find out why every pop, cult and club movement needs it's own defining dance

It's a thing isn't it? Dancing, if you know what I mean... dancing is a form of expression that you either have or you haven't, so they say. You can learn it like singing but there's nothing like a good old spirited dad-dance to raise a smile and a bit...

by Princess Julia
08 May 2014, 2:05pm

Wolfgang Tillmans

It seems every pop, cult and club movement needs its own defining dance. In the olden days 'flappers' flapped to the Charleston, 50s cool kids Jived and Jitterbugged. The Northern Soul scene brought us the non-stop leg-sliding and whirling athletics that have become as important as the music. In the 70s disco dance peaked with The Hustle and all its variations, meanwhile down the front of a punk gig, pogoing was all the rage. Stateside brought us 'breaking' where B-boys and girls caused a sensation with their acrobatic moves. Oh, and head banging anyone? Fancy a rock out with a bit of stage diving? What about robot dancing - now we're talking. And take the old 'vogue' craze of the late 80s and 90s, a whole world of escapism that continually reinvents itself. Dancers take on model moves and redefine them into what, in my mind, is an artistic physical workout along with a sense of community and a lot of fun. What you dance to defines the gang you belong to.

 TV and video brought things further into the mainstream, in the late 60s and 70s TOTP brought us the tantalising Pan's People, Legs & Co and Hot Gossip, who all had some moves and managed to translate pop songs of the day with a camp flourish. With the advent of MTV in 1981 the pop video became everything. Here was the platform from which to showcase the most top twirling extravagant dance moves you could muster. I'm thinking Michael Jackson, Duran Duran and MC Hammer here. What a shame they dropped the Best Dance Video award in 2013, but you never know - it might come back, we can only live in hope. I reckon Miley Cyrus might win this year.

I've got a friend, Les Child whose background is in the classical realm of dance. He trained at The Rambert School of Ballet, is one of the founding members of the Michael Clark Dance Company and also played House Mother to our very own UK voguers, House of Child. His physical disciplines don't end there though. His choreography credits run like a who's who in the world of pop, fashion, film and art. You might think there's nothing to singing into a mic but Les is there to help you with a bit of gesturing. You might also think "catwalking - well there's nothing to that either," but let me tell you, putting one foot in front of the other in skyscraper heels needs a little help and direction. Les worked with Body Map and helped define the 80s era, he gave McQueen that extra swish and attitude, and more recently, contributed to the Meadham Kirchhoff world we love and adore. He's got Mick Jagger to brush up on his strutting stuff, the Pet Shop Boys to work the stage amidst dancers dressed in conceptual costumes and he's even told David Beckham where to direct his pout (facial dancing is there such a thing?). I once asked Les how he brought out the best in performers and he told me he got them to do what they do and then expand on what they felt comfortable with. That's the thing ain't it, even if you think there's no hope when it comes to posing and posturing, shaking a leg and bouncing your booty in some sort of rhythm, there's a chance that with a little guidance you might just master your own unique style and cause a sensation - not in an embarrassing way. Actually who cares if it is embarrassing, back to you Jarvis!

Learning how to dance is something you might get an option on at an early age, a chance to take your first steps into coordination and get dressed up in a tutu, a pair of tap shoes or take up street dancing. Most people give up after a while. Those with an aptitude for it carry on. I was watching Britain's Got Talent (don't ask) and a boy on there said he learnt how to dance from watching YouTube videos from an early age. Memeing his way to superstardom he's come up with some unusual combinations that actually worked... he got through. It's true you can learn most dances online.

In the early days of rave and trance music something peculiar happened akin to a religious experience. Club enthusiasts crowded together and got lost in the 4 to floor house beats of the day. Shuffling around, head nodding and pilled up, discos were the new churches, the DJ was God, the DJ booth a pulpit. I was there with my vinyl records DJing away in those days and the energy was quite incredible. It's quite a different experience when you're on the other side playing the records. Dance brings people together, along with music and ambience.

What you can do with your body can be a revelation. Pole dancing or burlesque express your inner vamp. One of my favourite choreographers Bob Fosse, created "highly stylised, sexual dance" routines that really were groundbreaking... go see Chicago or watch Sweet Charity from 1969 and see what I mean. Dancing is sensual, releasing and bonding and it's something we can all do in varying degrees so lets go and 'cut a rug' as they say... I dare you.



Text Princess Julia
Photography Wolfgang Tillmans

Meadham Kirchhoff
Michael Jackson
les child
princess julia