Doin' the Hot Lambada

The place is jumping like a Joe Carioca cartoon.

Miranda Garrison is in the middle of the room, black dress slit to her waist and decolletage down to her legal limit, both arms flung out and pelvis thrust forward, dancing with a kid who is sweating from more than just physical exertion.

She is moving to a pulsating Latin rhythm in a way that contributes to the Greenhouse Effect and shouting "feel the beat, feel the beat," as maybe 80 others dance or practice in front of a wall of mirrors, their behinds swaying like palm trees in a Santa Ana.

They're doing the lambada.

Well, that is to say, they are attempting to do the lambada, because that's what everyone who is anyone is doing (right?), and we've all got to be up there swaying and thrusting with the rest of them.

Not since the Romans discovered the social nature of an orgy have so many been doing the same thing at the same time in the same room.

Naturally, they were doing it in Hollywood.

Miranda, a choreographer, and Loreen Arbus, a television producer with an unexplainable interest in Latin dances, are offering lessons in the lambada at the Landmark Studio.

I dropped by because public eroticism appeals to my sense of recollected evil, tapping a memory of youth when something called the dirty boogie was an underground hit.

I never did actually dance it because my mother said that if I did I'd go to hell, but I had a great time watching and shouting, "Hey, man, that's what I crave," which were the words of the song that set us high school studs into a primitive frenzy.

The mere memory makes my palms itch.

Not withstanding that faint stirring, I became interested in the lambada because, as I said, that's what you all seem to be doing and I don't want you doing anything of which I don't approve. Think of me as a kind of hovering, celestial presence.

To prepare for my afternoon of live lambada, I first saw the movie "Lambada, Set the Night on Fire." Trust me when I say it doesn't.

It is, briefly, the story of a pretty male high school teacher who says things like "Hey, chill out, man," and gets involved with some pretty barrio kids who want to, like, make it in the pretty Anglo world by learning trigonometry.

You see it all the time in the barrio, kids tripping out on trig.

Additional dialogue, for those who favor the art form, includes "You're not the brightest candle on the cake" and "Let 'em duke it out with their brains." Shakespeare couldn't have said it better.

Interwoven through all this for no apparent reason is the dancing of the Brazilian-born lambada, during which enough pelvises are rubbed together and legs entwined to cause smoke, if not fire.

I hear you say wow, that sounds, you know, erotic, but don't be fooled. Sex and vacuity are more feral than sensual, and unless you're turned on by the mating call of a bowhead whale, this movie isn't for you.

In the theater at the time were 14 teen-agers, two old ladies, a male pervert and me. The film was so unappealing that even the pervert left before it was over. I stayed because, well, it's my job.

Meanwhile, back in Hollywood, I am watching Miranda Garrison on the dance floor having more fun than an otter on a mud bank, while the kid she's dancing with is trying to look cool and not scratch his palms.

I realize the juxtaposition of an otter with a dancer is an uncomfortable union of metaphors, but it seems oddly apropos in this case. Use your imagination.

The lambada isn't all sexual, but those aspects of it that are can tingle loins from Miami Beach to Malibu. At one point my wife, who always accompanies me on columns of an erotic nature, looks at me and says, "Close your mouth, you're drooling."

I swear to you I never drool, no matter what. She is using that to illustrate the degree of attention I bring to a project I am researching for future composition.

Neither she nor Miranda see the dance as particularly sexual, though my wife will grant the old Tom Lehrer observation, "When properly viewed, everything's lewd."

"It's the media that makes it sexual," Miranda says as she cools off outside the dance studio. "You'd see more than this at a bar mitzvah. What we interpret as nasty is natural in Brazil, even religious."

Miranda advises me to join in. What she says is, "spread your feet, bend your knees and hang out."

I am tempted, but my wife reminds me that I have a bad back and no sense of rhythm, so I decline.

"It's just as well," she says as we leave, "you don't want to end up in hell."

Maybe yes, maybe no.

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