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Dancing For Cool Kids: Lesson 1

March 8, 2011

There has been a lot of buzz floating around about the new Radiohead album, and there has been even more talk about the first video from it. The clip of Thom Yorke dancing to “Lotus Flower” has become a minor Internet sensation, there is no doubt about that.

Hence, I think we should take this time to look back at another front man known for not only his excellent music, but his fancy footwork as well.

Today, I have opted not to review an album, but have no fear Rare Candy readers; I will be reviewing something. That something is the dancing of David Byrne.

For those not in the know, Byrne was the leader one of the greatest bands of the 1970s and ’80s, Talking Heads. This band can list many achievements, including:
• A string of classic albums, specifically a trio produced by Brian Eno (More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978), Fear of Music (1979), and Remain in Light (1980))
• Three US Top 40 singles (“Take Me to the River” (1978), “Burning Down the House” (1983) and “Wild Wild Life” (1986))
• Placing four records in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
• Induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002

Yet, for all of the great things this band did, the one thing that I keep coming back to is the dancing skills of David Byrne. He is the one who gives me faith that white men can dance. Out of the goodness of my heart, and current obsession with Talking Heads, I humbly present all of you with a breakdown of some of the man’s greatest moves. See if you can slip these into your arsenal the next time you go stepping out.

“Burning Down the House”

We’ll start with this simple, yet effective, maneuver from the “Burning Down the House” video.

There are only two steps to this dance and both are all in your torso.

The first is the “Seesaw” (1:32-1:34).  All you have to do is rock your upper body side to side, first to the left and then to the right. Repeat as many times as desired.

Expert Tip: This move is perfect for dancing in a crowded space.


Once you have finished seesawing, go immediately into the “Roll” (1:34-1;36).  A simple forward motion with the shoulders and arms, this serves as a perfect counterpoint to the seesaw.

The roll in action


The “Naive Melody”

My apologies for not being able to give you step-by-step instructions on this one, but I’ve already trashed three lamps trying, and I’m starting to get noise complaints.  If you can do it, more power to you, and I would love to see a how-to video posted in the comments.


The “Once in a Lifetime”

For someone who has mastered the first two dances; this one takes a little bit of prep. work beforehand.  To successfully perform this dance, you must have:

  1. A pair of glasses
  2. A suit
  3. The closest approximation to Byrne’s haircut in the video that you can achieve
    As seen here

Once you have done that, we can move on to the dance itself.  While it appears disjointed, by performing these steps and leaving room for some improvisation, this is sure to wow any crowd.

  • Make sure you have your “testifying” stance (0:27-0;34) down pat. It is a simple and effective way to get all eyes on you
  • The second step is the “strut” (0:53-0:59).  This must be performed in a fluid motion, or everyone will laugh at you.

    It's just that easy!

  • Make sure you stretch out beforehand. No one wants to deal with the embarrassment of wrenching your back on the dance floor pulling off moves like the “Discarded Marionette” (1:02-1:09).

    Expert Tip: Keep an eye on your glasses, as they may be lost at this point.

  • To top it all off, make sure to polish your sweat-soaked face of confusion (1:42-1:58) until it shines.
    Lookin’ good, broseph!


The “Life During Wartime”

The most advanced technique, this dance was showcased most prominently in the concert film Stop Making Sense (1984).

We begin with a maneuver that I call the “Swinging Door” (1:22-1:27).  Holding your upper body rigid, move your knees side to side in a manner similar to old fashioned saloon doors.

Just like John Wayne used to do.

After several rounds of this, add in arm motions to create the “Floppy Scarecrow” (1:28-1:34).

Once you have tired of the Floppy Scarecrow, it’s time to slide into the “Knee Clapper”(1:35-1:41).  It’s quite similar to the Swinging Door, but instead of moving your knees in tandem, move them in opposite directions.

That’s the way you do it!

Again, we add in arm movements to transition into the “Come Hither” (1:42-1:48).

This is what we like to call a “panty dropper”

Toss in a couple “Up on the Crosses” (1:48-2:01)

After taking that little breather, we move right along into the most aerobic section, which begins with the “Running Man” (2:02-2:21)

Not to be confused with the Stephen King story. That involves way more blood.

Finally, end it all off with a healthy dose of “Free Fall” (2:22-2:27)

Expert Tip: Try this one out at home first. Better to break your nose in private.

Following this, the crowd should be sufficiently wowed, and you can just run around in circles and/or fall to the floor, much like Mr. Byrne himself does in the above video.

So, there you go.  Hopefully these tips will help you next time you’re invited to go dancing, and if they don’t help you, then you probably need to stop going to those places.

Are there any other front men (or women) whose moves you’d like to see analyzed here? Still clamoring for more ways that you can move it like Bryne-y?  Speak your piece in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. mmarkelz permalink
    March 8, 2011 9:29 pm

    Oh, God. Can I just say that this is beautiful?


    It is very hard to make people laugh out loud without sound or live-motion, but you, my friend, have done it.

    I can not tell you how audible my guffawing has been reading this post.

    I bow to your hilarity.


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