Music and dance are beautiful things. But what happens when you find out that you’re not the best dancer on the floor? Does it make you very self-conscious? Do you even care? That’s a problem I have: I care too much. It used to be that I was very unaware of how awkward and uncoordinated I was. Then when I became aware of how I looked to other people, it became a case of the pendulum swinging to the other side. I would become more nervous and anxious when I was in a large group of people. Sometimes you feel like you can’t win when you’re on the Autism Spectrum.
Yes, I was one of those kids who looked awkward at a school dance. There was no denying that fact; even Stevie Wonder could see that! Still, that didn’t stop me from dreaming about moving to the rhythm of my favorite music. Every time I sang something, I could see the movement in my head; I can still picture it today because of my artistic senses. It’s actually a consolation for me that I have natural rhythm and a strong feel for music; my only problem is translating those feelings into actual dance. Even today it’s difficult for me. I don’t know if all people on the Spectrum have this problem with dancing, but it’s a common enough pattern that I can speculate. There is hope, however; there always is.
My first glimmer of hope came when I noticed the first ever Dance Dance Revolution games in local arcades. I had never seen a video game like this before and I became very interested. Basically, Dance Dance Revolution is a video game franchise that has been around for about fourteen years now. You choose the songs to play and then follow the steps that appear on the screen; they differ in amount and speed depending on the chosen difficulty. It was the first ever music-centered game to gain mass-market appeal and has paved the road for other music games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. I love these games because of all the great music that’s put into them, but I have a special place in my mind for DDR.
The first time I ever played was in high school. I eventually got a feel for it when I first stepped on the platform. I discovered that I was finally learning how to dance using a video game that felt tailor-made for someone like me! As I improved my following of the steps and discovered which songs I liked the best, the feeling of joy that welled up inside me continued to grow. More and more new editions of DDR showed up in arcades over the years and I became eager to try them all as I went to college. I was fortunate enough to find a DDR machine among the video games in the cafeteria; it proved to be a good stress reliever in between classes!
Today I’m still a huge fan of Dance Dance Revolution. It’s one of those simple pleasures in life that I find myself unable to live without. As new editions came out with more music added to them and the most popular original hits still on them, I began to write playlists of the songs that struck a chord with me. That way, every time I came across a different machine with different music in it, I would always have a repertoire of songs in my head that I would choose. In the past few years I’ve taken it to the next level with a new hobby of mine.
There’s a Dave & Buster’s arcade & restaurant around where I live. Not only do they have some of the latest video games there, but they include the latest editions of DDR. For the past few years I’ve made time to go to Dave & Buster’s once a month on a Saturday and enjoy a night of games and dancing. I have seven different playlists of songs for this particular machine and I make it a point to do six of them each month. That means three different songs for each credit I put in for a total of eighteen different songs in one night. Sometimes I have the energy to do seven rounds for a total of twenty-one songs, it all depends on how much I have that night. Of course no matter what happens, the feelings will always remain the same.
I casually loosen my limbs and lean over to drop in my coins or swipe my player’s card. I hit the button and step on the platform, waiting only seconds before I make my choices about difficulty and music. As soon as I find the right song, I select it and make adjustments if possible. I take a few seconds to feel the rhythm and sound; if I’ve played a song before, I remember the flourishes I put into my moves and the hit points where I can throw in some extra flair. While some people play the fastest songs to prove that they’ve got speed, I’m one of the people who dances with focus on style and accuracy. I recall the Broadway/school play choreography I learned and my basic knowledge of jazz, R&B, and social dances.
To dance for a few moments and feel the rush of adrenaline is what keeps me doing it over and over again. It doesn’t matter who watches or doesn’t watch me as long as I feel great about what I do. Just to give it my all and feel the rush of the music…it makes me feel alive and free, and I love it! The best part is that when I want to shake up my exercise routines, all I need is a day of DDR and I get a damn good workout!
Recently, my investment in an Xbox 360 with Kinect has paid off with the release of the Dance Central franchise and the Michael Jackson Experience. I’ve picked up some decent moves to a lot of the latest hits and dancing like Michael Jackson is a fantasy come true for me! Playing these games is also quite a workout; I’m glad they provide me with exercise while also being fun.
Dancing and music games have brought me a happiness I never would have expected. I feel as though they were made for someone who’s musically inclined and happens to be on the Autism Spectrum! While I know I won’t be able to dance like MJ, I’m just happy that I have these games in my life. To have something that’s guaranteed to give me joy is priceless. This is one thing that lifts my spirits no matter what I’m feeling. I feel like everybody, not just Aspies, needs something like this. I wonder what’s in your life that makes you happy?