Chatter and bodies surround you. You clutch your cup, slouched between friends gabbing on about something unimportant to you. In another room, someone turns on the music. As you are just able to make out the rolling bass beats, the tune is unidentifiable. The volume increases – this is your song. The mood of the room shifts; inhibitions are lowered and glasses are raised. You feel your toes begin to tap, soon followed by a slight sway of the hips and shrugging of shoulders. The feeling builds. You are no longer disengaged, slouching; you are dancing.

But what is it that makes us move? Are we even capable of pinpointing the universal factor that causes us to shimmy?

Let’s start with the basics – there has to be a beat. Not just any beat, but a pulsating rhythm that makes it impossible to stop your already drumming fingers. The tempo is essential, but variable: meaty, slow, ticking, quick. You have to feel it. As always, Whitney Houston did it best with “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” The beat is the life force of a song; it drives the melody and drives your body.

Next, weave in that melody. If the beat is the bones, the tune is the flesh that draws you in. The instrumentation should dance just as you do – rising and falling playfully. If you haven’t already, stop what you are doing and go listen to the pinnacle of melodic perfection, “Can’t Stop Dancin’ ” by Becky G. It should be fun and catchy, but not necessarily from one certain instrument. You can rock out to electric guitar, jump around to electronic beats or get down to some funky synth.

But most importantly, this melody must build. Its peak is a chorus that is impossible to get out of your head – something you catch yourself humming for days. (I’m pretty sure I had “Call Me Maybe” stuck in my head for all of 2012.) We have all had those moments of stumbling our way through the verses of songs, waiting for the chorus to really bust out. This is one of the only times that clichés are used for good and not evil. Lyrics of living while you’re young and drunken escapades with friends enhance the effect of the chorus – the more ridiculous, the better. If you can bring yourself to listen, Pitbull is a perfect example of this kind of nonsensical lyric (but proceed with caution).

Ideally, the ultimate dance number will have an element of surprise: an unexpected drop, a standout lyric, a voice-over break a la “Oops!…I Did It Again,” etc. That “oh shit” moment is what takes a song and your dance moves, to the next level.

Aside from the music itself, it is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to dance. Each person has his or her own boogie – whether it be a casual sway, a flirty wiggle or what seems to be a random flailing of limbs. Dancing is a personal way to convey your individual connection to music. There may be some ambiguous dance-factor to music, but that does not change the fact that you can shake it whenever and whichever way you want. Do your thing, you dancing fool.

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