Posts Tagged ‘ dance floor ’

Building a Dancefloor

Photo by: Lightwerk (Ray Weitzenberg)

DJs are the architects of a dance floor. Before I got behind the decks, I was one of those crazy dancers you find in the middle of the floor with a circle around me. I would get so lost in the music that I could feel my body echoing every note, every beat. When I got behind the decks something happened. I stopped dancing. I listened to music in a different way. I began to THINK in music as opposed to MOVE in music.

I recently decided to experiment with how I listened to music and wanted to get back to a dancer’s perspective. I highly recommend for DJs to dance either in the privacy of your home or out on a dancefloor – forget that you’re a DJ for a second and just be a person who needs to move. If you do not boogie to music how can you truly understand how someone is going to hear it with their bodies.

Aside from feeling woefully out of shape, I’m learning a few things about what makes for a proper dancefloor. I recently went to a very unconventional dance class called 5Rhythms. The model of the class is that it’s not really a class. There’s a facilitator who plays music ( electronically based ) that starts off ambient and gradually builds to a crescendo of tempo and energy over the period of an hour. There are no steps being taught, it’s just do what your body is telling you to do. In the second hour, the facilitator walks you through certain movements and encourages the participants to experiment with how their bodies would express concepts like Chaos, Staccato, Lyrical, etc. When I tell you it’s the best dance floor I have experienced, I’m not kidding. Imagine 40 people just letting go, letting it all out, meditating and totally focused on the music and expanding their bodies to it. The silhouettes, the energy, the movements I saw were just mindblowing. The crazy thing is – this dancefloor was not made up of professional dancers – just regular people who have an appreciation for how therapeutic and spiritual dancing can be.

What I’ve learned from this experience is that the best dance floors have to have the following:

1) Focused participants – everyone is there for the same goal. It is understood why everyone is there and there is also a commitment on the part of the dancers to help everyone achieve the goal of dancing and having a good time. I believe successful dancefloors are a unit, an organism made of mini-systems of like minded individuals.

2) Permission – When people are given permission to be creative, to be themselves, without fear of judgement or reprisal – some amazing things happen. Feeling like you have permission to look however you want and dance however you want gives you the freedom to express your genius.

3) Safety – Getting anyone to dance is HARD. Why? Because very few people can get past their social anxiety and get up there and allow themselves to be watched. The best dancefloors offer safe space, unencumbered, to allow the person freedom of movement.

4) Progression – In order for a person to open themselves they need to go through a process of transitioning out of their day, their current situation, and into the moment and the beginning of their dance journey. People are not light switches that can just turn on at one track’s notice.

5) Zero Distractions – The construct of any venue is set up for people to spend money and therefor are set up for people to interact with each other on a number of planes. Sometimes the last consideration for interaction is the dancefloor. There’s the bar, there’s the lounge, there’s the owner’s crappy aesthetic/decor, there’s the people who are just there to be seen, there’s the people who are there just to take advantage of the drink specials. So the chances of finding a nucleus of dancers is tough and you are challenged in breaking past those distractions.

So what can DJs do to try and insure they create a proper dancefloor? It is your responsibility to be an architect so you need to lay a foundation. Remember, a real dance floor has a symbiotic relationship with the DJ. One cannot exist without the other. Here’s a few tips to get things started.

1) Moodmatch – for all that is good and holy please play music that is appropriate for the mood that is currently going on at the moment. Step out on the dancefloor and walk among your crowd and psychically reach out to get a sense of what is going on. Don’t play a raging tune if people are just getting warmed up – you will kill any chance you have of nurturing a dance floor. On the flip side if you are lucky enough to step up and you have a rager on your hands either give the dancers a break in the beat to set yourself up or keep the energy going. Do not drop the mood down, you will effectively clear your floor. (There are some advanced concepts about cleansing the floor but for the purposes of laying the foundation for your floor I won’t discuss them here). Bottomline, if you do not moodmatch you will ruin all trust the dancefloor has in you – and believe me it’s about trust- once you lose it, it is really hard to get it back.

2) Introduce yourself – I know that it’s hard to talk to people especially for us DJ nerds but you must try. Let people know who you are (besides you want to build a following right, well you need to TALK to people in order to do that). Stay away from asking what people want to hear unless you want to deal with requests all night. Just say “Hey, my name is . . . I’m the DJ, how are you feeling tonight?” Make small chit-chat and then move on. Remember you are the facilitator, if people don’t put a face to the name they won’t care about you. If you really don’t want to do that here’s an alternative – be the first person on the dancefloor. I know, I know, that’s just as tough but I swear all it takes is one brave soul to get up there and other’s will follow, trust me, I used to do this in my dancing days and it worked like a charm every time (I even had DJs thank me for doing that).

3) Take your time – let’s say you only have an hour, which is typical these days ( unfortunate in my opinion ). Try at least to introduce your set in two tracks that set the tone for what you are about to do. You need to lay the foundation of sound and tempo in people’s ears so they get acclimated – remember people are not light switches. DO NOT EXPECT TO COOK UP A DANCEFLOOR IN AN HOUR. Be happy you’re up there and do your best job with affecting people properly – you will be better served if you play good music for the moment ( see Moodmatching ).

