“There’s nothing here.”
That's my first thought upon arriving at 179 Russell St.
It's a church. A small older man with a balding head, a funny little moustache and a back pack that looked like it weighs half as much as he does is slouched on the church steps. That's it.
I came here for a dance party. I say “hey there” to the man, though it seems like a stretch that this little old guy in a tucked pale orange plaid and khakis would know anything about a dance party.
The man looks up, grunts, and looks back down. It’s a big, dark church across from a park and nobody is around.
About to give up, I figure the event must have been cancelled or something, and start walking back towards Williamsburg. Then I notice a door, a side door into the church with the numbers 179 above it. It’s worth a shot. If there’s any chance of a dance party, I want to find it.
I open the door and it’s dead quiet. There’s a stair case going down to a door. I walk through it into a very large room. Extremely brightly lit, white fluorescents casting an uncomfortable glow over the whole room. And there’s a dude in there - just one guy - but as soon as I see him I know that this is somehow where I meant to come. He’s a large asian man with a gelled up hairstyle and plenty of tattoos.
“You know what this is, right?” he asks me.
“Um yeah, I read about it in the email newsletter. Dancing in the dark right? Dance party with no light?”
“Yep that’s it. And I’m the DJ. Just a couple rules. No cell phones, no break dancing, and most importantly - no watching.”
“Can I help you set up?” I offer. He’s just starting to pull a large set of speakers out of closet. The room isn’t set up at all.
“No, no. I’m good”
So I sit down on a piano bench and watch as he sets up. The event is supposed to start at 8:30 and it’s already 8:35. I start to feel bad for this guy, he’s doing all this work to set up a dark dance party and it looks like he’s going to be DJing to an invisible audience of one. Thumbing $5 I brought for the suggested donation I start to wonder if a $20 pity donation would actually be more appropriate.
Finally someone comes in. Actually a nice looking young woman in yoga pants. But she just says “I’m looking for my friend” who apparently isn’t me, and then turns around and leaves.
A few more minutes tick by and the DJ is frantically setting up fans, switching out light bulbs, and plugging in his sound system. As I watch the door, I'm shocked to see the older guy from the church steps walking in. He places his massive back pack against a wall and takes a place on the dance floor.
The lights go off. The DJ presses play.
Madonna - "Hung Up"
I start moving, trying to truly bring myself into the present, to be one with the darkness, to channel energy like a tai-chi flow master. I start grooving, moving, taking up space, bouncing around, hopping, waving my arms madly, hips to the left, hips to the right.
The DJ puts on something funky, something jazzy and latin, with a nice thumpy beat. I’m in salsa mode, back and forth hands to the side hands up, swinging down and around.
When the song goes quiet. I hear applause. Gentle, and measured, but significant. I turn around to see the swaying, bouncing silhouettes of several dozen people. The place is packed, and every single person you can barely make out is shaking, gyrating, skipping across the floor to the rhythm.
I realize I’m violating the “no looking” rule and get back to my dancing. By the time they finish with some ballet inducing melodies and the punky ska of Le Tigre’s “Deceptacon” I’m sweaty as hell in my black Levi’s thinking “maybe this is what SoulCycle is like”.
The Violent Femmes - "Blister in the Sun"
Although I constantly feel pulled back to a sense of vanity, a wanting to be seen, I’m empowered by the fact that I’m not. Empowered to swing wider, step faster, hop harder, or sway my hips just a little more smoothly on the sexy parts.
MC Hammer - "Can't Touch This"
Eventually a red light on the side goes on and you can dimly make out the faces of the people. When the music stops, and the lights come back on, the hall is cleared again, just me, the DJ, and the old guy with the back pack.
I stumble back out on the Greenpoint street. Sweaty, but happy. Another night of weird single existence rescued from mundane loneliness.
still – in dreams – across nets – in words and glances – as beautiful and eloquent as
if you want something, you need to ask for it.