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The perfect lockdown anthem came pretty early in 2020: Charli XCX’s frantic, party-thirsty Anthems, from her album released in mid-May. She starts by declaring “I’m so bored” before recounting days in lockdown and everything she desperately craves about partying: anthems, late nights, her friends, “the heat from all the bodies”. Charli also misses New York – although the city that never sleeps is still very deep in its Covid-induced nap.
It’s a different story in Australia where, after seven months, Sydney and Melbourne finally got the green light to return to nightclubs on Monday. There was one sticking point: no more than 50 people on the dancefloor at once, with enough space for one person per four square metres.
Sydney’s most popular queer party-starters Heaps Gay wasted no time, celebrating a Monday night dancefloor return on the rooftop of the Cooper’s Hotel in Newtown. The party kicked off at 5pm the day restrictions eased and, unsurprisingly, the dancefloor filled up almost immediately.
When I arrived, I was told I could wait at a table with no guarantee I’d get to dance. I don’t consider myself a massive partygoer, but I’ve been surprised to discover the craving I’ve felt most deeply in my body this year is for dancefloors. And it’s never been stronger than while sitting on one side of a large sliding glass door, watching 50 strangers dance the night away.
After a few hours, some of the first 50 started to leave and I was finally given permission to step up. For someone who sometimes likes to process life events and feelings by thrashing them out to music, it was a real moment of release. After many months in a one-bedroom apartment where, out of respect for my neighbours, I’ve kept the volume down, I’d forgotten what it feels like to have a bassline pulse and shake its way into my stomach.
This was partying as I remembered it: cathartic, joyous and sweaty. The 50 of us were pretty well spread out across the rooftop, but being around that much human movement does take a moment of adjustment after spending the better part of a year carefully using the length of your shopping trolley as a social-distancing tool. To be honest, it would probably be pretty unsettling if you could feel “the heat from all the bodies” – but for the first time in what seems like an eternity, it was a relief to be surrounded by strangers.
The fact that it came with such a long wait time – and that plenty of people who’d showed up to dance missed out entirely? That sucks, but if you’ve tried to party much in Sydney over the last decade, you’re probably used to the feeling that the city is conspiring to stop you. That’s not to say we don’t have great parties and venues, but we’re used to our partying being subject to restrictions: from lockouts, to public transport finishing early, to the sheer cost of living anywhere near nightlife hubs.
As restrictions ease further and venues figure out fairer systems for filling their dancefloor quotas, things should get a bit easier. But Sydneysiders – and especially the LGBTQI communities Heaps Gay attracts – are pretty good at partying against the odds.
For decades, dancefloors have been an essential gathering place for LGBTQI people: queer venues and events are key places where our culture is expressed and communities formed. Social media has created other spaces, but it can’t replace these physical gatherings. Gay men everywhere declared Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande’s Rain on Me as 2020’s gay anthem (as half of my friends’ Spotify 2020 Year in Review stories will attest), but we still haven’t had the chance to experience it together, respond together, or form new relationships in the song’s glow.
I started a new relationship in the early days of lockdown – which is its own sort of strange experience – and until now our dancing has been confined to his kitchen with two miniature dachshunds as our only friends. Ever since I met him, I’ve been longing for the moment we could be together, surrounded by other dancers. We had to wait several hours at the Heaps Gay party, but a sneaky dancefloor pash has never felt sweeter and Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody has never hit harder.
We were secretly hoping to hear some of the new, dancefloor-ready songs we’ve shared throughout 2020 – such as Anthems, Gaga’s Rain on Me, Dua Lipa’s Hallucinate or Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s WAP. It was too much to expect to hear them all on our first brief dancefloor moment. But this first night out has me finally believing there might be plenty of partying in our future.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: After no club dancefloors for almost a year, last night was cathartic, joyous and sweaty | LGBT rights