Dance Your Way Home: A Journey Through the Dancefloor

‘Dancing with other people isn’t passive, it is active, and it can create action,’ writes Emma Warren. And what this action generates, she tells us, is ‘…collective music created by the thousands of dancing bodies punctuating the tunes powering out of the sound system.’

The history of dance music is a love affair between the DJ and the dancefloor. The dancer is fickle and restless, always looking for new sounds and fresh excitement. In response the DJ invents new tricks, curates new styles, evolves new genres, to keep their mutual passion hot. This beautiful new book examines this call-and-response relationship from the inside, bringing us a dancefloor history with unparalleled intimacy.

The science of dancing can be mindblowing. Some people with Parkinson’s can dance to music when they can hardly walk. Seeing someone else in motion can make the corresponding muscles twitch in our own bodies, a phenomenon called ‘body mirroring’. Researchers have isolated a related effect, ‘aesthetic resonance’, where humans enjoying music enjoy it more if they can see others enjoying it too – this is why music is more dramatic when you’re dancing with other dancers. Music works better with you.

‘Powerful dancefloors can be tied up with feelings of repair, of becoming whole again,’ Emma reminds us, as she meets a neurologist specialising in strokes and epilepsy who’s built himself a bass chair to send booming stimulation to your vagus nerve. She calls it ‘a calm-down button, a hug from the inside.’ We learn details of how the brain/body calibration you get from moving to music measurably improves balance. And how movement therapy can reduce ADHD symptoms in children (perhaps making up for a lack of movement in their screen-filled formative years). Motion is only a letter away from emotion.

Emma treads lightly through the science, however, making it support her real subject, which is how dancing is central to being human. She shows how we each evolve our own personal dance, the culmination of the cultural and interpersonal lives we’ve led. She makes us see dancing as a language we all speak, and shows us dance history as the evolution of different dialects. ‘Dance your history,’ Toni Basil tells her. ‘People dance their story,’ says veteran house DJ Frankie Valentine.

The main thread of the book is memoir, and in a life devoted to dance music – as a writer and explorer for The Face, Jockey Slut, Caught by The River and Brixton’s Live Magazine – Emma has moved on significant dancefloors in many memorable scenes. Her personal dance moves took shape in a sequence of places familiar to many: from school discos, via her student union bop, to Flesh at The Haçienda, via Heaven, Land of Oz, the last night of Shoom, Rage, Manchester’s Electric Chair, through the many faces of Plastic People, up to the live jazz of Stoke Newington’s Total Refreshment Centre. We see these famous clubs through new eyes as she takes us down into the crowd and colours in the dancers of each congregation.

She gives generously of herself, telling us about the exuberant high kicks she instinctively gave at her school disco, then, after a boy pointed and laughed, of the shame she felt for this, followed by the pressure to rein in her movements for the sake of teenage cool. In time she casts off this reserve and revels in the freedom of not caring how her dancing looks on the outside, ‘…recognising how my body liked to move, how it could stretch and contract on its own terms, without having to consider how this affected my status as it related to being fanciable… I was there to dance and I would dance for hours and hours.’

Transposed to Madchester for college, she changes her dance style to suit. This personal shift is a process we’ll all recognise but have probably never thought about: ‘I needed to tune in again, absorb some new information, lose some accent, add some accent.’ Another dramatic change comes when she starts having seizures and finds her motion restrained by the fear of bodily failure and the need to out-nerve the strobes. She muses on the futility of ever separating mind from body. Years later at a dance class she finds herself useless at choreographed steps despite a life of dancing. The teacher reminds her, ‘You can’t think yourself into it. You just have to feel it and trust that your body knows where to go.’

The responsive relationship between dancer and music-maker runs through the whole book, pinned down by vivid recollections. And when she describes in detail the dubstep crucible of DMZ at Plastic People, we get an unprecedented dissection of how the evolution of music is guided by the DJ but led by the dancefloor. She sets the scene:

‘At DMZ, little else existed bar the sound and the movement. Someone pulled up the tune and you paused. A synth line or a snare signalling the opening of a big tune and you prepared for the moment, winding up inside, becoming ready. The tune dropped and – pow! – there was a mass upsurge of arms and a collective dancing style that mixed a cockney knees up with the militant skanking and stepping embodied by men and women in Brixton reggae dances three decades earlier.’

