Posted by: martinworster | October 19, 2010


The politics of dancing..

I miss having a dance. A knees up. A right old rave up. It’s not often I go out and shake my thing now. Maybe if I do – particularly in Orange County – people will question why a near middle aged man is cutting a rug. Who invited your dad? And there’s still many years to come of embarrassing my sons at weddings and other family functions with mobile discos whilst shimmying on the floor. This is as much a part of fatherhood as fishing trips (if I did those), football games and the first disclosure of the birds and the bees.

I remember going to one of the infamous Kaos weekenders at Camber Sands – this must have been 1990 or 1991. Just off the back of the zenith of rave culture. I believe 1988 was the first summer of love. So by a quick calculation we were in the fourth summer of love. There was still a lot of love around. Ably abetted by the consumption of White Doves. A whole lotta love. A lorra lorra love, love. I wish I could get my greasy mitts on some of those Doves now….

Kaos weekenders were held in a Butlins type holiday camp and it was a sleepless weekend soundtracked by a relentless thud of repetitive beats. The second afternoon we sat round outside, amassed in a field waiting to hear Fabio – the DJ not the long haired Italian lover – do his thing. This was before the birth of drum and bass so Fabio was playing early house and proto-breaks. Except on this occasion he wasn’t as there was a problem with the sound. The problem was there wasn’t any.

The ravers amassed and were getting twitchy. Fabio was perched behind the decks on a raised platform, flanked by large speakers. He had a funky dread style haircut and looked very cool silhouted by the sun behind him. Still no sound though. Then one of the ravers stood up.

‘Come on Fabs man, turn the music up. All we want to do is dance.’ He shouted.

It was a simple, honest and direct request. Fitting for a field squashed with ravers waiting to hear a world class DJ spin some toons. The only thing we wanted to do then was dance. Then, as if by magic, a muffled bassline came out of the speakers. Ravers started to rise. The Dance Gods hath spoken. The volume cranked up and the beats marched forward imploring the throng. In under a minute the whole field was dancing. Doing that weird, early 90s rave (gurning, twitchy hand movements, spacey plodding, packing imaginary boxes, stationary running man, big fish – small fish) that looks really dated when you look at it now on YouTube.

Amongst my group of friends the phrase ‘all we want to do is dance’ became a kind of catchphrase. It was used as a mantra against anything that got in the way of what we wanted to do – not just dance. Anything. ‘Come on man, all we want to do is dance…’ A clarion call to action.

All I wanted to do then was dance. On a night out that’s all you did – from 10PM till 7AM. It was perhaps an unconscious harking back to our tribal ancestors, the drum beat echoing our heartbeat, a metronome of life itself, the tick tock thud of time. The bass, an all enveloping womb. Okay, it’s easy to come up with music – life metaphors but in many ways they are more than metaphors. The heart is a drum. Time is a beat.

I believe rave culture exploded like it did in the UK as it filled a gap in people’s lives and fulfilled unconscious urges. Much like our African ancestors, who used dancing to a drum as a tranced out method of achieving spiritual enlightenment, modern raving also allowed means of communing with a non-religious divine. A worship of a different kind. It also offered a sense of community and togetherness. Of course, the drugs helped too.


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