Dancing. The vertical expression of a horizontal impulse. It’s an activity that can be undertaken solo, or in groups, anywhere you care to name: in your bedroom, at work, on a podium at your local discotheque.
It’s an activity that lies at the heart of lesbian and gay community celebrations. When we go out dancing, we do it in a big way, in our thousands, and we do it throughout the night.
But how many of us are really much good at it? The dancefloors of gay clubs are chock-full of cute guys and pumped guys, but when was the last time you looked at a guy across a dancefloor and thought, wow, he can really move?
Our dancefloors have become catwalks: places to be seen, rather than places where anybody actually does anything. Our reputation as a queer nation of funky dancers belies the reality: that all most of us do on the dancefloor these days is shuffle about.
I’ve come up with a couple of hypotheses to explain why we seem to have lost our edge in the dancing stakes.
The Dancefloors Are Too Crowded
A funny thing happened at the 2000 Mardi Gras. International SuperDJ Victor Calderone practically cleared the floor of the Hordern Pavilion in the course of his epic set. It wasn’t because his selection was bad; on the contrary, it was Latin and percussive and quite funky. It just didn’t gel with the hardened edges of the Sydney party crowd, who scurried away to the sweaty recesses of the Dome and the RHI. This left the Hordern dancefloor with just a couple of hundred people on it, who made use of the extra space by giving full expression to their deep-seated creative impulses. There were people boogieing like it was 1979; there were people doing a peripatetic round of the entire space; I swear I even saw someone do the invisible disco lasso manoeuvre.
Most of our dancefloors, whether they be in clubs or at big parties, are so crowded the average dancer can do little more than bounce up and down. The Calderone experience suggests, to my mind at least, that there are still good dancers out there in this community, but they’ve become an invisible minority, obscured by uncoordinated meatheads who are just simply getting in the way.
Our Popstars Aren’t Leading The Way
Here’s a candid admission: my first ever proper lesson in how to dance came from watching The Lady Miss Kier shake her hips in the video for Deee-Lite’s Groove Is In The Heart. Music videos have long been a source of inspiration for those who yearn to dance: remember the first time you saw the clip for Madonna’s Vogue? (Or for that matter, Into the Groove or Nothing Really Matters?)
But what do our current-day popstars offer up for us to emulate? Not much. Geri Halliwell, Christina Aguilera, Scandal’us, Vanessa Amorosi, Bardot -¦ talented performers all, but who’d want to move like them? Ricky Martin came along a few years ago and we got excited about the way he could move, but once we cottoned on to the fact that he only had a two-move repertoire (the hands-in the-air move and the bob-bon move), we got bored.
Our Lats Are Too Big
Some gay men are developing these fantastic, sexy, wing-like lats. They look unreal, but it means they can’t get their arms up or down, let alone wave ’em in the air like they just don’t care.
We’re Scared Of Looking Femme
Being gay in the new millennium is all about being butch, apparently. That’s fine and dandy, but it seems we’ve lost some really nice gay qualities of yesteryear, like feyness, and decadence, and girlieness. Nowadays, if we’re not allowed to just dance on the inside, we’ll dance on the outside but with only a modicum of expressiveness: no fancy extra moves are tolerated.
The Music Is Crap
Whoever was DJing at Palms the night after Sleaze Ball last year, they played a brilliant trick on the crowd. First up they spun a tinny, cheap-sounding remix of that classic Xanadu -¦ and followed it immediately with the Olivia Newton-John original. Sheer brilliance! The remix paled in comparison to Olivia’s version.
So much music we hear these days sounds exactly like the Xanadu remix -¦ housey, electronic, plodding crap. Why is that most DJs think all gay people are genetically predisposed to like only electronic music?
I think it’s time we shook things up a bit. Let’s bring back eclecticism: let’s have Dusty Springfield followed by Marilyn Manson and Joan Jett followed by the Avalanches. Let’s have more air guitar and more Xanadu twirls on the dancefloor, more theme nights and the return of campery. Let’s have more fun on the dancefloor in future -¦ and let’s start by changing the record.