In this small dark cocoon, with key DJs and producers on the dancefloor themselves, and with the booth as close to the dancers as possible, the perfect venue for dancing with abandon met a scene of wild musical experimentation. The result was dubstep, a distinct new genre that swept the world. There’s no doubt dancers led the way: ‘The listening entity on dancefloors like DMZ’s indicated what it collectively wanted through gesture. And what a small but growing part of the dancefloor wanted was even more energy. This request, made with gunfingers and a grimey pogo, resulted in a record that perhaps contains more energy than any record ever made: a 2007 release by top producer Coki titled “Spongebob”.’

By going deep into the spatial history of British dancefloors she gives us the personal stories of several venues, showing the ripples of lives changed and communities enriched. She emphasises the huge cultural contribution made by youth clubs, reminding us just what we’ve lost through the Tory’s vicious austerity. She traces the characters and creators who flourished in these spaces, showing a pre-teen Dizzy Rascal’s DJ debut and a young Winston Hazel kickstarting Sheffield dance culture.

Dancing is collective action, and an important chapter takes us into the rebellion that it can embody. Whether unifying a march or offering refuge from a hostile world, dance has been important to protest and evolved as a result. Emma’s style throughout has a sensitivity that’s rare in cultural history, and when we read about the militant reggae cellars that a movie like Babylon brought to the screen, or the dance-focused repudiation of the National Front racism in ’70s Lewisham, she’s careful to bring us the protagonists’ voices and feelings directly. Always, this is history from the inside, from the floor.

It’s memoir, anthropology, reportage, cultural history, but most of all ‘Dance Your Way Home’ is a plea to keep moving, to ignore the conscious voice that says you’re too clunky, too much, too old. A call to close your eyes and feel the amazing gift of movement: sinews pulling, hips bouncing, fingertips tracing. To know that what you’re doing might be older than language, deeper than love; that dancing built our venues and directed the DJs and music-makers and their tunes. This landmark book is nothing less than the dancers’ history of our music. Frank Broughton

Emma’s membership card for junglist ground zero, Rage

Frank Broughton: It’s an amazing book. So personal and so deep. I was blown away by how great it is, and how emotional it made me. I guess it was a very personal book to write as well.
Emma Warren: What were the bits that made you feel something? Is there anything in particular?

It was your approach throughout. The way that you gave so much of yourself. You’ve taken the story much deeper and made it much more personal. It’s the best kind of history because it shows what it was like to be there.

Your lifetime has been on so many of the right dance floors. Were you aware of that when you started writing – that you’d connected so many famous or significant dancefloors?
I mean, I definitely knew I’d been to some good spots. Some of the very first things I went to were so culturally powerful that I knew what that meant. However, like yourself I also know a lot about the bigger picture. I’ve always also been aware of the places where I wasn’t.

Sometimes people talk to me about the places I’ve been, in the context of them having missed out. I find myself saying repeatedly, ‘You have not missed out!’ None of us that are in this thing have missed out. No, we just all happen to be located in different parts of the map. I’ve been on certain parts of the map; you’ve been to places that I wish I’d been to – all those New York clubs, for example. I went to Shelter once, that’s it pretty much. I don’t think the feeling of having missed out is a useful one. For those of us that value the culture, we just need to be really glad about the places we have been, and respectful of the places that we haven’t.

It’s easy for history to write about the songs and the movements and the significance and the DJs. So it’s great to read the history from the floor, from the grassroots.
Histories take the perspective of certain groups: the DJs, the producers, maybe sometimes if you’re lucky, the coat-check person. But the vast majority of the people are the dancers. Ordinary dancers. And yet, you don’t usually see things from their perspective, you get it from the DJ booth, or you get it from the studio. But because I’m not a DJ, I’m not a producer, I’ve always been aligned with the people on the dancefloor.

I remember when I was in Manchester, when we were doing Jockey Slut, just having that feeling: If I’m not on the dancefloor, what am I doing writing about it? If I’m not on the dance floor, what the hell am I doing here? If I was just propping up the bar, I probably shouldn’t be writing about it. I felt my contribution was only really valid if I was in it.

It’s funny because in writing the book I’ve selected certain dancefloors that I’ve been on. And they tend to be the ones that are more what I would call ‘culturally powerful’. But I’ve been on lots of other dancefloors as well. Like Basement Jaxx’s night Rooty, which I went to regularly. At one point I was thinking, maybe there’s something I can weave in, but it just ended up not quite fitting the story I wanted to tell. which ended up being about these foundationally, culturally powerful, dancefloors.

So could you draw a map? The dance map of Britain
Collectively, we can probably do something like that.

