In Defence of Uncles Dancing Badly at Weddings

He has always been there, out on the dance floor. Middle-aged, a little paunchy, should certainly know better. Grooving to a music no one else can hear. A music that was ancient before even vinyl. A music of weirdly shifting tonic scales, inconsistent rhythms and unmotivated changes of tempo that your non-uncle ears are denied. You get the DJ’s set list; he breaks on through to the other side.

The uncle used to pass through the world, performing his offices, confident that each moment of strut, each tendon-cracking disco move, each bump and every grind would be erased through the strange counter-mnemonic alchemy of nocturnal celebration. He could hand-jive with impunity, and twist with no fear of anachronism. He could even do that hands-on-hips/alternating shoulder-dips thing that he vaguely remembered Suzy Quatro doing.

Cameras changed all that. And the rise of video, coinciding with the decline of the mother-in-law joke, gave him new prominence as a stock character in mediocre observational humour.

In the digital era, he is pinned and mounted like some rare and lurid bug for all to see. A gif that keeps on giving.

But he is the uncle of the bride. And so he dances. Badly. Because it is a duty. Because it serves a higher purpose. And because he loves her.

There are Ancient Ones to be propitiated. His near-shamanic-trance moves, the product of too much champagne and an excess of white-boy funk, lullaby them back into their ages-long slumber.

He invents tipsy-core. (It’s a pun, and not a good one – keep up!)

He pogos. To Dolly Parton.

He timewarps.

He dances on. He passes through the veil. Transmutes. No longer the jowly, ungracefully balding fifth Baldwin brother, he becomes a whip-thin young Jagger, a snake-hipped James Brown.

He waves his hands in the air like he don’t care.

He stays out there dancing when the track changes, when the DJ slips from music of black origin to music that is too obviously black. That way, with him out there, it does not look like a race thing. You think you are dying of embarrassment? The uncle dancing badly dies of shame for your sins.

But even he draws the line at Whigfield.

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