Dance Dance Party Party began, in 2006, with two girls in New York City, both tired of the club scene but still wanting to dance. Now the all-women, booze-free, 75-minute dance party has grown to more than 10 chapters across North America. Why has it struck such a chord?
It's about having a good time. There's no rules, no instructor telling you how to move. It's like the kind of dance party you'd have when you were a kid at a slumber party and everybody's busting a move. Nobody cares if you can't find the beat or what you're wearing or how old you are. There's no judgment - that's the No. 1 rule.
For many people, letting loose on a dance floor is tough enough after a few warm-up cocktails, let alone dead sober in a dance studio on a Sunday afternoon. Is it awkward at first?
If it's your first time then you might be thinking, 'What am I doing here? Why am I in a roomful of women on a Sunday afternoon, and now I'm going to dance for 75 minutes?' But then they see me and Oonagh Duncan, who organizes it with me, and we're unhinged right from the start. It's sort of like how a fake laugh often turns into a real fit of laughter. Pretty soon, everyone's acting like an idiot. There's a ton of lip-syncing and we light up a disco ball when the mood strikes.
Are you a professional dancer?
Oh god no! I have very little dance training. When I was a kid, I competed in some traditional Irish dancing, but beyond that Riverdance era of my life, I do most of my dancing at house parties.
Toronto is a city known for its reserved crowds. Go to a concert and most people are just standing around. Has Dance Dance Party Party sent up someone from headquarters to make sure Torontonians can actually dance?
They might have sent up a secret spy at some point. But yeah, I've been to clubs and shows where I've been the only one dancing and have felt a bit ridiculous. But while Toronto certainly has a dance impediment, there are still lots of people who love dancing. The problem with going to a club is it ends up being more for young people - picking up, socializing with friends - than about dancing itself. At our parties, nobody's checking you out or critiquing what you're wearing. With our parties, you can show up in gym clothes if you want, or put on legwarmers and bright colours like you're in Fame.
Who comes to dance?
We've had teenagers and women in their 60s, but mainly it's girls in their 30s. There's typically eight to 15 of us, but sometimes less. I remember one time it was just me, my sister and my cousin. The ultimate, though, is when a complete stranger shows up; a 65-year-old woman Googles "Toronto dance" and finds us. Other people come just because it's a great workout.
So what you're saying is dancing like a maniac is a lot more fun than hanging out at a Curves or listening to a blissed-out yoga instructor telling you how to move?
I spent 2010 paying for a gym membership that I used just once. It's just not fun. The point of it is exercise and being healthy, which are certainly noble goals but not how I want to spend my leisure time. Everyone's so serious and it can become a chore that you dread. But this is the opposite. Oh great, Sunday I have to go dance around like an idiot and have a lot of fun for an hour. It's like a secret form of exercise.
Every DJ knows how a single song can either clear or light up the dance floor. What's the secret to lighting a fire on the dance floor?
The same songs get people going every time. If you put on a Katy Perry song, people know it and will dance around, but slap on Footloose or La Bamba and it's like, 'Oh my god!' The response is immediate. I always start off with Madonna's Into the Groove or Michael Jackson's Wanna Be Starting Somethin'. Both are literal: Let's get the party started and get moving.
What sort of moves are we talking about? Do you have names for your steps?
Not really, although there was one time when a bunch of women came from my office and we made up office moves. First we did the Fax Machine, which is the Will Farrell move, and then we had Sending the UPS Package, which was quite involved.
Special to The Globe and Mail