You and I, we’ve shared many a dancefloor. And we’ve rarely met in other places. And it made me think there are so many people in my life that I know that way. And I wonder if that’s a generational thing. Has there been a generation before or after that has that intense social life based on the dancefloor?
I think it’s tempting to imagine that that’s the case. But I’m pretty sure that there will have been generations before who knew each other on the dancefloor. And that there will be generations after. Maybe the difference is to do with the numbers. When we began going out more people than ever before were on a certain type of culturally powerful dance floor, house- or techno- or rave-related. By the early ’90s, everybody I went to school with had been to a rave: everybody, maybe minus like two people. There just came a point where you didn’t have to be very specialist to have gone to some kind of rave or warehouse party or specialist music night.

What’s the dancefloor that you’d go back to first?
None of them. The only thing I want to do is go to the current iteration of all of that. Last week, a friend took me to an amapiano night at Pop Brixton, run by DJ Super D. And it’s just such a perfect, perfect, example of the way UK music culture just keeps on evolving and generating new things. The crowd was demographically quite broad. Most people probably in their 20s or 30s. But there were definitely people in their 40s, definitely people their 50s and above, and some little young ones as well. And lots of very nice cars parked outside this building. London is still alive.

Thinking back, phones changed the dancefloor vibe in clubs massively, but I think the smoking ban made more of a dramatic difference. It forced that shuttling in and out and lack of concentration. Restrictions of any kind are damaging to the dance, aren’t they?
I think when the smoking ban happened, in terms of just the flow of the night, it definitely made it harder to have that ongoing intensity where everybody is in the spot, in the zone, for hours at a time.

I was talking recently to someone I shared a dancefloor with at DMZ, who was only 16 when he started going there. And he was describing how as a 16-year-old he entered into that clubbing environment in a place where the bouncers weren’t really bothered. They might check your ID if you looked 12 – like he did. But your slightly crap fake ID, it wasn’t a barrier to entry. People just got in. He later found it quite hard to be in environments where you had a big pat-down, and lots of roving bouncers trying to stop you from doing bad things.

You do lose something of the freedom that you feel when you’re in a space where you’re welcomed in, when nobody’s coming around to check on your behaviour, where you can just basically do what you want, within reason. As adults, why not? But clubs are increasingly policed aren’t they? At entry and inside.

It’s tricky, they’ve got to protect their licence and show they’re doing the right thing. But ultimately it takes away that sense of abandon, doesn’t it?
It’s to do with councils, cracking down on licensing, because as far as I understand, you know, the police want an easier time of it. And they think that by applying greater controls to clubs, they make it easier for themselves. But the kind of places we’re talking about are not the kind of places that generate trouble – quite the opposite. They undo the kind of things that cause trouble, because they allow people to dance it out.

The positive effects of dancefloors are all so obvious to people who spend time on them. But people who make the laws might never have experienced any of those things. So they just don’t know their value. Like your great chapter about youth clubs, and all the dancers and DJs and musicians who got their start in them. One of the saddest things in the book was thinking what’s been thrown away in such a clueless way with the Tories’ austerity cuts.
Yeah, youth clubs was just such a massive subject. Like you’re saying: the people who made the rules don’t understand. Maybe the leaders need to be socialised in advance. Maybe a qualification for having a position of power should be you’ve spent a certain amount of hours on a culturally powerful dance floor.

I’d campaign for that
On a subcommittee that wants to empower the sub-bass.

School disco shenanigans 1990. A Bernard Achampong Production, flyer by Xavier Fraser

You describe dancing very beautifully as a personal language. That was a really nice thing running through the book. How distinct do you think that can be?
Very. You can tell someone by their gait, how they walk, before you can see their face. I once recognised someone even though she was wearing full hijab – niqab, actually. And I was like, ‘Sara, is that you?’ I could tell by the way she moved. Yeah, everybody’s way of moving is incredibly individual. I think the police actually use movement analysis sometimes to convict people. It’s as accurate from a policing point of view as a fingerprint. So when you’re dancing, you’ve got that basic thing, which is incredibly individual, but then you’ve got the way that you’re feeling that day, that morning, that evening, that year. How happy you’re feeling, what life stresses you’re carrying, whether you’re in love or whether or not you’re in a break-up… You dance differently depending on how you’re feeling, maybe even the weather as well.

Do you think you could read someone’s history? I mean, from watching someone dance? Could you do some detective work? How much could you tell about a person?
I think I could tell a fair bit. I mean, you can always be surprised. And you can only tell what someone is prepared to show you that day. So if someone’s controlled, you might not tell very much. But I think you can tell whether or not someone has a certain degree of knowledge of the dancefloor. Just by the way they hold themselves.