4) Don’t posture – everything about you indicates to the dancefloor how accessible and open you are. Don’t big up your chest, don’t be glum (if you’re not happy with the situation don’t let on, be a pro about it), don’t hide yourself or ESPECIALLY your eyes behind a hat. A proper dancefloor needs permission and safety and people are looking to you to give them that. Also, don’t forget to thank people, especially if they were dancing for you – so simple and often forgotten etiquette by DJs.

If you can do things that reduce the social anxiety people feel, minimize the distractions to focus on the music, and create a connection to you the higher the chances you have of starting a dance floor. See you there!

Recap: Get in touch with your inner dancer. Study the room and the vibe. Moodmatch. Be open.

For more information on the 5Rhythms dance class go here: 5Rhythms

Patience as a DJ

There’s a few types of DJ patience in my opinion.

  • Patience with the art
  • Patience with yourself
  • Patience in a situation

Patience with the art of DJing:

I read a startling statistic on how long it takes for an artist to be recognized as an expert within their domain.   I won’t leave you in anticipation:

“There is extensive evidence that around 10 years of active involvement appear to be necessary before anyone, even the most talented, are able to reach an international level of achievement.” (Ericsson, 1999, 331).

That’s right kids – 10 years.  10 years of practicing and playing out and working on your art and striving to be the best you can be as a DJ is how long it takes to be recognized as an expert in your domain.   Now let’s talk about what happens in those 10 years if you think it takes a shorter amount of time.  First off, you need to develop your process, function at a highly creative state, and integrate a creative habit that is conducive to active involvement in your DJ’ing.  Secondly, you need to develop your point of view and your style and that takes time with your music, knowing it, studying it, opening yourself up to be influenced and consistently challenging yourself.  Thirdly, you need to know yourself as a person, work on your issues, develop your philosophies, experience life and people.  And finally, you need to share your craft with others, get feedback, get experience, collaborate, expose yourself as an artist. With all of that said, do you think that takes two or three years?

I’m also going to say something controversial.  I don’t want to hear about luck.  I hear a lot of DJs say, that DJ got lucky. Luck is an open door and either you’re ready artistically and skilled enough to make an entrance that sticks and elevates you, or you aren’t.  Blithely saying that  a superstar DJ is where they are because they got lucky is an insult to that DJ and also allows you to cop out from the hard work you have to do to get to where you want to be.   Even if you see a DJ that has a prime slot and you know they are not ready or doing a good job – remember people can always tell.  The cream rises to the top – I truly believe that, and it has nothing to do with pure luck.  There, I said it.

Patience with yourself:

There may come a time in your process and development where you are just so frustrated you want to toss your gear out the window.  Before you toss yourself out the window with it, let me remind you that being a great DJ means knowing you will go through this.  You will make mistakes, you will spend hours and hours listening to tracks and nothing sounds good to you.  Don’t force it.  Be patient with yourself.  This also means not rushing into something your gut is telling you isn’t right for you or you’re not ready for.   If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.  Now, there’s a disclaimer with this.  It’s important to challenge yourself, get out of your comfort zone – this is important for your progress and sitting back saying “I’m just not ready” all the time may be a symptom of anxiety or another creative killer – perfectionism ( I talk about perfectionism in my paper here ).

Patience with a situation:

Let’s say your playing out and the dancefloor is just not responding – if it’s empty you should know how to handle that.  But let’s say you’ve been on for a while.   Instead of going straight to a more aggressive track or copping out and playing a favorite – patiently listen to what you are already doing and really think about a creative way to deal with the situation.  That takes patience.  Try a solution that is more subtle and progressive and see what happens.   Changing things drastically in your set will only temporarily fill the void.  You need to be absolutely sure you’re doing it for the dancefloor and not to manage your anxiety or ego because the dancefloor isn’t throwing their hands up in the air over you.  The dancefloor is an organism and you shouldn’t shock it or be fake with it, you need to nurture it and be patient with it.  You need to build a dancefloor in order to sustain a dancefloor.  It is also your job to sustain the night even if you’re not spinning the entirety of it.   If you can set up a rager for the next DJ trust that you will be acknowledged ( hopefully you are spinning with wonderful collaborators who will appreciate the send up ).  And even if no one acknowledges you did it – YOU know you did it.  It takes a patient attitude to not get praised for something you did.  Patience with a situation is key to learning and reinforcing your creative process.  By stepping back and evaluating the situation you increase the chances that you will take the proper course of action.  Be mindful of rushing to cop out like behavior – this is temporary and not helpful to your progress.

I’m sure there are more ways a DJ can be patient.  I would love to hear from you what you think makes for DJ patience.  The bottom line is that the more observant and patient you are of the art, yourself and the situations you are in, the better you will be to handle what comes your way.

Recap: It takes 10 years. Don’t throw your gear and yourself out the window.  It takes patience to build a dancefloor.

If you found this interesting and want to share your thoughts – drop me a line!

Source: Ericsson, K. “Creative Expertise as Superior Reproducible Performance:  Innovative and Flexible Aspects of Performance.” Department of Psychology, Florida State University, 1999.