Remember Snowball, the sulphur-crested cockatoo whose fancy footwork to the Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” brought him viral fame in 2007? I recently rewatched the video, and it holds up. Here is this bird, perched on the back of a chair. As the song opens, he appears to be sketching out his moves, getting a feel for the song. When the chorus arrives, he shrieks and grooves, he high-kicks and head-bangs, settling into his rhythm, possessed by the beat.
The video of Snowball is astonishing because of how humanlike he is. Look, an animal moving spontaneously to the music, just like we do! Or, rather, just like we can. We can dance, but how often do we, really? Aside from weddings or other milestone occasions, when was the last time you really cut a rug?
We don’t dance as much as we could, or as much as we want to, because we’re afraid to look foolish. That greeting card exhortation to “dance like no one’s watching” caught on for a reason.
When I was in high school, a group of friends and I would regularly park a car in our town’s commuter train station parking lot, blast some music from the stereo and dance. There, in one of the weird open spaces suburban teenagers can own after dark, we’d move just to move, trying out our bodies in space, together, before hitting the local diner for grilled cheese.
Those nights were exhilarating, opportunities to turn off our brains and let loose, to express ourselves physically, outside of the limited vernacular we normally afforded ourselves as self-conscious teenagers.
When you ask people why they don’t dance more, they get pensive, maybe a little defensive. They don’t have time, they don’t have the opportunity, what are they going to do, go to a club? These are people with responsibilities, with jobs and children! Dancing, one person suggested to me sadly, is something you do when you’re young and then you stop.
This perception of dancing as unserious, as something frivolous people do, like eating a bowl of whipped cream or sleeping until noon, seems inaccurate, especially once you start deliberately dancing more, as I’ve tried to lately. I’m not talking about complicated choreography that requires learning moves or executing steps; I mean simply moving spontaneously to music.
If you start looking for opportunities to dance, you find them. While cooking dinner or cleaning the house. Instead of running in place at the crosswalk during a jog. Perhaps a spontaneous living-room disco with your kids. It’s sort of miraculous: Each little break offers a little dose of endorphins. A little moment of expression. Of returning to yourself in the midst of an otherwise chaotic life.
We’re busy. We’re tired. Most of our movement in the course of a day ends up being about utility. We move to get from here to there, to accomplish tasks or as part of an exercise regimen. Dancing is a way of reclaiming movement, of deciding how you want to use your energy and your body rather than just getting things done.
It’s holiday party season. There might be opportunities for dancing, should you wish to avail yourself of them. You could find a dance party, or occupy a parking lot, or a corner of the subway, or just the one square foot of space in front of the sink while you do the dishes. Or, if you need more persuasion before you bust a move, you could watch the CBC documentary “Why We Dance,” a lovely exploration of cultural and evolutionary rationales for dancing. But honestly, you don’t need an occasion or a good reason or any reason at all. Put on whatever music makes it impossible for you to sit still (I’m partial lately to “New York Groove” by Ace Frehley) and do your best Snowball (manic screeching optional).
Need some inspiration? Try dancing with the stairs.
Travel the world through these dance tutorials.
“Shouldn’t we engage in celebratory movement at least some small part of the time?” From 2013, “Why Don’t We Dance Anymore?”
The choreographer Pina Bausch famously said, “I’m not interested in how people move but what moves them.” Gia Kourlas says a new production of her work is “alive, with blistering clarity.”
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
Sandra Day O’Connor, the retired Supreme Court justice and the first woman to serve on the court, died at 93.
O’Connor, whom Ronald Reagan appointed in 1981, was a decisive vote in cases on sex discrimination, voting rights and religion over her 24 years on the court.
A moderate conservative and pragmatist who sometimes sided with the court’s liberals, O’Connor voted to uphold abortion rights and affirmative action. Her departure from the court, to care for her sick husband, accelerated its rightward shift.
O’Connor was raised on an Arizona cattle ranch, entered Stanford at 16 and graduated near the top of her law class. She was the last Supreme Court justice to have held elected office, serving in the Arizona State Senate before becoming a judge.
The House of Representatives voted to expel George Santos, a New York Republican who lied about his background and faces federal fraud charges. “To hell with this place,” Santos said as he left the Capitol.
Santos is the sixth lawmaker to be expelled from the House in U.S. history, and the first who was not either convicted of a crime or a Confederacy supporter.
More than 100 Republicans voted to expel Santos. One, Max Miller of Ohio, said the Santos campaign had fraudulently charged his and his mother’s credit cards.
Israel said it had launched 200 strikes into Gaza since fighting resumed yesterday. Air-raid sirens in Israel warned of possible incoming rockets.
Gazan officials accused Israel of striking southern Gaza, where many displaced Palestinians are sheltering.
Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, blamed Hamas for the cease-fire’s end and said he had seen signs that Israel had begun to take new steps to protect Palestinian civilians.
The resumption of fighting left dozens of hostages still in Gaza and reduced the amount of aid entering the enclave, which had increased during the truce.
Other Big Stories
🎬 “Poor Things” (Friday): This movie, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”) and adapted from a 1992 novel of the same name, has an odd premise. Here goes: Bella (Emma Stone), an unhappily married woman, kills herself and is brought back to life by a scientist (Willem Dafoe) who gives her the brain of her unborn baby. The film won the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival, where it roused Oscar buzz for Stone’s performance.
🎧 “Pink Friday 2,” Nicki Minaj (Friday): After delays, Minaj is poised to release her first album in five years. The release comes during a year in which she made Billboard and Vibe’s “Greatest Rappers of All Time” list, created in honor of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary. It’s an album Minaj has spoken about with pride: “It just dawned on me,” she wrote this week, “I am about to release one of the greatest albums of ALL TIME.”
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Classic Hot Chocolate
Doesn’t the first weekend of December officially kick off hot chocolate season? Try this recipe, which calls for a combination of unsweetened cocoa powder and chopped bittersweet chocolate (or chocolate chips), making it extra rich and deeply flavored. Sweeten it to taste, and float marshmallows or whipped cream on top for a snowy white cap. Dutch-processed cocoa will give you the darkest color and most complex flavor, but natural cocoa powder will also be delightful, lending fruitier, brighter notes. And if you happen to have some early holiday cookies already at hand, dunking is highly encouraged.
“Delulu”: Here’s how a shorthand term for delusion became popular among Gen Z.
Walking: Go for a stroll outside London.
Forgetfulness: Improve your short-term memory.
Cold cuts: As charcuterie boards have become more popular, mortadella is now a hot item.
ADVICE FROM WIRECUTTER
Decorate your Christmas tree like a pro
You need more lights than you’d think to make your Christmas tree a top-tier twinkler — about 100 lights per foot of tree. We know it sounds excessive. But after test-trimming trees using varying amounts of lighting, Wirecutter experts found that fewer lights seemed more Scrooge-y than sparkly. A pro tip to get your tree even more dazzling? Instead of winding your lights around the tree, try stringing them vertically in a zigzagging pattern to give the tree more twinkly depth. — Elissa Sanci
GAME OF THE WEEKEND
No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 8 Alabama, SEC championship: Fans of college football were given a respite this year from Alabama, which has dominated the sport for much of the past decade. Not that Alabama wasn’t good — it’s in the conference title game, after all — but an early-season loss seemed to dash any national championship hopes. Since then, though, the Crimson Tide have been on a tear. They have won 10 in a row, most recently a thrilling, last-minute victory over rival Auburn. If they beat Georgia today, they have a shot at making the College Football Playoff. But that’s a big if: The Bulldogs haven’t lost a game in two years. 4 p.m. Eastern on CBS