Alexi Duggins is at your mercy. So you decided to make him trip the light fantastic with the lights off…
Bruce Springsteen likes dancing in the dark. So does Björk. And from this, we can draw only one conclusion: they love hopping about like they haven’t had a wee in days.
Or so you’d think if you’d been to No Lights, No Lycra. People turn up to a community hall-esque room on a Hackney industrial estate. It’s deliberately so dimly lit you couldn’t pick your own mum out of a line-up. And then for one hour, they flail about in a very bizarre fashion. It’s a bit like watching people who’ve just realised their pants are woven from nettles, I suppose. Or a crowd who’ve just been simultaneously tasered. Or Jedward attempting to dance.
There’s nothing new about it, though. The first NLNL was created in 2009 by two Melbourne dance students. The idea: that by setting up a dancefloor without lights, people really would be able to move like no one’s watching, letting them lose themselves in the music. Pretty soon it had colonised the whole of Australia. Now there are 34 branches, reaching locations as exotic as China, New York and Hove.
It’s amazing that it took London so long to follow suit. For the first ten minutes or so, the lack of lighting makes you feel like you’re at some sort of renegade dance party. It’s like the plot of ‘Footloose’ came true and now boogieing is so criminal you can only do it under the cover of darkness. This is why it’s better than ‘Footloose’. You wouldn’t be able to see Kevin Bacon get his nips out.
Indeed, nobody takes their top off: pretty impressive given how much of a sweatbox the place becomes. After 20 minutes, people’s movements start to slow down. You half-expect someone to start asking around for a towel. But no one does. In fact, from start to finish, not a single word is spoken. The official NLNL website tells attendees to ‘keep talking to a minimum’, lest it prevents the crowd losing themselves in the music.
Frankly, it’s a bit odd. Particularly as there are far bigger barriers to drifting away on the soundtrack. As each song ends, there’s a big awkward silence, which we try to fill by clapping. Sometimes tracks drop to a volume where a polite cough is audible. And, well, at points like that, you have to force yourself to dance a tad.
But then, this was NLNL’s first London event. So there’s probably no point in asking how you can lose yourself in something when you have to pause every two-and-a-half minutes to applaud. Nor in pointing out that while DIY is a nice idea, so is a DJ (and at least that way all the music will stay at the same volume throughout). There were bound to be teething problems. And besides, this event’s all about not overthinking. Just go with it, yeah? Dance like you’ve never wee-d before.