Thursday, September 23, 2010

First Post/Instructions for Dancing

There is really no good reason for doing this, but then, the same can be said for creating anything, really. Putting up a blog full of your own work is monstrously self obsessed. As is writing a poem, a play, a story and doing anything with it but shoving it in a drawer.

I create...a lot. And I have a lot of full drawers. So, fairly regularly, I will add to this blog, photos, poems, music, fiction, and short plays, and you're welcome to comment. Most everything will be Creative Commons licensed,  so if you want to make use of something on here, just let me know.

I've decided to start with something that differs a bit from what I normally write. It's not bloody or terrible; it's not loaded top to bottom with every conceivable use of the word "fuck". It's sweet, and it's sad, and I'm not entirely sure why I wrote it in the first place.

Instructions for Dancing
By Stephen Gracia

Setting: Bare stage. Single spotlight. If possible, the spotlight
should follow the actor. If not, the spotlight should widen when
he enters the area, and he should, during the performance,
 move in and out of it as he sees fit.

Music: “The Book of Love” by the Magnetic Fields

Robert enters. He is dressed in a pale colored suit,
something suitable for an awful wedding.
He should be disheveled.
He is carrying a bunch of oversized paper shoe soles,
 brightly colored with numbers.
He throws all but one the floor.

Music fades
These things are supposed to go in some order…I don’t fucking know…there are colors and numbers…I don’t…whatever….

(He tosses the last one on the floor)

I guess this is how you know you’re an adult. (Steps on one) You put on a suit and pay for lessons that teach you to do something you did naturally as a child. (Steps and steps)  Ok… (he crosses legs and stumbles)  Shit! (Pause) I am so fucking white. (Pause, steps again, his awkward steps become a salsa for five beats until he has to make one huge, awkward leap to a footstep.)

Fucking hopscotch is what I’m doing right now.

(Leaps on one leg from one footstep to the other)

Learning to dance at 37 seems kind of pathetic, but I’ve heard of people learning to swim, bike, drive even, at my age or older. You can’t learn everything in your first 30 years, and then between 30 and 35, you think “What’s the point? I’m too old now.” Then, once you start making your way to 40, you think, “Shit. 30 wasn’t so old, 40’s OLD, I need to get to learning this stuff right away.” 

(Steps forward, back, forward, and to the left.)

This, though, is something I should have learned before my knees started giving me shit.

(Right, left, forward, left)

Old man, old man, what are you doing?

(Right, left, forward, left)

People always tell you, “Just get out there and dance! No one is paying any attention to YOU!” That’s bullshit. All eyes are on the uncoordinated slob, even if he’s nowhere near the center of the dance floor, even if he’s hovering on the edge of the crowd…in the back…where the light’s particularly bad.

Your best bet is to stand by the bar, cloak yourself in disaffected coolness, like camouflage netting, like a defense mechanism.

 I was a kid in the eighties, you can’t fool me. Bad dancing’ll get you knifed.

(John Travolta, circa Saturday Night Fever)

Ok, maybe not, but still, it’s embarrassing.

When I was a kid, at school dances, I was what you’d call a “wallflower”. Well, if you were 70 you’d call me that. Also, if I was a girl. Do wallflowers have to be girls? Not very manly to call a shy and awkward boy a flower. Kind of exacerbates the situation….




…I was one of those kinds of kids you know? Too cool to dance, baby. We would stand in the corner together, powder blue 80’s sport jackets swept back, hands jammed in our pockets, talking about sneaking out for a smoke.

(Back, forward, back, forward, left, right, left)

None of us actually smoked. But we said it loud enough for the girls to hear, you can believe that.

(Back, forward, back, forward, left, right, left)

That’s when I should have started, you know? If I’d walked across the gym, and asked Anne-Marie Fitzgerald to dance, my whole life might have been different. Anne-Marie with her dark hair, and her sharp goddamn sarcasm. (Pause) Sarcasm is so hot to a junior high schooler. Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s all about who develops a chest first, it’s about who develops the ability to deliver a withering one-liner. I might not have spent the last two decades at weddings, at empty tables, watching everyone else having fun, if only I’d walked up to Anne-Marie and asked her to dance, but instead I stood in the corner, and acted like dancing was beneath me. 

(Does the Hustle)


Anne and I stayed friends though. Childhood crushes are bullshit and a dime a dozen, but having a friend that you’ve kept since third grade? That’s a rare thing. I’d do anything for her, so when she said, Charlie, you need to learn how to dance, you need to dance at my wedding, I said yes.



Does anyone waltz anymore?

(Stops and stands)

She’s going to be a beautiful bride you know? She’s got this glow, and this smile that just…(Pause)…she’s got great taste in friends too, so I know the wedding will be fun, no matter how terrible my dancing is, how traumatic it ends up being. (Pause)

She’s the one that introduced me to Claire. (Pause)

Claire died while we were planning our wedding. Almost two years ago now. I intended to learn how to dance for that. To dance to a ballad, I swear to god, knowing Claire, probably something by REO Speedwagon. Claire wasn’t much of a dancer either, but she enjoyed it, the energy of it, she was unschooled, and uncoordinated, and utterly fearless about it. I let her have that part of her life with her friends. Together, we were more of the go to the movies, go to museums, go to the bar type of couple. Those were our types of together fun. (Pause) And, on the rare occasions, I was forced to dance, (he mimes holding his hands around her waist and sways from side to side, I’d do this thing. The uncoordinated shuffle. (Pause) But for the wedding, I did the research, I found the right instructor, and I knew what I wanted to learn. I needed someone to teach me to be fearless. To teach me what came to Claire naturally…

(Stops swaying)

I missed my window here; I missed my chance for it to be special; now I’ve spent $300 dollars to be dragged onto the floor for the timewarp at someone else’s goddamn wedding because Anne thinks “It’s about time I get out there and start having fun again.”

(Holds his hands in position)

You can’t have fun “again”, you know.

(Begins to waltz again)

It’s not something you can revive and continue on with. You need to start over completely, from a different position.

(Continues waltzing)

You need to invent new ways to have fun, because the old ways are just too horrible to revisit.

(The spotlight narrows.)

(Lights Out)

Creative Commons License
Instructions for Dancing by Stephen Gracia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License



  1. Beautiful... In my head Robert is dancing effortlessly by the end, but perhaps you meant for him to be awkward throughout? ... Becky:)

  2. Thank you Becky. I wrestled with that, actually, so I left it vague. His ending steps kind of depend on what my mood is whenever I reread it, so I think I may leave it for the director to decide.