxiety about the
degree to which they’re being scrutinized by those for whom they perform is a performance
in itself, one perhaps even more compelling than the original dance.
Dance like people are slowly starting to watch you.
Dance like people are not only watching you, but are directly controlling all your
movements with their thoughts.
Dance like an army, having trudged through swamps and over mountains without food
or rest, fighting frostbite and dysentery, sunstroke and wasps, has finally arrived in time
to see the last few seconds of your dance and then destroy you.
Dance like nobody’s behind you with a gun whispering, “Keep dancing. That’s right.
Nice and easy. Look at how happy you’re making the nice people. Now, you look happy.
There you go. Everybody’s happy. Everybody’s happy with the happy, happy dancer…”
Dance like nobody’s in front of you with a gun to their own head, hand trembling,
pleading, “Keep dancing. Please. I won’t kill myself as long as you keep dancing. I know
you’re tired. Your legs look tired. My eyes are tired just watching your legs. And my hand
is tired from holding this gun. But don’t give up. Whatever you do. Or I’ll pull the trigger.
And that’s on you.”
Dance like blood is everywhere because you gouged everyone’s eyes out because they were
trying to watch you dance and now they can’t.
Dance like nobody taller than you is watching, but everyone who is shorter than you is.
Dance like you’re being paid to dance because you’re a professional dancer, and over the
years the money you’ve received for dancing has transformed you into a robot—an
automaton—an extension of the dancing industry—its thoughtless, emotionless churner
out of “dance.”
Dance like you’re a race of ancient aliens whose bodily gyrations generate collisions
between two separate frequencies of dark matter, the positronic output of which, once
captured by a nanoparticle sail reverse-engineered from thermite and quantum
plutonium, powers all faster-than-light travel, and the war between the galaxies for
control of your imagination has only just begun.
Dance like you’re a poor person… crazy poor… just… poorer than you can possibly
imagine… so poor there’s no way you should be dancing… but still you dance… noble…
holy… beautiful… and yet so poor, people have to turn away.
Dance like you’re a cornered rat and dancing is the only way you’ve ever been able to
dazzle the mazemakers into lifting you out of the maze by the tail and dropping you into
the cheese room.
Dance like your artistic indulgences in no way accelerate the depletion of Earth’s already
decimated supply of irreplaceable natural resources.
Dance like you don’t care that that nobody’s got a single, elegant, judicious
solution to a single international conflict.
Dance like any solution to an international conflict, no matter how seemingly elegant or
judicious, exacerbates conflicts not even currently perceivable to which the original
conflict is by unbreakable chains of history and circumstance attached—conflicts that, by
being unforeseeable, are exponentially more challenging to solve than the original,
which itself was precipitated by the then-seemingly elegant, judicious solutions to the
seemingly more easily solved conflicts preceding them, and that this concatenation of
interlocking causes and effects stretches not only farther back than recorded history, but
farther back by a factor of a thousand into unrecorded history than the already
exhaustingly long history of which there is a record, such that the even greater tragedy of
political engineering is that what is unknown about the abyss of misery it precedes,
creates, and is, dwarfs what is known.
Dance like you know all the Greek letters up to Rho, but after that your mind is a battered,
windswept landscape scattered with broken fragments of Greek letters that shuffle and
blow like desiccated leaves in a restless breeze across a limestone bluff with a little, bendy
path that leads to some Greek-looking buildings.
Dance like you don’t care that you are the centerpiece of the world’s most expensive
Dance like the apocalypse has been prophesied to coincide with your dancing’s
Dance like you’re not insane, but you’re trying very hard to look insane enough to
convince your observers that you’re not responsible for something awful they all know
Dance like you’ve undergone surgery to add a pair of tits to your upper back, but halfway
through the procedure, nuclear war broke out and all the plastic surgeons were melted in
the blast, but you were somehow protected by a lead plate tilted over your torso at just the
right angle in the surgery room, and now you limp aimlessly across the scorched
continent scavenging food and desperately searching for companions with that one dusty
tit kind of flopping around on your back, and everyone you do meet thinks it’s a
cool mutation from the radiation, and no one believes the real story when you tell them.
Dance like the universe is dancing all around you, and all your job is is to stand still and
let it do its thing.
Dance like you’re worried—not that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, but that it’s at
the other end—and you’ve been running the wrong way this whole time, deeper into the
dark, and now you don’t know if you should turn around and cover all the ground you’ve
spent your whole life covering on the chance that there’s a light at the end of what you
thought was the beginning, or if you should keep going the way you’ve been going, and
hope the light will show itself with the next step you take.
Dance like you’re juggling snowballs on a hot summer day, and it’s right after the
moment in which the balls have melted, but just before the moment in which they will
land, becoming puddles, and a rainbow made of orbs of water extends between your
MARK LEIDNER is the author of Beauty Was the Case that They Gave Me (Factory Hollow Press, 2011) and The Angel in the Dream of Our Hangover (Sator Press, 2011).