Dancing, says Stephen Fry in a vehement diatribe, is “not so much an accomplishment as an affliction.” He delivers this pronouncement against dancing in one of his “podgrams,” as he calls them, podcasts in which the actor/writer/comedian/media personality rants, rhapsodizes, and rambles on about his favorite—and least favorite—subjects. Dancing falls so far afoul of Stephen Fry that he devotes nearly an entire episode to his hatred of this universal form of human physical expression.
“I hate doing it myself,” he begins, “which I can’t do anyway, but I loathe and detest the necessity to try.” He would deny others the pleasure as well, at least in his company, of “that slovenly mixture of sexual exhibitionism, strutting contempt, and repellant narcissism.” Is Fry a dance snob? Does he hate popular dance but love ballroom and ballet? No. “I hate it when it’s formless, meaningless bopping,” he seethes, “and I hate it even more when it’s formal and choreographed into genres like ballroom and schooled disco. Those cavortings are so embarrassing and dreadful as to force my hand to my mouth.”
We get it, Stephen, give it a rest! But no, he isn’t done. He goes on, for eleven whole minutes, in the anti-dancing harangue above, excerpted from his “Bored of the Dance.” How could one possibly respond to such a torrent of disgust and disdain? By dancing to it, of course. In the video at the top of the post, that’s exactly what L.A.-based dancer and filmmaker Jo Roy does, for nearly two and half minutes—enough time, I’m sure, to make Stephen Fry die of embarrassment.
Maybe Fry has the good humor to appreciate this offensive rejoinder, but I doubt he could stand to watch Roy twist, twirl, hop, pop, lock, and gesture expressively to his vicious attack on the dance.
But there’s much more to Fry’s hatred of dance than curmudgeonly prudery. His anti-dancing manifesto is almost a digression, really, in the scope of his longer “podgram,” which you can read in full at his website. What he’s getting at is why he prefers classical music to modern—and it is not, he insists, because of snobbery, but because popular music—“country, blues, rock and roll, gospel, zydeco, jazz, swing, Tin Pan Alley, roots, bluegrass, hillbilly… funk, soul, mo’town, rap, hip-hop, house, R and B”—is dance music. And Stephen Fry hates dancing. He is “allergic” to dancing.
“Classical music,” on the other hand, he says, “is there to be listened to. It doesn’t make it better. I really, really mean that I do not believe that it makes it better, and I despise the snobbery and ignorance that is convinced otherwise. But it does make it better suited to Stephens.” As he says, quoting River Phoenix’s character in Sidney Lumet’s Running on Empty, “You can’t dance to Beethoven.” And that’s just fine with Stephen. By the end of his prolix apology for his classical preference (not snobbery!)—which ranges in reference from Lumet to Led Zeppelin and Abba to Jane Austen—we believe him.
Stephen Fry hates dancing, perhaps more than anyone has ever hated dancing. See him go on record again in the clip above from the BBC’s The One Show, and imagine how appalled he would be, if he could bring himself to watch it, by the dance-off response at the top.