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About face
If Iíd only known sooner what I look like when Iím dancing

Just before my new husband, Andrew, and I were married, I was beset by all those little worries and concerns that come when you realize youíll be sleeping with the same person for the rest of your life. I wondered about my identity as a wife instead of as a hip (sort of) single girl. I fretted about whether we would be able to mesh our disparate tastes. I worried I wouldnít lose those last 10 pounds before the big day (I gained two instead). Communication is crucial during nervous times, so I sat my beloved down to share my concerns and talk about his.

As it turned out, he wasnít the least bit worried about making this enormous commitment, or his identity as a husband, or meshing our two homes. He was worried about only one thing, and it was keeping him up at night.

"Youíre not going to make dance face at the wedding reception, are you?" he asked.

His words would have been less painful if heíd confessed he was marrying me for my money (especially since I donít have any). Weíd had the dance-face conversation before, you see. Andrew had mentioned more than once that my facial expression when I dance is, in his words, horrible.

If youíre not familiar with dance face, itís because youíve never caught sight of yourself when youíre dancing. The instant you begin to dance, you make the face, especially if youíre trying to look sexy. It usually involves sucking in your cheeks and puckering your lips and putting on bedroom eyes. It looks good when Madonna, Jon Bon Jovi, and Steve Tyler do it, but it looks really, really stupid when anyone else does.

The first time Andrew mentioned it to me, I laughed it off, thinking he was just being silly. I continued to make dance face whenever my body started to sway to an irresistible beat ó which he pointed out every single time I did it. He would mock me, sucking in his cheeks and puckering his lips in what I hoped to God was an overly exaggerated re-creation of the face I make when I dance. This would not only stop me from making dance face, it usually stopped me from dancing. Thatís because I learned it was physically impossible for me to dance without making dance face. Iím not sure what was worse ó learning that I made dance face, or finding out how horrible it was after 18 years of doing it in public.

All this got me thinking about the general phenomenon called dance face. I mean, we all do it, so it must have some sort evolutionary function, right? Perhaps sucked-in cheeks are a way to emulate the thin, high-cheekboned facial structure of the extremely rich, a group which, throughout history, has consisted of excellent providers. The pursed lips indicate fecundity and sexual attractiveness. The half-closed bedroom eyes indicate, I donít know, "Iím too drunk to put up much of a fight," or something like that. Add some swaying hips and dance face should, from a Darwinian perspective, make the dancer almost completely irresistible to the opposite sex.

I started looking through some of my dadís old National Geographic magazines to confirm my thesis. Sure enough, in a photo of the bare-breasted women of the Amazon performing a tribal ritual dance, each and every one was making dance face. The Irish step dancers of Dublin: dance face. The exotic young contortionists of Bali: dance face. Itís universal.

I pointed this out to my betrothed. He wasnít swayed.

"Please donít make dance face at the wedding," he begged. I was beginning to sense that this whole dance-face thing could be more of a deal-breaker than Iíd thought.

So, for several weeks leading up to the wedding, I went into our bedroom, put on some music, stood in front of a mirror, and practiced not making dance face. I tried to smile instead, but I looked drugged. I tried to maintain a blank expression, but it always morphed into dance face. The only way I could stop dance face was to talk.

I donít really remember much about our wedding day, except that I was deliriously happy, and all my favorite people were there. The dance-face problem didnít come up, and if it did, Andrew was kind enough not to mimic it while we were out on the dance floor being photographed from 20 different angles. Once we got back from our honeymoon, we picked up the proofs of our wedding photos and snuggled up on the couch to look at them.

There was not a single photograph of me making dance face. All my hard work had paid off. But the best was yet to come. Photo number six, roll number 11, was a wonderful photo of my new husband, dancing his tail off with one of our friends, and on his face was the most horrible dance face Iíd ever seen.

"Dance face!" I yelled, pointing at the photo. He looked closely.

"Iím not making dance face. He just took the photo while I was saying something," he said.

"Danceface danceface danceface danceface," I sang, pointing at the photo and doing a little jig.

"Oh, shut up," he said, and got up for a beer.

"We are so getting this one blown up to eight by 10," I yelled after him.

That was the last time dance face was mentioned in our home. It was a painful experience, but I believe it brought us closer together. From it, I think weíve both learned an important lesson we will carry with us throughout our entire married lives: let he who is without dance face cast the first stone.

Kris Frieswick can be reached at

Issue Date: October 3 - 9, 2003
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