Favor of a Dance | West Side Story Meets Firefly
Play • 14 min

West Side Story meets the TV show Firefly. We’re digging into fake gallantry, a duel with swords, and fighting back against those who feel the need to control others.

It’s all on Pub Songs & Stories #257.


I am Marc Gunn. This is the audio liner notes for the songs I record and play.

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0:59 - WHAT’S NEW?

My pizza stone cracked yesterday. I’m not really surprised. But I’m really sad.

This is my first pizza stone. I didn’t know how to cook with it when I started, let alone take care of it. And to be completely honest, I’m also a bit negligent on a lot of things.

As I took the broken stone out of the oven, I carefully cleaned off the burnt cornmeal that remains after making pizza. I learned through trial and error that if you have cornmeal on the stone, the pizza slides off it easier.

A lot of that cornmeal falls onto the bottom of the oven.

What do I usually do with that cornmeal? I leave it there. I don’t finish the job.

It’s sort of like the twisty tie that came off the finished loaf of bread. I saw it lying by the back door on the floor. Usually, I leave it where it lies in my home. I don’t clean it up. But I picked it up yesterday.

I’m still learning about personal responsibility. It’s been haunting me a lot more as time goes by and our world becomes more partisan. It’s the first stepping stone for communal responsibility. Something just as important, yet just as ignored.

I understand better now. Picking up that twisty or cleaning up the stove is essential for the health of our home. It also means I have less time doing things I WANT to do.

However, it could mean that the pizza stone that I loved might not crack. I wouldn’t have wasted good money and added waste to our environment.

Hm… I just finished re-reading Shepherd’s Tale, the story behind Shepherd Book of Firefly. I feel this whole thought process is relevant. I’ll let you know more when we publish the new episode of In the ‘Verse.

In the meantime, I have a new Firefly song to talk about in today’s show. But first, let’s talk about upcoming shows.


“Favor of a Dance” is a single I released at the end of June. It features the music of Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer, with backing vocals by Jamie Haeuser.

I love the instrumentation that Vicki and Jonny added to the song. Jonny’s guitar takes a big lead on it. And Vicki’s flute playing adds a joyful, touch of brilliance. I liked the song before. But I love it so much more with those two playing along.

The song is based on the episode Shindig, the 4th episode of Firefly. I originally wrote the song for the 4th episode of In the ‘Verse. That’s a podcast I make with my friend Mikey Mason. I recommend you check out that TV and podcast episodes too, or at least the synopsis, if you want context for the song, but I’ll share a shortened version for those who don’t do that.

I love the story of my song. “Favor of a Dance” is based on the episode “Shindig”. It’s a love triangle about respect, rules, and kindness.

In the episode, Malcolm Reynolds runs into Inara at a ball. She and her customer, Atherton Wing, are dancing. But despite his fake gallantry, Atherton proves himself to be the kind of man who believes in controlling women.

Malcolm picks up on that and picks a fight with Atherton by asking Inara for a dance. This leads to a punch in the face and eventually a duel with swords.

I feel like my story does a good job following the storyline of the episode. The first verse talks about the “social event of the season”. It talks about Mal’s and Inara's joy of dancing, and ends with the hostile, controlling nature of Atherton.

Verse two digs into that hostility. “His hand is tight around your arm”. I love that line. I have trouble coming up with good metaphors when I’m writing songs. Especially the initial drafts. I frequently add those in later, like I did here. I feel like this is a great line to show the mean nature of the antagonist.

The last lines of the second verse dig into the rules aspect of the episode and how sometimes you have to break the rules to bring kindness to a situation.

Each chorus has a slightly different phrase in it. “Give me the favor of a dance” was a line that Mal respectfully uses to ask if he can dance with Atherton’s guest. And it’s all done from the perspective of Mal.

The third verse again continues the original story. Mal and Inara dance even though Mal is not a great dancer. But they have a nice time, at least until Atherton breaks up the dance and pulls Inara away from Mal.

This is where the story for me takes a twist. The two main characters draw swords to fight. And thematically the song starts to remind me of West Side Story.

If you haven’t seen West Side Story, you’re missing out. That musical was written as a modern version of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. There are some brilliant musical-based, choreographed fight songs.

In one scene, there’s this big dance off. Lots of posturing, back and forthing as they threaten each other. This culminates in a big Rumble with even more fantastic dancing to music and then the death of one of the main characters.

“Favor of a Dance” makes me think of those dance scenes. Except my song is doing the same thing, lyrically.

So the second chorus talks about the animosity of Atherton. But it also uses the idea of sword-fighting as dancing. Or fighting as dancing.

What is that, a boxing phrase, “you wanna dance with me?”

That’s how the chorus ends. You can hear a little grumble in my voice as I sing that one asking for a fight.

The final verse announces the defeat of the antagonist. It uses the idea of a puddle of blood. But instead, I changed the line to a “puddle of shame” because in the episode, Atherton isn’t killed. He’s stabbed, because “mercy is the mark of a great man,” says Mal. Then he stabs Atherton a few more times and says, “I guess I’m just a good one.”

The dance and the verse conclude. Our hero has won. But he doesn’t feel like it. It just feels like a different game that people play. Different rules. A different world.

Some people feel the need to control others, to install their own values on someone else. That is the opposite of kindness. People should be in charge of their own bodies. Their own lives. They should make their own decisions as long it doesn’t affect another living, thinking human being.

And yes, I am referring also to the right of women to choose what happens to their bodies too. They should have that individual right.  And not having legislators try to control and manipulate them through legislation.

But that’s a tangent.

Ultimately, “Favor of a Dance” is about kindness and generosity.

I took the idea of generosity from my friend Jamie Haeuser, who sings on the song. She has continually proven herself to be overflowing in generosity. She’s one of the most generous and giving people I know.

Whatever game we play, we should approach things through kindness and generosity. Whether that means not throwing trash on the ground or picking up a piece of trash someone else threw on the ground, so that our community is improved.

That’s one of the areas I’m still waking up to. We have some control. We can pick up stuff that we didn’t toss, because it’s the right thing to do to make our community better.

Of course, it could be as simple as making time and taking better care of the things in our own homes, so that they last longer. They don’t need to be tossed out like my pizza stone. We can take care of our world with kindness, generosity and respect for ourselves as well as for our community.

9:41 - “Favor of a Dance” by Marc Gunn with Vicky Swan & Jonny Dyer and Jamie Haeuser from Come Adventure With Me

12:37 - CLOSING

I hope you enjoyed the song. “Favor of a Dance” will be on my next album, Come Adventure With Me. The album is on Kickstarter right now until September 11, 2022. So there’s less than a week to go for you to support this album and the merch that I am fundraising for.

Oh! FYI. There’s a $100 level that pretty much has everything. That is your best option for this album. So please consider it.

You can download this song as an MP3 when you join my Gunn Runners on Patreon.

Finally, What are you doing while listening to this Pub Songs & Stories? I’d love your thoughts and feedback. So take a picture of yourself or where you are or what this story reminds you of. Post it on social media or email it to me. Use the hashtag #pubstories so I can find it and share your story.

Thanks for listening to Pub Songs & Stories. The show was produced by Marc Gunn, edited by Mitchell Petersen with graphics by Miranda Nelson Designs. You can subscribe and listen to the regular show wherever you find podcasts. You can also subscribe to my mailing list. You will get regular updates of new music, podcasts, special offers, and you'll get more stories behind several of my most-popular songs.

And of course, please tell one friend about this podcast. Word of mouth is the absolute best way to support any creative endeavor.

Have fun and sing along at www.pubsong.com!

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