I Didn’t Know That When I Taught This Town to Dance They’d Give Up on Their God, by Luke Strickler

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When I arrived at this Podunk town, there wasn’t a single butt a shaking or hip gyrating in the whole darn county. These folks had nothing except the word of the Lord to get down to, but I danced hard to change all that. Now you even can’t spit ‘round here without your loogie hitting a doo-wop or two. Sock hops are commonplace…but the hoedowns ain’t about heaven no more. Let me be clear, there ain’t anyone happier that these bumpkins found a rhythm, but I was not expecting them to straight up condemn their God in the process.

First thing to go were the churches. In a small town you only got so many buildings, and when Pastor Dave found out how to drop a beat with that church bell it was sayonara to Mass and a fine how-do-you-do to shaking that ass.

Next step was taking down the crucified Jesus and replacing him with a scale replica of Patrick Swayze, circa Dirty Dancing, his low-cut black tank top exposing the sinful glisten of the ’80s to these once holy halls.

Then it was on to the holy water, quickly slurped down by the dancing fiends, only to be replaced with unblessed “Glacier Freeze” Gatorade, for the electrolytes lost to the night.

The votive candles got tossed to make room for a jukebox, people forgot their Gospel songs memorizing Whitney Houston lyrics, and the blood of Christ flowed like Pastor Dave whenever he hit his stride on the dance floor. Sundays ended up becoming Fundays, but sometimes you gotta stop and think, “If every day’s Funday, when is it the Lord’s day?”

I can’t help feeling partial responsible for all this. If it weren’t for my city slicker charisma and inability to accept the status quo, this town wouldn’t be in the dirty grips of blasphemy it is now. I mean, I’m all good and dandy with a little jig on the weekends, but these hill people have boogie night fever! Schools are holding dances they don’t have the budget for, mothers and fathers are abandoning their children for swing dancing with swingers, and I’m pretty sure I heard someone listening to ska the other day! Who does that?

Repression leads to anger, but so does being a careless groove-seeking renegade. How soon will these folks’ lust for the jive push them further into darkness? Will it be long before shindigs turn into cult meetings? Will the Twist tire these country souls, forcing them to turn to mosh pits and exploring narcotics? The cops can’t stop them—they’re far too entranced by the tempo, trading in their guns and badges for loose, partially unbuttoned shirts and tight jeans to slide and vibrate in.

There must be a balance. You cannot be all sizzle and no steak. This town’s lost itself on the dance floor, and I gotta be the one to bring it back. I taught them how to dance, but now it’s time for me to bring them back to an older, funkier beat. The beat of God.

Their feet may be loose, but soon, this town’s toes will be tighter than the jeans I was wearing when I first rolled into this dustbowl.

Luke Strickler is a writer in New York City and a person everywhere else. See more of him at @Luke_Stricklerwww.luke-strickler.tumblr.com, and on his parents’ fridge. 

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