“It’s such a good vibration. It’s such a swee-eet sensation,” erupts from 100 plus boomboxes, engulfing me in a 360° field of crackly lo-fi sound. I’m one of three hundred or so party people parading down the streets of Vancouver. Destination: who cares!
It’s day two of the 2010 Winter Olympics and the city is going monkey-on-acid nuts. People line the streets everywhere you look; sound stages dot intersections here, there, and everywhere; the air sizzles with an electric buzz. A calm yet consistent rain spews at us in an impossible attempt to dampen our charge.
This is the Decentralized Dance Party (DDP), a portable party safari that roams the streets, boldly daring to dance where no party has danced before. A party where the music blasts from boomboxes tuned into a radio signal being broadcast from a DJ’s backpack FM radio transmitter. In peaceful protest of the traditional club dancing paradigm, this interdisciplinary art form repurposes the dance party into a joyfully chaotic adventure-comedy of dance.
“Are you guys ready to take on Granville Street!?!” the faux-fur hockey shoulder pads wearing DJ asks. The easy to please crowd answers the rhetorical question with a roar. A charge of Olympic-inspired nationalistic fervour hits us as we march to the Hip Hop remix of Canada’s national anthem. A luger in skintight red spandex rolls past me on his makeshift luge on wheels while the wheelchair whirling dervish spins in circles to a chorus of “woooos.”
As I do the dance-walk-hop boogie down the street a thought runs through my head: “What are the oodles of police going to think about this once we get to Granville and crank the fun dial to 10?” The thought quickly evaporates as we pass cop after cop smiling away, happy to let us have our fun. Unlike the guerrilla sound systems of the renegade rave days, that had to happen illegally with a map point, DDP is part of a new movement that’s totally innocent and sanction-able by authorities. Both respectful of public property and generally sober, we’re just out for some good, clean Martha & the Vandella’s “Dancing in the Street” kind of fun.We arrive on Granville in the heart of Vancouver’s club district—closed to road traffic, open to people partying. Perfect! Our arrival throws the already electric atmosphere into an ecstatic blissful frenzy that just doesn’t seem to want to fade. Cautiously curious onlookers watch from the sidewalk as we park the party to let the inner children out to play. Wearing a red towel for a cape, kiddie-sized ski goggles and carrying ski poles, I do my bug-eyed Canadian superhero best to fight their internal inhibitions, shaking my booty in a 2 Live Crew meets Shakira kind of way. The converted jump the invisible wall to join the freedom that’s called ridiculousness. The soulful contagion spreads as dozens ditch long nightclub lineups, kicking off their high heels to dance right here, right now, while big, bright eyeballs stare down from the windows above, wondering if they should jump the ship of corporate clubland to enter the world of participatory dance. Too bad they already paid their cover charge.
Entranced in dance, I lose my friend Jonah, a soccer aficionado dressed in knee high white socks and ball, but I bump into a group of high energy partiers. After a few hours of pure dancing fun, we head to a Couchsurfing party filled with travellers from any country you could imagine—very appropriate to the night’s theme of unity through playful nationalism and a fitting end to a night of, as DDP hosts Tom and Gary put it, “complete awesomeness.” A night where people from all walks of life gathered in public space to smash apart social barriers, allowing life to come gushing out. By abandoning the straitjacket conventions that consider any out of the norm behaviour to be taboo, we got to create our own cultural norm and had fun doing it. Public space: It’s ours for the loving, now what are we going to do with it?
image: Decentralized Dance Party