I’m going to tell you a little story about dancing — this is a dance music website, after all.
It’s 1991. I’m deep in some ramshackle Northern warehouse rave. I’m at one with the universe, have just had my sixth life-changing conversation of the evening and am now busy chatting with my fourth new best friend in the last hour.
Anyway, next thing I know some dungaree-bedecked raver with pupils popping like olives on cocktail sticks starts dancing crazily next to me. He looks like a cross between Michael Jackson on speed and Usain Bolt on puppet strings and I’ve never seen anything like it.
“What are you doing?” I ask in e-d up awe. “I’m not really sure,” he grins, clearly lost in his manic groove. “It’s the running man,” laughs another. I love it, I copy it and others follow. But not everyone does. Rather than enjoy this spontaneous, limb-flinging silliness for the drug-fuelled fun that it is, the more righteous onlookers smirk, shake their heads and cuss the running man off — shattering my loved-up bliss like a burglars’ brick through a window. Ouch.
The bad vibes continue. Soon the mocking murmurs have snowballed into a tidal wave of angry disapproval. Word of this strange running man phenomenon reaches the promoters. Over-boiling with disgust at this new form of dancing to dance music at a dance music-based rave, they decide to ban any incarnation of ‘the running man’ outright for the remainder of the event.
Any further running men or women are instructed to stop with immediate effect and get back in their (big fish, little fish, cardboard) box. Signs are hastily erected denouncing the running man and outlining that its unruly presence will not be tolerated under any circumstance. Rozalla’s piano house classic 'Everybody’s Free' plays out in the background. Ok ok… you got me. It’s not a true story. Back in 1991, I wasn’t witnessing the historical christening of the most legendary dance move in rave. I was probably eating alphabeti spaghetti in front of Timmy Mallet. I certainly wasn’t witnessing the banning of said dance move, because — let's face it — no one was banning dance moves in the early 1990s. Well, no one except the government and the Po Po
You see today it’s a very different story... dance moves are actively banned from the dancefloor. Yes, I’m talking about shuffling. Actual fully grown human beings who allegedly subscribe to the concepts of freedom of expression taking huge exception to other sentient fully grown human beings shuffling one leg in front of the other in a space designed for, er, shuffling about to dance music?
As clubbing issues go, it’s hardly up there with gangland shootings at garage nights or 15-year-olds passed out on ketamine at hard house raves, but clubs across the land are actively banning the practice — even ejecting offenders from the premises.
Seriously. Let’s re-acquaint ourselves with two friends that go by the name of ‘perspective’ and ‘context’. The church of rave was built on togetherness, silly shapes, loved-up acceptance, freaky dancing and bonkers fashion; freedom of expression, basically. No one was being told what to wear, or how to dance.
Imagine rave without the running man, jungle without the brock-outs. Or DC10 without the infamous sitting down on the dancefloor moments. The Harlem Ballroom scene in the '80s was made legendary through the classic voguing.
Before, we left the rules and regulations to the authorities. Now it’s the clubbers and club promoters dishing them out. It’s madness. Clubbing was once a hedonistic, genuinely inclusive free-for-all. An ultimately progressive sub-culture. Today, it’s more conservative than the Tory party.
Just think about it. When was the last time you saw something that would shock your parents in a club? For starters, everyone looks the same these days. Whatever happened to the ravers, the running men, the electroclashers? Where are all the gender benders, cyber punks, junglists, cyber kids and glam housers? The characters that made our clubbing landscape a more interesting and varied place are now extinct. Maybe they have been banned?
Wherever they are, no one wants to rip it up, no one wants to start again, everyone is too happy swimming along in the safe homogenous sea of bland cultural mediocrity. No one dresses different, and the second someone dances different they are laughed at, derided or — worse still — banned.
Sure, shuffling isn’t a revolution and if you are either jaded or cantankerous then it’s probably a bit annoying, but at least it’s a form of expression. And that’s what the dancefloor should be about.