The Hidden Dance World

Except for The Dresden Files and the first Twilight book, which I reviewed here, I haven’t read much urban fantasy.  Not out of any dislike of the genre–it’s just how my reading habits have unfolded over the years.

But I think I have a sense of the genre’s possibilities.

I’ve also never seen any dance films like those exemplified by the Step Up series.  But after seeing a number of movie trailers, reading various capsule reviews, and consulting learned scholars, I’ve realized something…

Urban fantasy fiction and dance films have a lot in common.

They both tend to depict a hidden world coexisting with our own, where rival factions battle each other for supremacy.  In one such world, ancient vampire clans wage war against tribes of shaggy werewolves, armed with guns, fangs, and angst.  In another, rival dance gangs prowl the streets in flashy shoes, their pounding boomboxes and “mad whack” moves leaving swaths of humiliation and ruin.

What could be more natural than to fuse these two familiar genres into something new?

Something like urban dance fantasy…

*     *     *

Ella Swain hesitated outside the alley.  The darkness within stretched like a chasm between her and the lonely light flickering over the battered metal door at the far end.

I guess it’s one of those underground dance clubs or something.

She shrugged and let the darkness of the alley devour her.  Her heels click-clacked on the pavement.  Her fingertips grazed the rough brick on either side, guiding her–reassuring her–as she drew near the light and the door.

The shadows swirled and shifted, and a man flowed out of the darkness to stand in the light before her, blocking the door.  He held a black cloak about him so that only his face was visible, impassive and pale, cold and beautiful and glowing like chiseled moonstone.

“W-who are you?” Ella asked.

“Ah…you are beautiful,”  he said, his voice as soft as the whisper of half-remembered dreams.  “Come closer, my dear.  Let me drink you.”

“Uh…excuse me?”

“Who better to slake the thirst of my loneliness?”

“Yeah, well…I don’t think so.”

Ella turned back the way she came.  The man chased after her in a rustle of cloth, a swift and hungering presence that threatened to quickly overtake her.

She sprinted toward the street, the click-clack of her heels echoing like machine gun fire.

When she emerged from the alley, something caught her ankle and tripped her.  Falling forward, scraping elbows and knees, she cast a frightened glance behind her.

Close now, the man in the black cloak grinned in wicked triumph.

She tried to push herself to her feet, but a firm hand held her down.  “Relax, lassie.  I’ll take care o’ him.”

“Did you just trip me?” Ella asked.

At first she thought the newcomer was a young boy because of his stature, but his thick red beard betrayed a wild and rugged manliness.  He wore a tailored green suit with wide lapels and a giant clover thrust through one of the button-holes.  Light from the streetlamp gleamed in the golden buckles adorning his green hat and black, polished shoes.

She blinked in disbelief.  “Did you know you’re a leprechaun or something?”

The leprechaun winked and turned to face her pursuer.

“You.”  The man halted, his cloak settling around him.  “You defy the ancient Vampire-Leprechaun compact?  For her?”

“Aye,” the leprechaun said.

The vampire sneered.  “Then you know this must be resolved in accordance with the old ways?”

“I do.”  The leprechaun’s grin sparkled like a mouthful of good luck charms.

“So be it.”

Sweeping his cloak behind him with pale, delicate hands, the vampire dropped into a crouch, fangs bared and a low growl in his throat.  The leprechaun folded his arms across his chest in disdain.

image via umnet

The vampire surged forward.  He leaped and spun around the impassive leprechaun, cape flapping like the wings of a great, angst-consumed bat, a whirlwind of intricate dance moves that mesmerized Ella with a fluttering magnificence the likes of which she had never seen.

When he finished, the vampire drew back behind his cloak.  “Do you despair before the ultimate power of my moves?”

“Och!  My buckled dancing shoes’ll speak for me, they will.”  The leprechaun erupted into a frenzy of traditional stepdancing, his feet moving in blurs of black and gold, scattering bits of newspaper like dried leaves blowing in a storm.

