Bellingham’s Best Bad Dancer Competition | Bellingham editorial photographer
“Love Shack,” by the B-52’s plays loudly as Western graduate student Paul Wiemerslage, 26, stands alone at the center of the dance floor, his head rolled back and hands squarely on his hips. Without bending his knees, he slowly nods up and down, bathed in alternating red and green light. The crowd roars as he throws his thumbs back towards his shoulders and leaps like a salmon jumping out of a river. He is Bellingham’s best bad dancer and it only took one evening at The Fairhaven Pub to prove it.
That’s the start of my story about the Best Bad Dancer Competition for The Western Front. These photos and my accompanying story were never published by the paper, so please check them out here.The remainder of my story follows the photos.
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The only other participants were his six friends, who after considerable prodding, busted their worst moves for the Best Bad Dancer Competition held Thursday, Oct. 14. Each dancer drew paper slip song titles from a cowboy hat and had two minutes to impress the two judges on-stage. Authentic bad dancing yielded higher scores on a zero to five scale. Think truly bad dancing.
Up first was Mike Parelskin, a graduate student in Western’s environmental education program. He undulated in a twisting mess to a Latin club mix before starting a one man baseball wave. A crowd member shouted “you’re terrible,” and a smile crept across his face. He caught his breath as the judges deliberated.
“That was a really good performance, and unfortunately, that’s just not what we’re looking for,” said Skeeter Smith, one of the judges, and president of the Bellingham chapter of USA Dance. Dressed in an all black tango outfit, Smith said that Parelskin deserved a two for his good dancing, shrouded in a facade of bad.
“I agree, you showed signs of rhythm and true hand-eye coordination. I’m giving you a one,” said Misty O’Loughlin, who created the event as a fund raiser for “Children of Corozal”. Each participant donated $10 to the organization, which funds education for children ages 5 to 15 living in Corozal, Belize, by selling photography they produce with film cameras the group provides.
Perhaps the most entertaining performance came from Bret Greenheck, a 2008 Western graduate. “Satellite,” by Santana played as he began grinding salaciously on a wood column at the dance floor’s edge.
He fist-pumped the air and started to look around. He took a few steps and grabbed a chair from the seating area, then flipped over it and into a seated position.
“You get points in my book. Those moves looked like they could’ve hurt,” said judge Ariel Libre.
His performance earned him a five.
“I don’t have much rhythm, but I gave it my worst. I can sleep easy at night,” Greenheck said.
Katie Rolonson, also a 2008 Western graduate, swung her waist-length hair around her in circles to the beats of Ace of Base’s 90s hit “I Saw The Sign.” She waved her hands frantically as she side-stepped across the dance floor, like a football player doing training drills. Her antics earned her a score of three.
“I was a little disappointed in my score,” she said. “I thought I danced worse than that.”
The event, O’Loughlin said, was a way to combine her bad dancing hobby with a desire to improve the lives of others.
“If these children don’t have money they don’t go to school. I wanted people to be able to dance badly, for the kids,” she said.
O’Loughlin also noted that dancing badly is usually an accident, and that doing it on purpose requires throwing away inhibitions.
“Bad dancing isn’t easy. I’ve been practicing in front of the mirror all day,” she said.
As the judges deliberated and tallied up final scores, the participants danced together to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Two men standing at the rear of the bar had stopped their pool game to observe, cue sticks idly in-hand.
A few minutes later and a tie for third place was announced.
“It’s going to be a bad dance-off,” O’Loughlin deadpanned.
Greenheck and a fellow named Adam, who declined to provide a last name, took to the dance floor.
In one corner, Adam took off his shirt and then began thrusting into the floor. Greenheck kept it classy, rocking his head side to side, and making a lawn mower movement. Adam took third place.
Ultimately, winning the competition came as no great shock to Wiemerslage, or his boisterous cheering section.
They host bad dance competitions of their own each Christmas. He usually wins, he said.
“We start at the bars and move back to my house. It’s a test of endurance,” he said.
Wiemerslage notices how some people are less than understanding of his unique moves.
“A girl at Rumor’s once came up to me and told me to bend my knees when I dance — I told her she didn’t get it — I’m having fun.
Clearly, we were there for different reasons,” he said.
Brandi Stewart, a longtime friend, compared his dancing to an art form.
“Some people are good poets, some are good cooks,” she said. “Paul is just a really bad dancer.”
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