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Growing Pains: 'Dancing and she wasn’t even drunk!'

This story is one I wrote last year about this time. I choose to run it now because I just got home from an event in downtown Charlottesville, where I tried fruitlessly to get people to dance to an endless supply of music. Only three people did. The rest said they needed to finish their drinks, or have a few more, but that they would "dance later" (none of them did, I might mention. As a New Orleanian, my question is, since when do you need to be drunk to dance?

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Dancing after dinner, 2012

Upon my arrival at college I found myself at the obligatory frat party. As I suspected, it’s not really my scene. Early September in Charlottesville, Virginia was pretty nice compared to the August heat I had just left behind in NOLA. However, when you enter a frat basement where the dancing occurs, the temperature gets 15 degrees hotter, instantly. The atmosphere recalled "The Boot" on 50-cent night -- not really my scene either.

Growing up in New Orleans, it was impressed upon me from a young age that I should never: a) take a drink brought to me by someone other than a trusted friend, b) take a drink I didn’t watch being made if coming from a stranger/new friend, c) continue working on a drink that at any point left my sight.

Thus, when I saw the layout of the “bar” in the basement of this frat serving 90 percent foamy Natural Light, I decided to steer clear of the alcohol. I am not particularly trusting of frat boys serving up beer to a bunch of sweaty drunk people. Especially people who think Natural Light is worth drinking. Seriously, drink water, its just as flavorful and won’t give you a beer gut.

All the same, I hit the “dance floor” with my new friends and hall-mate, Willa. After dancing for a little while, mostly by myself, we called it quits and went outside, returning to the people we had come with. I don't know about you, but real dancing, to good old songs, is fabulous.

When asked where we had gone, Willa blurted, “She was dancing and she wasn’t even drunk!”

A wonderful night of dancing at the Davenport Lounge in 2008

What? Since when do you need to be drunk to dance like a rockstar?

It wasn’t until I had been away from New Orleans a few more months that I realized what she was talking about. People rarely let loose and act silly or dance and sing for the hell of it here. Drunk, sure. Sober, not so much.

Most of my dancing is done predominately sober; dancing in the street while downtown for Saints games, to random musicians in the Quarter, dancing to oldies at bars. Tipsy, maybe, but I don't get trashed for any of this.

To be frank, dancing isn’t easy if you’re drunk. You don’t want to be inebriated dancing on tables (I'm thinking F&M's rite of passage); you need your balance. However, I've found that many people think being drunk gives them a reason to be silly and dance (apparently you need a reason). It’s a shame – if I could transfer some of the carefree dancing joy I acquired growing up in NOLA to them, I would.

It seems that an overwhelming number of people fear being judged if they act silly while sober. But they should keep this in mind: The people judging you are probably secretly jealous that they don’t have the carefree self-confidence to throw their vanity aside and have some fun.

It's a problem that does not afflict New Orleanians.

Native New Orleanian Elizabeth Kukla is a student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. She writes about being a NOLA girl from afar in “Growing Pains,” a weekly column at NolaVie.