So could you do a blind taste test – like a wine tasting – from the way people dance? Could you see what cultural input they’ve had over their lifetime?
Yeah. I think you can tell a lot about where people are coming from. If they’ve got some sort of ’90s garage moves, like what are their feet doing? I just spend a lot of time now looking at people’s feet. I love it. It’s just endlessly fascinating. Looking at someone like, ‘You’ve definitely done some raving. I think you went to quite a lot of UK garage nights’. Or, ‘You don’t feel very comfortable doing this, and maybe you haven’t done this a lot.’ You know.

That’s a Channel 4 programme right there, The Dance Doctor, or something.
I did have an idea for something I wanted to do as a sort of event, which in my mind was called Hesitant Dancers 101, something like that. And it was for people who just feel really, really, really hesitant about dancing, who are like, you know, those ones who just clam up, quite literally, when a dancing situation comes up. And I was thinking, How could you do it to make it comfortable? People could just start to get a little bit of kind of comfort and confidence in just finding the moves.

Like a motion makeover. Do you remember that programme Faking It? The very first one was a classical musician who became a DJ, and she was amazing. And one of the things they did was boxing training. They got her to be more assertive by hitting a punchbag. I’ve got a friend whose daughter has an eating disorder, and I’ve often thought that’s the kind of physical thing someone like her should do – use your body to affect the world. And you’ll come out of it feeling a little stronger, and you’ll feel like you don’t have to hide so much.
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. It’s so healing. There’s a quote in the book from Brian Belle-Fortune from his book All Crews. And he described a night where a big guy comes in all pent-up and they’re saying, ‘Boy, he’s going to be trouble’. And then at the end of the night they saw the same guy skipping out: ‘I love you, I love you!’ The dancefloor in its best and most powerful modes just can be such a site of repair. For teenage girls, for sure. I just think that for all those kinds of life stresses it can be good repair.

Comic strip from Labrynth in Hackney. Note Captain Twylab who can rave for 96 hours straight without a break

Do you think we have a BPM?
I don’t know. Maybe. I do know about something called tempo entrainment. It’s the degree to which your body locks into rhythm. And you can either have a high or low amount of it. If you have high tempo entrainment, you’re probably going to start bobbing if you hear a tune, regardless of whether or not you like it, a bit involuntary. If you have very low tempo entrainment, you’re unlikely to be moving unless you actively choose to.

I’ve sometimes found myself on a dance floor where I’m like, I like this music. But it’s just too fast for me – and that’s a physical feeling. The other thing is what I call the noodle factor. My body prefers the groove, it likes something cyclical. Going to a drum and bass night, I might love the music, love the sonics. But there’s something that stops me really enjoying the movement, because it’s too surprising. Those rhythms are just a little bit too ungroovy, it’s the high surprise factor or something. Drum and bass, I would always dance the half speed. And then I’d feel like I’m not putting enough energy into it. I would definitely argue that there’s some sort of inbuilt motor. I don’t know if it’s biological or learnt. That’s the big question, isn’t it?
Preferences? Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right, that people have a preference, don’t they, for a certain tempo or feel. And maybe that’s to do with your kind of dance ability as well. Where you feel comfortable finding the bits of music that you can easily move to.

Do you think we have a national style? A national dance?
Well, you know, in the book, I’m arguing for the electric slide. As a new national dance, if a national dance is a dance that most people know how to do.

I’d purposefully swerved really talking about Morris dancing too much in the book. It’s not really the kind of dancing that I’m interested in, but actually it appears a little bit in there. James Mary, who is Björk’s headwear designer, his sister Alex Murray has this troupe called Boss Morris. And they were dancing at the Brits when Wet Leg were performing. And it looks wicked. Really! A bit lairy, a bit aggie, and lively and fun.

It’s all stories and it has that pagan thing going for it. Just the fact that it’s so old makes it quite interesting.
It’s a workers’ dance. You have Morris dancing, there used to be Molly dancing. And that was much more about workers making themselves a bit non-recognisable, going out and doing slightly menacing dancing at the landowners.

Or clog dancing. They’d have the metal segs in their clogs so that the wood didn’t wear out so quickly. And then when you danced, they’d make sparks on the stone. I guess that’s British tap dancing, isn’t it?
I remember I had Blakeys in my shoes because I wore all my shoes out really quickly. I’d tap noise out of them as well.

