Tina Turner´s mega hit “Private Dancer” creates a vast collection of images in the  mind of the listener: the private dancer (or – a little bit spiced up – the exotic dancer), the complicated and not-so-desirable man/woman situation, and the scenery of purchasable affection. All themes that ring a bell and sound familiar but luckily do not have anything to do with our real lives. But it  will be today that I will lead you down a road towards a disturbing revelation:  we all have an inner Private Dancer, and in case you are not too thrilled to think of yourself as such then it might help to ease the pain by describing it as the “inner Private Dancer state”. This might be a parallel and because of that something which surely until now no psychologist ever discovered – so be warned, reader with your inner Private Dancer.

Tina Turner - Private Dancer 12 Inch - Cover
Tina Turner – Private Dancer 12 Inch – Cover

The cobweb of the present

The first stanza of the song and also of the official video clip introduce us to the living and working conditions of a girl or woman earning her money as a dancer who can be booked in a traditional ballroom. As the 40+ year-old singer was already a grown woman back then, we somehow always understand the Private Dancer in the song rather as a woman instead of a girl.
The situation is fortunately far off our own life, and the idea of a Private Dancer in a ballroom has two interesting aspects. First, the ballrooms and hence the Private Dancer´s world are nearly extinct and forgotten – not only today but also in 1984. Therefore, the song re-creates a world which is unfamiliar to us and because of that seems to resemble an old photograph whose motive is difficult to grasp. Second, being a Private Dancer in that fantasy world of the long-forgotten past does not seem to be as dramatic, pathetic or unbearable as being a prostitute. We can even conclude that an exotic dancer or lap dancer can be ranked between the Private Dancer and the prostitute because we expect more exposed flesh and a higher level of personal exploitation in such a red-light scenario than in a ballroom filled with Tango or Cha-Cha-Cha rhythms.
To sum up, we understand that the living conditions are far from being attractive and that they are rather miserable than desirable but somehow, they might be not hell on earth, rather a place which you want to escape from sooner than later but which might even be okay for a certain time and within certain boundaries. Of course, we picture ourselves far away from such a place and cannot even imagine being a customer in such an establishment.
We also understand that the woman who actually has no other place to turn to developed routines and complex techniques for self-protection which at the same time open the gates to a world of dreams and hopes.

Well, the men come in these places,
and the men are all the same;
You don’t look at their faces,
and you don’t ask their names…
You don’t think of them as human
you don’t think of them at all;
You keep your mind on the money,
keeping your eyes on the wall

Yet still, I say that we can relate to the song and to that specific living and working conditions. The song itself is like a trap for our mind because it creates a dystopia whose elements are over-dramatically extreme. It does not require us to identify with a prostitute – just with a Private Dancer. It also does not ask us to picture ourselves in a situation where we sell body and soul at the same time and to their full extent – just a certain acceptable share of them. It is disturbing in general but not totally out of this world.

Surely, it already dawned upon you where I was heading: a) We – casted for the role of a Private Dancer in our own life – could also be captured in a dull, sick, boring, pathetic environment without any easy escape route. b) Our inner Private Dancer can be hindered by our own limitations to outgrow its current state so as to reach its full potential and to open the door to full self-realization.

I’m your private dancer,
a dancer for money,
I’ll do what you want me to do;
I’m your private dancer,
a dancer for money,
and any ol’ music will do

Tina Turner - Private Dancer 12 Inch - Back Cover
Tina Turner – Private Dancer 12 Inch – Back Cover

The fairy dust of the future

The second stanza of the song then reveals the deep desires of the Private Dancer. In the official video clip, we don´t find it portrayed in a very concrete way because we only see a dream-like world of artistry and dance/ballet. It is not always clear whether the characters in the video clip are fellows, clients or just by-standers in the Private Dancer´s real world or parallel dream universe. But the lyrics state these desires very detailed in a wish list: the unthinkable magic number of dollars (concrete wealth), the fantastic house by the sea (manifested good material life), and finally the numerous family (personal balance).

I wanna make a million dollars;
I wanna live out by the sea,
Have a husband and some children
yeah, I guess I want a family
All the men come in these places,
and the men are all the same;
You don’t look at their faces,
and you don’t ask their name

Now, you cannot run away from the road I have dragged you along. Aren´t these wishes our very own desires? Aren´t they somehow average and understandable? Not too far off? – And how often must we accept that even these wishes are hard to realize –with material wishes being the obviously most difficult ones, and the personal wishes being the most complicated ones to even name. Wishes can be like sand as they are difficult to hold, and they can be like air as they are difficult to grab in the first place. From that point of view, the inner Private Dancer state can be seen as the ballroom filled with our current everyday challenges and the constant surrender to tiny details or big obstacles which in total prevent us from outgrowing that state and to reach the next level of our existence. We in the role of the Private Dancer live in a from day to day machinery which we survive by inventing our own techniques and routines – not unlike the Private Dancer in the song. We might even catch ourselves red-handed in day-dreaming away that world.
Does the song tell us what to do? – Frankly, it does not, and we mustn´t overestimate a pop song because it is not a full-fledged book or theory on the newly discovered inner Private Dancer state. Even worse, the last stanza leads us back to business as usual by asking the client about his payment method, by helping him loosen up his collar, and then asking him which exact service he requests. And let´s face it, the shimmy is not something you would like to do for money every day – unless it is paid well…

Deutschmarks or dollars?
American Express will do nicely, thank you;
Let me loosen up your collar
Tell me, do you wanna see me do the shimmy again?

So, the song cannot help us in anyway with it. Like we don´t know if the Private Dancer in the song ever left the ballroom and climbed up the ladder from her misery to her personal paradise, we can only inhale the general message and start thinking of our own last stanza, the forgotten stanza which could not be included in the 7:11 minutes version. Grab your pencils, be creative and write the last stanza – maybe not for her because she maybe already has left the dance floor for good – but for yourself and free your inner Private Dancer.

6 Replies to “Free Your Inner Private Dancer”

  1. Love the 12″ album cover sleeve reproductions! I want to see the same things if/when we get an official PRIVATE DANCER 30TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION, preferably in cardboard mini-LP replica format w/ ALL OF THE B-SIDES, including, “Keep Your Hands Off My Baby”. Love this era of Tina Turner. It’s the one I fell in love w/ her.


    1. I think I inserted such a demand in one of the several PD articles which are planned for the 30th anniversary 😉 Maybe the record company reads it…


  2. Hello everyone,
    Tina could not have been more successful….I adore the song and the video (filmed in a real dance club -Rivoli ballroom-). In all of her music videos Tina always shows how good actress she is, Private Dancer is like a short film..

    As a curiosity, have you ever seen Tina’s appearance in this video??

    Thanks for the web and reading me


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