Alibis for dancing
How many goals did your dance troupe score last Saturday?
The Circling Fin
Back in the 1980s, when Mario Balotelli was still a twinkle in his father’s shorts, somebody pointed out that the style of Italian football was close to ballet. At the time, this seemed a radical thought: Soccer and dance have always seemed poles apart in human expression and it is more common to liken association football to a form of abstracted warfare, an inter-country rivalry allowing the likes of Germany and France to vent ancient passions without going to the trouble of actually killing each other.
But the fact is that football is not only like dance, football is dance: improvised dance. Yes, a ball does bob about in the middle of the impromptu moves. Essentially that ball is an alibi, allowing men to dance their hearts out for 90 minutes while tens of thousands of other people, mostly male, stare at them, much of the time singing their hearts out while gazing fondly at the on-field dancers in their brightly coloured costumes.
Periodically, the ‘alibi’ having been placed in a net, the dancers are allowed to hug each other … like lovers reunited after a year-long separation. On Mexican television, this moment is signalled by a commentator stretching the word ‘GOOOAAAAL!’ over 90 seconds.
All football, whether Gaelic, Rugby or Association (round ball or pointy that is) is a form of impromptu dance, a form which reveals all the more clearly the cultural proposition that men ‘cannot dance’ as a complete fiction. Next time you watch a ballgame, imagine the ball doesn’t exist, and the spectacle presented will resemble nothing less than an orgiastic dance rite choreographed by lunatics.
So men say they cannot dance and they cannot sing. I say it myself all the time. And yet, at my last office sports day, I flung myself about like an over-caffeinated Marcel Marceau (scoring three goals in the process I am proud to boast).
The fact is men need a cover story for their true activities: To sing and dance, we are only ‘being football fans’; to express affection, we have to be celebrating a cup victory; to make friends, we have to be working together on a project (for example repairing a car, or invading Poland).
But, as birth and death have a discomfiting way of reminding us, all we have is our bodies and when we are not using them to work or procreate, you might as well dance or sing. After all, it is better to dance … than be danced upon.
Fin Keegan is a writer based in Westport. This column is based on his weekly radio essay, heard on WRFM radio, and online at thecirclingfin.com.