What are the great dancefloors at the moment?
I really like what Marsha MarshmeLLo and Leanne Wright are doing with their Moonlighting events. They did one at Servant Jazz Quarters and then one at one at Spiritland before it closed. It was Marsha, Leanne and Zakia Sewell, and Josey Rebelle was their special guest. And the music was just wicked. They bring different musical styles, but they’re all really, really schooled in the dancefloor. I’m sure there are amazing things happening left, right and centre. Even without knowing exactly where the amazing places are, I just feel very confident that they’re happening.

What makes a great dancefloor?
This is a bit of a personal preference, I just like places that are small and dark, where everybody is actively listening and actively moving and responds to the music – even if they don’t know it. You know that thing: a crowd who know a good track, even if they’ve never heard it before.

What guidance would you give for someone who doesn’t have that history but wants to put on a great event and wants to create a great dancefloor.
Go out a bit first.

And what about the age make-up? Are we getting more segregated by age in dance floors? I do think there’s a bit of a rebellion against that.
I think there’s a mix, like always. When I first started going out there would have been places that were for the older lot. Places that were just teenagers, places that were mixed. And I think now’s the same. You’ll have places that have a mix of older people and younger people. Where most people are average clubbing age, late teens, or into the 20s. And then you’ll have places where everybody is under 21. And then you have a lot of house nights, where you’ve got to be over 25 to even get in.

We’ve lost a lot of nightclubs. And we can’t underestimate the effect of that – it is awful. But there are still a lot of people making it happen. And the spectrum of things that we have still serve lots of different generations in lots of different ways. We just need more of them. Especially under-18 nights. I know it’s difficult from a licensing and insurance point of view. But we really, really need to make sure the young ones have a chance to experience it like they did in the jungle and garage times, when there were loads of underage teens nights. I really, really want people to put them on, to make it their mission.

It can be hard being an older person on a young dancefloor
I was talking to a friend of mine, the American writer Piotr Orlov. He and I share kind of parallel lives and dance on different continents. I was talking to him about what it’s like to be an older person, but to still want some of that dancefloor feeling. And to know you can still find your space on the dancefloor, where it’s okay for you to be there. And he pointed out that as soon as you move, people can see that you know what you’re doing. You’ve been around. So your movement indicates the fact that actually it’s completely fine for you to be there.

What do you think about TikTok. How has that changed things?
It means a lot of people know a lot of dance moves.

It’s kind of different from the communal thing, though, isn’t it? It’s about learning something and being precise.
Maybe. But so was learning dance moves off MTV. You know, I really feel a tendency to want to flatten the negatives, you know. There will always be something which means that people are behaving differently. I think the only reason why it’s a problem really, TikTok and online life, is because there aren’t the physical spaces for people to use.

I remember when my daughter was about six, seven, this is pre-TikTok, but ‘Gangnam Style’ was the thing, and that was the first communal craze of her dancing life, and it was so great to see her and all her friends suddenly just want to do this one thing together. I don’t see TikTok as negative, I just think it’s quite a different thing, because it’s talking about precision. And emulating. But you’re right. It’s just like watching Soul Train or Top of the Pops, or all those things that everyone’s always done.
Exactly. And I think it also probably helps move us away from that slightly gendered way that dancing happened before. It’s made it much more acceptable for boys to move their bodies and to dance, and that’s really healthy. TikTok and online dance means that a whole generation of kids under 15, under 18, are very dance literate. They’ve got lots of different styles, they’ve got lots of different dance moves available to them.

They just need more places to get together.
I’ve got a little series of intentions for the book, things that I want to be conveyed, or things I’d like to happen. So we can collectively get more dance in schools, encouraging school leaders and school governors to advocate for dance on the curriculum. I want school leaders to have more language to advocate for dance, to have more language and authority to advocate for space.

You uncovered a few DJs with professional dance pasts. I didn’t realise that Fabio had actually been a pro dancer. And Gerald.
I think there’s a higher than acknowledged number of really seminal figures in UK dance music – in its broadest sense – who share that. There are many of those originators, who you could describe as DJ/dancers. Like Paul Trouble Anderson, Gerald, Shut Up And Dance, Fabio, I think Colin Dale as well. There’s this one guy. Travis Edwards, who was in that Spats, Crackers era, early-to-mid ’80s London jazz-dance scene, who ended up making this amazing, early ’90s rave record under the name Satin Storm. Those jazz-dancers were probably quite young when they were doing that, and by the time the’90s came around they were still on the scene, but it changed, it was no longer jazz-dance, it was now hardcore. And there’s a strand, which I wasn’t aware of beforehand, of jazz dancers who ended up having this really important role in the early days of house, techno, hardcore, into jungle, etc.

