The writer who said that dancing was a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire would have been pretty embarrassed by the sight of Strictly Come Dancing. The celebrity line-up has just been announced, and already there is a sad dichotomy: the ladies shimmy onstage, with sequins, glamour and degrees in jumping about in death-defying heels; the men, with one or two notable exceptions, refuse even to walk elegantly. If theirs were the expression of a horizontal desire, it would be a dark and perverse one, illegal in most states.
Where is it written that heterosexual males must always be curmudgeons on a dance floor? When they take girls aside at school to tell us about sex, drugs and periods, are the boys kept in the sports hall to have both their legs stapled together? Is it considered frivolous to understand the purpose of rhythm? Or is it something to do with multitasking? Perhaps men's preference for prioritising jobs means that they just choose not to listen to music and move all at the same time.
Just like washing, working and learning to read, boys should be encouraged to do dancing because ultimately it will help them to pull girls. George Bernard Shaw, for it was he, got it slightly wrong about the nature of dancing. For many, it is the perpendicular expression of a horizontal ability; an arena in which even misplaced enthusiasm will be better received than an outright refusal to take part.
Men are judged according to their skill in shaking it, but also by the style they choose to shake it in. The steps to the classic Uncle at a Wedding (pointy fingers, eccentric twist, centre of gravity somewhere in your cleavage) are marginally preferable to the Public School Boy (fixed stare, dance class shuffle, tendency to pair off with a dorm mate). The Small Boy on Cherryade (punching, sliding down the church hall on the knees) is a close younger relative of the Student Bop (pogoing to The Proclaimers without spilling a beer). The Brixton Grind is impressive when expertly handled but can be interpreted as a form of assault. The Ersatz Ceilidh is always a good fall-back position, particularly for anyone who can lift a woman twice his weight right off her feet in a Flying Basket without looking like an extra in a Right Guard commercial. But the most important thing is a willingness to try.
That said, there are men who try too hard, and this is where Brendan Cole fits in. Smooth and swish and achingly metrosexual, these are the men who sweep women off their feet for a living and practise in their spare time too. The sort of straight men who turn up at gay bars to hoover up all the spare girls at closing time. The sort who would give themselves 10 out of 10 for sex.
Shaw also wrote: "Do you think that the things people make fools of themselves about are any less real and true than the things they behave sensibly about? They are more true: they are the only things that are true." So here's to the Strictly men with the nerve to make fools of themselves. And let's hope they all avoid the Brixton Grind.