I seem to have rediscovered dancing. It’s something I used to do so much, when I was young (er?) . I could spend hours on the floor, working up a sweat, just letting rip and having a great time with friends and strangers. But then, as I got older, I seemed to have less interest in it. I’d stand around the walls and watch other men dance. I’m not quite sure why that happened. But I seem to be back into it.
And lets face it, dancing is a lot like sex with (some of) your clothes on, so while I have been having sex, it was puzzling me a little that I wasn’t dancing in the way I used to. Was I too old? Too unfit? Too ugly to hang out with the shirtless gods on the floor?
I remember going to dances at Auckland Uni in 1979 when I was 18. We’d have a room at the top floor of the student union, where Shadows is now I think, and someone would bring in a stereo from home (seriously) and others would bring records, and we’d dance happily thinking it was just great. The unsophisticated fun of youth. And watching men back from overseas to see the latest moves. God when I was 18 men who were 24 seemed so old and cool. The punk/disco wars were still on at the time, and there could be a little tension when the style changed.
The Aquarius (later The Staircase) was still in Fort St, and I would spend hours there with friends, having to leap up and get on the floor at the opening bars of a favourite song. I remember dancing my arse off to Blue Monday in Alfies.
New York was where I saw the most spectacular clubs in the 80s. The Saint stands out as the most extravagant, beautiful space filled with beautiful men. They had installed a full planetarium projector so suddenly you would look up and think you were dancing under the stars. Hundreds, thousands of sexy, sweaty beautiful men dancing with our shirts off. It was great. That sense of being part of a group, part of a, dare I use the word? part of a community.There was the Limelight, in a big deconsecrated church just over the road from where I lived, and also the Area, though the last was straighter and way more fashionable. All palaces of indulgence and fun, music carefully choreographed, bring the crowd up and up on waves of more and more excitement, then just when you thought it couldn’t go any higher, it did, and there would be an ecstatic crowd, almost like being in an evangelical church service, hands in the air, men simultaneously being in their own world of dance and also connecting with all the ones nearby.
The sheer joy of being in a room full of men, all dancing together, being nice to each other, sharing space, acknowledging strangers with a few moves in their direction when you like how they move, the smiles and good will. It’s fantastic.Whether it’s with 20 or 5,000, when it works, it’s just great. And part of what makes it great is the feeling of sex, of sensuality, of being connected, and all the potential that goes with it.
I’ve spent some great nights on the floor at Urge too, I used to go with a circle of friends, now mostly dead, and we’d dance sexy dirty dances, Dominic would inevitably ‘lose’ all his clothes by the end of the night, dancing in a leather harness and nothing else, Charlie would be his elegantly sleazy self, reeking of sex.
But as that group dwindled, I think I sort of stopped dancing. Not in my head, but I just lost something.
But lately, it’s been coming back. Rather reluctantly at first, I hit the floor at Urge a few weeks ago with a friend who insisted and we just clicked into it the way you do sometimes, but in a way I hadn’t for a few years, and I realised “Hey, I’m dancing again and loving it!” All those voices that say “You’re getting too old, your body isn’t hot enough to take your shirt off, you look silly” they seem to have shut up. So what if my middle aged spread wobbles while I dance?
And last night, again at Urge (no I’m not running their PR, but it does function as my other living room) I was struck by the power of being in a room full of gay men, gay men having fun, a sweatbox with men of all shapes and sizes, poor, rich, gym toned and gym avoiders, HIV+ and HIV - some good enough to be in porn, most of us not, age range from 20s to 60s I’d guess, most shirts off, moving like angels and thinking like devils.
There is something potent about that sense of masculine joy and exuberance, of ease and comfortable togetherness that struck me last night with force, and me, I’m glad I’ve found my dancing shoes again. And the ghosts I dance with are happy.