I suppose in some way, a really good dancer is a bit like a musician – a musician without an instrument. So when you start producing records in the way that happened in the late ’80s, early ’90s, where it’s all about rhythm patterns, being a dancer is almost more helpful than being a DJ.
Yeah, absolutely. There’s a lovely quote from [A Guy Called] Gerald, where he says the most important piece of kit in the studio is the dancer in your head.

You use these metaphors a lot in the book, that there are those moments where you’re so in the dance that you feel you’re creating the music rather than responding to it.
But don’t you think that actually the dancers are dictating, they are generating?

Oh, yeah, absolutely, absolutely.
It’s a feeling, but also, I think, it’s a reality. If you’ve got a whole load of people who are really responding to what the DJ is playing, then the DJ is going to go a certain way, aren’t they, because of how the dancefloor is responding. And if something brings the energy down, then the DJ might decide to bring it down even further, for a wheat-from-the-chaff moment. Or they might decide to bring it back up again, or stay at a certain level. They can’t do that without the information they’re getting from the dancers.

No, absolutely. In my experience of DJing, the feeling that the dancers are guiding you is so powerful. I remember the first time I played records with people in front of me, it was so much easier than doing it in your bedroom. Because in your bedroom, you’ve got no feedback, it’s just you. Whereas when you’ve got people in front of you, it’s so obvious what’s going to bomb and what’s going to hit, that they are totally guiding you. I guess the ideal is where everyone is literally feeling that they’re just in the same moment, isn’t it? It’s like, you’re not even guiding it. You’re just in it together.

One of the things I loved about uncovering history was realising that people have always had pretty much the same urges and the same desires. Were there any amazing little surprises and nuggets that you found from a long way back in time?
I absolutely loved the idea of Anglo Saxon lairy raves in ale houses. The girls going off in the woods to dance together. I can imagine like, ‘C’mon ’Chelle, let’s get away from all those stupid annoying boys for a bit. Let’s just go, we can hear the music from the woods.’ Or bringing their own little drama with them or something. So that made me feel really connected to the lineages and histories that just seem otherwise completely impenetrable. Somehow by imagining those dancefloors I could imagine my Anglo Saxon self wailing around the hay bales. It’s a nice feeling of connection, connectedness.

On a more serious note, there was a historical thing I wanted to ask you about – this fascinating story I’d never heard before about white men can’t dance being a kind of a learned, constructed thing that happened after the first world war. Your quote, ‘white middle-class men are rarely reduced to their bodies,’ I thought that was so powerful, because right there, you’ve got this economic and colonial understanding of why some people historically didn’t like dancing.
I remember, friends of mine, writers of colour, describing to me how the white middle-class men in the dance will be the ones who are trying to explain to you how the tune was constructed… While the drop’s happening! I kind of had a sense of this thing, but I didn’t really have any way of articulating it, until I spent time reading around the subject, and talking to Maxine Leeds Craig, who wrote the book, Sorry, I Don’t Dance: Why Men Refuse To Move. She really helped me understand the context, which is learned and is cultural, and does relate to histories of colonialism, it does relate to issues of control. It’s a very tricky area. And it’s a sensitive area. But it made me think, maybe if men who fall into that category read it, they might know that they’ve got choice. If they knew that their disinclination to move might be cultural, they may decide to test out a different way of being.

We know that dancing makes people like each other more. So why not build connections? Why not actively try and build relationships in the powerful nonverbal ways that dance can offer? Just, you know, moving a little bit in a space with other people, you’re indicating that you are of something, not separate from it.

There’s a lot of unspoken politics going on on a dancefloor. Just the feeling of togetherness is such a powerful thing. The feeling that you’re constructing something together. My most powerful times were at the Sound Factory, and that felt like we were all actually working. You know all those lines: ‘You better work!’ It did feel like that. People would turn up in shorts with a towel tucked into their waistband because they were going to sweat. That feeling on the dancefloor that you’re all aiming at something, and trying to create something, is really, really powerful.
Yeah. And all of that is condensed in the Theo Parrish quote at the very beginning: ‘People say that the dance is all about escapism, but really, it’s about solidarity.’ That’s much better understood by communities that have experienced oppression in some shape or form than by those who haven’t. Which is why I feel the importance of writing about things from that perspective. Because it is really powerful. And I think it really does matter. And at the end it is about solidarity.

© Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton