Covid-19 has hit dance culture hard – but the party can go on | Clubbing

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LLast night, a DJ probably didn’t save anyone’s life – but not for lack of desire or need. Among the many calamities of the pandemic, one of the least reported is the total erasure of social dancing, especially in its most popular form: dancing to a DJ’s cues.

Raising concerns about party culture at a time when so many lives and livelihoods have been lost can seem easy. Much public opinion views the culture of DJ-led dance as indulgent, frivolous and unproductive fun. He encourages participants to escape the world rather than engage with it.

Again, culture has become an integral part of the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of us. The Night Time Industries Association recently warned of impending “Financial Armageddon” that could result in the loss of 754,000 jobs in the UK. Many more dancers derive a sense of well-being and liberation from an ever-changing culture that allows them to forge new forms of open and enjoyable community – or, to quote polymath musician and songwriter Arthur Russell, see them all. our friends both explode. It also encourages foreigners to trust each other, thus promoting social cohesion.

Party culture exists on a continuum alongside other activities whose community-based psychoacoustic foundations provide participants with a dose of natural serotonin, including music concerts, theatrical performances, sporting events, religious gatherings, choirs and walks in the park. As New York DJ and party host Jon Martin asked in a recent conversation, to what extent can the growing anger, domestic violence and everyday violence of the pandemic be explained in part by the collapse of these forms of socialization?

The kaleidoscopic and connecting potential of party culture arguably exceeds these other experiences in terms of immersion, duration, and joy. David Mancuso, the pioneer host of The Loft in New York City, even believed that community dancing amounted to humanity’s best attempt to tune in to the underlying essence of the universe, which was born. sound and amounted to a great party of constantly and intensely vibrating atoms. .

Party planners and DJs have placed safety above desire during the pandemic. In mid-March, we took matters into our own hands: cancellation of events, loss of money, disappointment of the dancers and abandonment of fundamental freedoms after the government fell asleep at the wheel, delivering only mixed messages and half measures. Since the lockdown was eased over the summer, organizers have reopened nightclubs as socially distant lounge spaces and held summer-friendly, safety-conscious outdoor gatherings. Their efforts have been impressive, the results somewhat disappointing. Attracting young dancers whose lives were snatched away, only the unlicensed bouncy rave scene combined kinetic energy with transformational significance – yet such gatherings are potential hotbeds of Covid-19 contagion.

In the most sustained attempt to fill the void, DJs and dancers have taken to the line. Financial struggles and loneliness have given this new breed of recalibrating revelers little choice but to migrate to the digital realm. It would be unreasonable to expect an entire culture to hit the pause button and wait for the pandemic to pass. Something is better than nothing. And why should partygoers behave differently from others?

Yet while an activity such as professional football has moved relatively seamlessly online, with most fans already accustomed to following the sport through a screen and the advantage that local teams enjoy, oddly unaffected by it. ‘absence of their supporters, the parallel movement of party culture was more obviously compromised. Fragmented, isolated, and transfixed by a two-dimensional display screen with a webcam pointing at a DJ, line dancers cannot combine like a crowd to send out forceful messages and have limited chances of getting lost in the music. Communication is possible but cannot compete with the visceral and kinetic dancefloor and the sound system that accompanies it.

I spent much of the time I would have spent hosting parties, including All Our Friends, on travel activities that have come to bring a sense of loss. I started looking for a new book on the history of party culture, but I don’t want to publish a story doomed to stay in the past. I started buying less new music and listening more carefully to the records I already owned, to stave off the thirst for sharing music. I loved playing the sought after and cathartic varieties of Astral Weeks over and over again, but am amazed at how little dance music I listen to at home, my ears are no longer listening to recent memories of ‘an ecstatic crowd.

With no end to the pandemic in sight via eradication, mass testing or a coronavirus vaccine, the party culture must re-embrace the simplicity, privacy and even domesticity that have become hallmarks of life under Covid. Wishing to get in touch with our dancers while raising funds to help Chats Palace in east London – the place where we throw parties – to survive the summer, All Our Friends put on a radio show in a compact apartment with a magnificent stereo system and a ventilated balcony. June. The co-founders Cyril Cornet, Cédric Lassonde and I shot from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. to shake things up. A few friends joined us for a safe and intimate gathering that followed government guidelines while turning into an intense little party. The hope was for listeners to come together in small groups, connect and share the vibe.

The experience reminded us of the simplicity of the ritual, and it was safer than going to the pub. Knowing that Mancuso had parties at his home for almost three decades and working alongside him when he came to London helped us on our way. It doesn’t take much to throw a small house party, even with Covid restrictions in mind – just go for a simple stereo and keep the room airy. Then I felt inspired to prepare another one.

Last Friday we decided to have another All Our Friends show on Saturday October 10th. We want to reconnect with our dancers, many of whom partied in public places during the summer. And yet, at the time of posting, I come to the conclusion that maybe now is not the right time to host another show / rally. A house party? Pleasant. But you might want to close your eyes and imagine that your friends are with you.

• Tim Lawrence is the author of Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-79, and co-founder of All Our Friends

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