Family Rituals: After-Dinner Disco

Asher Dancing

We all love to dance, but somehow it was our younger son who galvanized this passion into a family ritual. We didn’t set out to make it a regular part of our family life, but before long it was. We hold After-Dinner Discos—dance parties for four that let us all cut loose for a while and get the dishes done. They are one of my favorite family activities.

We finish dinner around 7 p.m. on most nights. My boys go to bed at 8 and they usually shower before bed. Most of the time, we have a lovely 10- or 15-minute window after dinner and we crank up the music and boogie. When the daylight stretches longer into the evening, I confess we party even more, and our dancing spills out into the backyard under the sky.

What kind of music, you ask? Truly, it’s not lyres and pentatonic flutes. The music we play depends on a lot of things: What mood are we in? Is it a night near a holiday? Have we been talking about anything over dinner that brings to mind a song, a style, or a period of history?

Around St. Patrick’s Day, we all kick up our heels to the Pogues, Black 47, and the Chieftains. During Christmas time, we enjoy the Pandora online radio station called “Christmas Lounge.” At Diwali, we might put on some Bollywood film music. We dance to Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and Aretha Franklin. We shake our booties to Lady Gaga, Cher, and Pink. My older son loves the White Stripes. The little guy loves the Beatles, Bob Marley, and Shakira. I’m fond of Michael Franti and OK Go, and Sting’s music has always been close my heart. My husband is a true musical aficionado, and he always has a fine suggestion for us. Perhaps it feels like ’80s night, or maybe a little big band music fits the bill. We sometimes play a CD called “AM Radio Hits of the ’70s.” Maybe it’s time for some Goa trance or techno. Did you know you could party to a fabulous, techno remix of an autotuned Carl Sagan lecture called “A Glorious Dawn” by Symphony of Science?

My younger son, who is now 4, feels music in his very bones. He’s really got moves, and he’s serious about it, too. He works on a new dance move for a while until he gets it to where it feels just right, to where it’s a facile part of his physical repertoire. Then he works on the next thing. Sometimes I see him mimicking one of us, working out how to make his body do the same thing. There’s no instruction of any kind, and it’s not mechanical or rigid—it’s just a natural learning about his body in space, how it feels to move through the air or place his feet just so. You should see his rock star power slide on his knees.

And he is driven to dancing to just about anything. Beethoven and Mozart work just as well for him as Katy Perry. When the spirit moves him, there’s no standing on the sidelines allowed: “Dance! Mama, Dance!” If I let a little too much of my attention stray to cleaning up our dinner mess, I hear about it. “Mama! You’ve gotta dance with me!” And heaven forbid I’m feeling under the weather. “Mama, I know what will make you better. Let’s dance!”

My older son’s dancing has changed over the years. The carefree quality of his young childhood is moving away gradually. Now, at 9 years old, he sometimes performs Eurhythmy he has learned in school, or attempts some fancy footwork, like a made-up jig or tap routine. He likes to head-bang to electric guitars (which pleases Daddy to no end), and I’ve caught my son playing the air guitar more than a few times. More often than not, these days, my older son’s dancing is morphing into a kind of acrobatic martial art of his own invention, with high kicks and blocking stances. He spins, punches, and dodges imaginary assailants in time to the music.

Before I had children, I used to imagine I’d one day be one of those moms who drives her daughters to frequent ballet lessons. I don’t do that (although if my sons asked, I would). Having boys doesn’t mean I can’t share the gift of music and dance with them, no matter the cultural forces that suggest that boys don’t dance. What better way is there to bring our family together after our long days than to crank up the tunes, revel in our bodies’ abilities, and express ourselves through dance? To get our hearts pumping and put smiles on our faces? What better way is there to have fun and celebrate life?

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2 Responses to “Family Rituals: After-Dinner Disco”

  • rae
    May 12, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    this sounds really fun!! what time’s dinner? 😉


  • Liz
    May 12, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    OMG I want to be at your house for this! Hell, I want to start doing this at MY house!

    What a great story, I can see you all so clearly… <3<3<3!


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    Thanks for visiting! I'm Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

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