Cowering in the face of the leprechaun’s fury, the winds of the dance buffeting him, the vampire tried to shield himself with his hands.  The leprechaun’s feet began to glow.  A rainbow lashed outward in a tongue of multicolored fire, searing through his enemy’s flesh.

The vampire shrieked and dispersed in a cloud of mist and bats that flapped away in wide-eyed terror.

Ella had to force herself to start breathing again.  The leprechaun took her hand, his touch gentle and electric.

“And now, my dear, come with me,” he said.  “Fancy a bit o’ dancing?”

“I…think I’ve had enough of dancing for tonight,” Ella said.  “How about some dinner instead?”

“Fine, fine…I know a place that serves fantastic leprechaun food…”

image via Aquarian Bath

*     *     *

Is “urban dance fantasy” a vast new market waiting to be tapped?  Any other genre mash-ups out there waiting to be unleashed?  Perhaps romantic horror…

“Oh, no!  A creature from another dimension is stalking us one by one!  I think I love her…”

20 thoughts on “The Hidden Dance World

  1. sheilapierson

    Waiting on you to “Step Up” and show us some of your own moves 🙂 Your great imagination has not been snuffed out by academia I see – cute story. Leprechaun food? Not Lucky Charms I hope?

  2. Elizabeth Fais

    That’s brilliant! You’re spot on about the similarities between urban fantasy fiction and cult dance movies Mike. I think you’ve found your niche with urban dance fantasy, starting the next mega-million dollar trend. We’ll be able to say “We knew him when.” 😉

    1. Mike Schulenberg Post author

      Thanks, Elizabeth 🙂

      I think I was reading a lot of ‘The Dresden Files’ when I first saw the trailer for Step Up 3D (does every third movie have to be 3D?), and I made a mental connection then. I’m glad I was able to leverage it for a post 🙂

  3. Tami Clayton

    How has this never been done before? I think you’re sitting on a gold mine here, Mike. The only thing missing is the mad whack dance boots. Or maybe that’s what the Leprechaun was wearing but he was keeping in on the down low? Crafty fella, that guy. 😉

    1. Mike Schulenberg Post author

      That reminds me, I really need to see that FP movie Laird found a while back. It was one of the things I had in mind when I wrote the post, except I forgot all about the mad whack boots. It’s probably the leprechaun’s fault, crafty guy that he is 😉

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Karen McFarland

    I would have to say that Urban Dance Fantasy is an untapped genre that you definitely excel in Mike. And I don’t think that the leprechaun was only one wearing mad wack boots at the time of this publication. lol. Whatever it is you feed your brain with, be it mathematics, biology or some other form of higher enlightenment, is a great stimulus to your creative mind. Or is it the fruit loops? 🙂

    1. Mike Schulenberg Post author

      Well, right now I’m feeding it with pretzels 🙂 And I do usually wear boots, but they’re more for hiking than those of the mad whack variety.

      Thanks for dropping by, and for the great compliment 🙂

    1. Mike Schulenberg Post author

      Thanks, Julie…I’m glad you enjoyed it. I actually wasn’t planning on doing a romantic horror thing, but now that you mention it, I think I have an idea for one I just might experiment with 🙂

  5. Kirsten

    A veritable Devil Went Down to Georgia moment! This one’s got legs. 😉 You might have found your niche, or rather a whole bunch of them. I was chuckling the whole time I read!
    And Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

    1. Mike Schulenberg Post author

      Thanks for dropping by…I’m glad you liked it. I actually have more serious things in mind for what I hope will become my niche, but I might explore more whimsical content using a pen name or something.

      Happy St. Paddy’s Day to you too 🙂

  6. Ellen Gregory

    Love the image of a leprechaun doing Irish dancing… and then I imagine a line of leprechauns – ha! I’ve often thought about genres to blend with fantasy. My feeling is you could blend just about anything. Same with romance actually. 😉
    I’m looking forward to reading some your ‘serious’ writing, Mike.

    1. Mike Schulenberg Post author

      Thanks, Ellen…I’m looking forward to being able to share some of my ‘serious’ writing. I just wish things would progress a little faster 🙂 But there are probably some small sacrifices I can make here and there to speed things up some.

      How are things going with your writing?


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