Let’s get one thing straight. I’m not a sporty type of girl. At school, it was my brother who got every single sporting award – including something like ‘champion of everything’ at his final year 12 speech night, I kid you not. He was the captain of basketball, AFL, swimming – you get the idea. Not just a participant – the freakin’ school CHAMPION.
I was the opposite. I liked reading, watching movie adaptations of musicals, learning pop song lyrics, making mixed tapes from the radio, watching Punky Brewster and The Wonder Years and dancing in my bedroom.
I hated Saturday mornings when I had to play netball (usually in the belting rain) down at Matthews Netball Centre in Wembley. I likened it to playing the recorder – you had to do it because you had to do something.
I desperately tried to be sporty, but I just got bored of it. I’m not competitive by nature, I don’t feel a compulsion to workout – especially now that season three of Homeland is on its way.
Still today, when people get a twinkle in their eye about their chosen sport or workout regime (‘Oh, it chose me!’) – I actively have to keep my ‘No, no, tell me more, I’m SO interested!’ face on.
On second thought, maybe that is my sport.
But, like how Professor Henry Higgins exclaimed to himself when Eliza Doolittle finally said something poshy, I think I actually have found something that has stopped me in my tracks.
I think I’ve finally got it.
But, as always, it’s unconventional.
No Lights, No Lycra.
Urrgh, say what now..?
The idea is this: people rock up to a dancehall. They pay $5. They find a space in the hall. The lights are turned off. They dance.
My friend Fiona made an excellent point on Facebook: I’m confused, is it an exercise concept or a ‘nightclub’ concept?’
It’s kind of both and yet it’s not.
It’s a space where you can literally dance like no one is watching.
But you can do that at a nightclub or pub dancefloor!
Yes you can.
However, this is where you can dance freely to music in the dark and not worry about what you look like. It’s just a place where you can come after work and shake off the stress.
There is a true joy in just letting go and dancing at your own pace in your own way.
So last night I rocked up to a dancehall in North Perth and was greeted by a friendly-looking girl that was wearing a white-ish skater-style dress and plain flat shoes. Her hair was half-up.
I gave her my five bucks and she asked if it were my first time.
She kept it brief, saying to make my way into the dark hall and the music will start soon. Her only rule was ‘talking is kept to an absolute minimum’. For those that are shy, hearing this would be like warm honey.
I started to understand that this wasn’t a social thing – this is an independence thing: I am here to dance by myself, for myself. I felt like having a dance and I was in the right place.
So I tentatively made my way to the only place where newbies feel comfortable in a new class – the back corner.
It was dark but you could feel the energy in the room. There felt as though there were about six others, but I wasn’t too sure.
At 8.15pm the music started up. This wasn’t club music, this sounded like something from an upbeat June Carter record.
It’s funny, even in the dark, I was painfully self-aware. I kept thinking, ergh, ‘what are they thinking of me, I’ll just stick to some plain side-tap side-tap kind of moves’.
It wasn’t until we got track I hadn’t heard for years (about three songs in?), ‘Got Your Money’ by Ol’ Dirty Bastard featuring Kelis it clicked. I felt like I really was back in my bedroom dancing by myself with a hairbrush microphone instead of doing my homework.
It just kept getting better, songs like ‘Everybody Get Up’ by 5ive, ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ by New Order and the ultimate free-dancing anthem, ‘Praise You’ by Fat Boy Slim.
The music was incredibly eclectic, there were a block of rockier tracks that sounded like they were coming straight from your boyfriends car radio while checking out the surf down at Scarborough in the late 70s. But instead of ‘Ugh, I don’t know this song, I’ll sit this one out’, I was dancing like I was right there.
From reading around the interwebs, their music can swing from Beach Boys to Springsteen to the Beastie Boys to Lady Gaga.
Three or four times throughout the night the group of about 25 people (my eyes had adjusted to the dark and, thanks to the odd car lights swinging past the building every so often, I could see a tiny bit more clearly) got into one of those rhythms of clapping to the beat, in between my dancing like a hippie chick, an air drum aficionado, a teenybopper and an extra from a Bell Biv Devoe clip.
While I was being Beyonce – aka a wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube man (what up, Family Guy fans) – a late-arrival came in. Two actually.
It was clear they knew each other and to be honest, I don’t think they quite understood the concept.
First of all, they were talking.
Secondly, while the whole idea was to have fun and groove around, they were clearly taking the piss.
Maybe if they split up and truly lost themselves in the music I could forgive them, but they were spoiling it.
Instead of channelling Kate Bush, I wanted to bury their bodies under a bush.
It took the supreme power of New Order for them to realise their shenanigans, while perhaps more appreciated by an audience who could actually see them, like on the dancefloor at Paramount, were wasted in this environment. They left.
It’s funny, with our sense of sight being compromised, after the douche twins left, you could feel the mood change – everyone seemed to relax more.
It was about 9.30pm when the last track faded down and someone said ‘thanks for coming everyone!’
It was a solid hour and 15 minutes of constant dancing, but I got the distict feeling it meant different things to everyone in that dark, warm room.
For some it meant getting some exercise, or just moving for awhile, or forgetting about work for awhile, or having fun without drugs or booze for awhile, or just getting out of the house for awhile. Or remembering how great 5ive really were.
For me? It’s all these things.
And the feeling I got as I fired up the RAV4 and headed home was pure anti-depressant.
When I got home and told The Mister about how awesome No Lights, No Lycra was, he shot me a Professor Henry Higgins smile, which really, was an all-knowing ‘I think she’s got it’.
How much? A fiver
What do I bring? Bottle of water, comfortable clothing and an awesome attitude
How long does it go for? About an hour and 15
Does comfortable clothing mean ‘stuff you wear to the gym’? No necessarily, I wore leggings, kung fu shoes and a singlet, other girls wore dresses, scarves and skirts, a couple of the boys wore trackies. That I could make out in the dark. I wouldn’t wear heels.
I’m going to London next week, do they have sessions there? Yes. And in Paris. And Glasgow. And Montreal. FULL LIST HERE
Can I bring the kids? I wouldn’t.