Norwescon Cometh

Michael Jackson dancing with the living dead.

Image via Wikipedia

For the first time, I made the deadline for this year’s Fairwood Writers’ Workshop at Norwescon.  For the first time, I will also be attempting to make a costume to enter in the Masquerade (something my daughter did for the first time last year, and she asked me to try this year).

Thanks to the help of a wonderful woman named Erin to schedule my three writing critique workshops — two novel excerpts and one short story round robin session — to accommodate all of the mandatory Masquerade meetings, I get to do both!  I guess this mean I’d better get started on my costume . . . only 27 days left.  Eep!

One of the things we do to prepare for Norwescon each year, is to remind ourselves of dance moves.  After last year’s successes, my daughter feels it’s especially important to learn the moves of the more popular ones.  If you’re a con-goer, too, and you’d like to brush up on your moves or learn them for the first time, here are some of the songs played at Norwescon dance and similar events filled with sci-fi/fantasy geeks:

Early in the dance on Saturday, we’ve tended to hear “Doctorin’ the Tardis” by The Timelords.  This is a filk of Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll Part II”, with an alteration to the lyrics.  Instead of the singers shouting, “rock and roll, hey!”, we hear, “Doctor Who-oo, hey!”  Most dancing is freestyle until the chorus, when everyone throws their hands high into the air for the “hey” part, and occasionally, people do a “run in place” move with elbows bent at 90 degree angles.  Sometimes.  Not always.  Not everyone.  Maybe just me.

The classic Michael Jackson “Thriller” is a frequent favorite, but unless you’ve been practicing since the 80’s, chances are, your moves mostly involve casting zombie glances, and holding your arms up like claws.  All well and good, but if you really want to get the group moving in synch, take a look at the inmates of CPDRC in the Phillipines, whose dance steps are much easier to see than those in the original video, although watching both are recommended (both for authenticity and fun, Jackson’s theatricality is legend).

At midnight, you can be fairly certain you’ll hear the “Time Warp” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  A classic I was taken to see at the tender age of seven (and I can assure you it didn’t affect my sexuality at all, and I certainly never enjoyed dressing up my boyfriends in fishnets and make-up, then . . . uh . . . anyway . . .).  I became a regular RHPS-goer at 15, and choreographed several numbers from it in my high school dance classes (much to my instructor’s irritation).  Thankfully, the song itself includes its own instructions, even from the narrator known as the Criminologist (Warning: the man you are about to see has no f*@%ing neck).  However, because the chorus includes different movements from the Transylvanians at “Let’s do the time warp again!”, there’s some slight confusion as to how to execute the move in synch.  Your best bet is to either jump or turn (my knees require the latter) 180 degrees three times during this portion of the song, and at each pause, either extend both arms, or one.  Free style dancing during the verses is typical, although the Columbia bit has seen a few purists kneeling and clapping to the beat.  But seriously, you’ll learn it best by watching the video, and don’t forget to melt at the end!  It’s a great way to make new friends!

Anyone who’s seen RHPS can attest that immediately following the group-favored Time Warp, “Sweet Transvestite” comes right after, introducing our protagonist (or antagonist, depending on your view), the venerable Frank-N-Furter, dressed in lingerie, platforms, and . . . just watch the video.  What to do during this song?  Most people free style, but others, dedicated fans, might be seen playing different characters. Once in a while, someone will be seen enacting a perfect Frank to set the gents and ladies drooling.

One of our favorite requests for con is “Smooth Criminal”, and these days it’s my daughter trying to learn the moves as best she can, because not only is this one of Jackson’s biggest and most theatrical of numbers, it also includes a diminutive form of her name.  However, if you find Jackson’s dancing too hard to follow, especially given the frequent scene changes, and the difficult “lean” sequence, take a look at these performances by a friend of mine.  Her group, Dangerous, can be seen full-bodied from the front in this performance, and at a 3/4 angle in a different performance, allowing us to benefit from seeing easy and moderate moves (given practice) to use in the dance itself.  Yes, those are all talented, fabulous women.  Also, as an aside, why in the original video upload do they insist on cutting off the last few seconds?  You know, when the woman turns around, and we see her eyes have changed to those of a cat?

Anyway, no one of sound body and insane mind should avoid the next dance.  There’s nothing quite like being held up by two hairy, sweating men in kilts as you dance and hop wildly in a ring to Boney M’s “Rasputin”, which honors the late, great tall and mysterious Russian.  While the dance isn’t available, the music is available to help you prepare for the pace.  The dance involves people gathering in concentric rings, usually one large outer ring, and one smaller, inner ring.  As you move (usually to your right as you face in), you place your arms around the shoulders and backs of the people on either side of you.  Now the fun ensues . . . with the beat, you hop, supporting yourself with your left leg, and raising your right knee perpendicular to your torso.  Without setting down your right foot, hop again, this time, extending your leg forward in a low kick.  Hop again, this time switching your weight to your right foot and raising your left knee.  See where I’m going with this?  Repeat these steps until the end of the song, “Oh, those Russians!”, or until you collapse, because you haven’t spent the last year training for a dance marathon.  These days, I stand on the outside, give a few good kicks to remind my daughter of what to do, and clap on the sidelines.  Maybe I’ll get back in the ring someday, but for now, I prefer breathing and remaining upright.

Last year, I was surprised by a couple of songs I don’t recall hearing at the convention dances before.  Maybe I just wasn’t in the room when they’d occurred, but I hadn’t danced to them since high school.  Specifically, the Macarena and the Hand Jive.  Not expecting them, I had to fumble a bit the first few times to remind myself, but thankfully they’re designed to be easy for people to copy and follow along.  Watch the dancers in the original video of the Macarena and the Hand Jive from Grease.  In case you have trouble with the latter song, the hand motions are these: slap the tops of your thighs twice, clap them together twice, wave your left hand over your right hand twice, switch the motion (right over left), make two fists, and bring them together vertically four times (twice with the left on top, twice with the right on top), then extend your thumbs one at a time, and thumb over each shoulder two times.  Between this and the visuals, I hope I’ve explained it!  Also, as you can see (or remember) from Grease, the dancers embellish a bit.

This isn’t a complete list, but it’s the one we’re working with.  Convention dances contain all sorts of music including goth rock, popular and geeky dance songs like the ones above, techno/club music, psuedo-country (e.g. “Cotton-Eyed Joe” and “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”), and pagan/spiritual songs such as Rumors of the Big Wave’s “Burning Times”.

I’m really excited (and somewhat nervous) for all that I’ll get to do this year.  It will require a lot of strength and perseverance to get through the weekend, especially Saturday, but with planning and practice, I’ll be able to celebrate at the dance.


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