I hosted an art gallery opening last week at a beautiful event space I manage in New Jersey. The place has a very cool vibe with incredible sound, vibrant lighting and a completely open floorplan. The crowd in attendance for the opening was largely artistic and creative types, mostly New York City transplants. All night, people were commenting on how perfect the venue is for dancing. And I mean all night. Finally, a woman caught my ear and really spelled out the potential plan. She was pushing hard. I laughed and said, I do miss dancing. She said, we all do.
The conversations about Manhattan neighborhoods and hosting parties brought me back to the late 90’s in New York City. I was in college and had met an incredible group of friends. We were artists and doctors and bankers and students with one thing in common…the weekends were for dancing. We lived for it. We dressed for it. On those nights we came alive.
The first club I experienced was the Limelight. You had to stand outside at the velvet rope and you had to be on “the list”. Muscular bouncers looked you up and down, judging your worthiness to enter. It was my first time and I was thoroughly unprepared for the process. Note to self: better outfit next time.
I remember my friend Michael winding me through the maze of stairs and balconies, past the boys adorned in glitter and angel wings. The sound of long dance remixes pulsed through the old church. Up and down the winding stairs, stopping at the balconies overlooking the dance floor, I was mezmorized by the scene. It was a glittering party, full of unbridled creativity in costume and dancing and more gay men than I had ever seen. I reveled in the celebration and pure joy on that dance floor.
It was an inspiration to be around people who were so freely being themselves. There were sections of the dance floor dedicated to specific types of artistry. I watched people line up to form a runway which hosted an all night vogue competition. One after another, these guys channeled Madonna and outdid each other. I loved watching.
There were countless velvet ropes for the next two years. I stepped up my sartorial style and bought serious club clothes. Tight sequins and thigh high leather boots…the line languished outside but we always got right in. I was surrounded by the most attractive men, all gay, all incredible dancers. Those guys taught me how to move. I can’t remember having more fun in my life. It was all party, no pressure. For two years, I hardly ever went on a date. The companionship and the pure joy of those nights are all I needed.
We moved from The Tunnel to Twilo to The Palladium, following the D.J. The venues were incredible. Dancing at the Palladium felt like being on stage, wherever you stood. The huge floor was surrounded by balconies in an old theater turned nightclub. And Junior Vasquez was the star. He remixed the most unbelievable things from the Mission Impossible theme to an answering machine message he received from Madonna. The winding beat would give way to the actual song many minutes in. You danced and you waited to see where he was going, and it was always somewhere new.
Nights out turned into mornings walking home, squinting in the sunlight and surrounded by friends. Our glitter looked ridiculous in the sunlight walking the cobbled streets of the meatpacking district while guys showed up for work. We felt like subversives, living like vampires and loving every moment.
If I host a dance party, maybe I can bring a little of that magic back. Since it seems, we all miss dancing.