Oscillations, resonances, and other possible utopias: An autotheoretical exploration into dance and rave culture.

Lily Ashrowan, 2022

A note on style: This is a piece of writing which hopes to write-with, as opposed to writing-from. I wish to take up Haraway, to compose a story which is both regenerative, and can only ever be incomplete, making-with and telling-with unruly companions. My unruly companions are many: from Kathleen Stewart and Andre Lepeki, to my parents, and memory itself (always unruly in its retelling). I take up some of these interweaving threads of inquiry, whilst others remain to be composed. This is a work of autotheory, in the sense that it is indebted to my reading of other writers such as Chris Kraus, Paul B. Preciado and Sara Ahmed. It is also a piece of writing which wishes to engage with the 'auto': how I narrate myself; as well as the 'theoretical': how other people's texts orient me.

Choosing to write in this way also has a relationship to dance: I try to dance between anecdote and the theoretical intuitively. It is also a way of writing about dance which is true to its pre-linguistic affects, in the words of Jeremy Gilbert, Dance seems to resist discourse. In privileging the personal and the fragmentary, I am trying to resist conventional signification, or meaning production, to produce a piece of writing which is true to the fluidity and discontinuity of dancing itself. I simply wish to elaborate on or evoke some of the rippling implications, within memory, affect and politics, without privileging the linguistic over the experiential.

Leeds, 2018. I walk into a room populated by bodies writhing like a many limbed animal. Sweat on naked backs, latex and leather, velvet, prints. Chemical euphoria makes movement kaleidoscopic. Skin: the feeling of sweat, the feeling of touch, the radiating heat of both other bodies and your own. Sound: all encompassing, entering the body through the ear. The physical sensation of bass which rises in the chest. Sight: pulsing light, oscillating between brightness and dark, glimpses of other bodies. A suspended moment of brightness, broken by the darkness which frames it. This momentary flash of energy is illuminating. The possibility of something else shifts into visibility. It makes visualisable a possible other way of being, which is also the nature of hope. I can make contact with the future, because, for the first time in my life, I can see a future and it is filled with joy.

Frederick Jameson: Then, from time to time, like a diseased eyeball in which disturbing flashes of light are perceived or like those baroque sunbursts in which rays from another world suddenly break into this one, we are reminded that Utopia exists and that other systems, other spaces, are still possible.

London, 2020. In the midst of the first national lockdown, I had taken to going on long cycles every day, to escape my small London flat, gliding through parks and streets. I had just started listening to Burial and his music felt fitting to the moment: a lost city landscape charged with ghosts, looming from the past and future. His use of sampling and distortion evoked a sense of nostalgia for early rave scenes which seemed to mirror my own longing for the dance spaces which I had been disconnected from. The music enacted not just the rave, but the impulse towards nostalgia.

Burial encountered the rave scene as a second-hand memory, constructed through dreamy stories and tunes that his brother would bring home. This struck a chord of synergy within me. As I coasted through London's streets, I was tantalisingly aware of the ghosts of my parents who lived and danced here long before I came to. My own experience is saturated by this second- hand nostalgia: stories my parents would whisper in the dark, and the euphoric early club tracks which accompanied them. London felt haunted by the stories of my parents' experiences: events I did not witness but am nonetheless nostalgic for. The city was alive with these spectres and absences. My experience of the city felt empty of the promises these stories proposed. As I moved through the cityscape, I was attempting to negotiate a longing for these dance spaces in a time of extreme isolation, made impossible by the danger of proximity. Present day London felt like a city emptied of collective being together and collective action, charged by the ethical and legal demands of the pandemic. But accompanying this feeling was a longing for the original rave scene. Conjured up in my mind's eye, the early scene was defined by egalitarian openness, free parties and a socio-political movement of collectivity. This was a dreamt-up future that failed to materialise. In the words of Mark Fisher, Burial's London was a city haunted not only by the past but by lost futures.

London, 2022. It is February and I am drunk on the bus home. Light is beginning to bloom on the windows which are thick with condensation. I am tired, but my mind races ahead of me and I try to contain it with a book. As I read, I find the words ignite a feeling of resonance. I feel myself affectively attached, my eyes glow.

The book is Lola Olufemi's Experiments in Imagining Otherwise. It is experimental and fragmentary, as much a researched meditation on the nature of collective resistance, as a manifesto in favour of both hope and action. Excavating the past becomes a practical methodology towards a more hopeful future, enacting the trance inducing ability to reconfigure liberatory desires. Collapsing the sticky temporal regimes between the past, present, and future, is all about finding a liveable politics which Olufemi calls the Otherwise.

For Olufemi evoking these imaginary futures of the past, is a political project, it could make us take seriously the promises left in the whispers of what survived the past. When I hear by father and mother speak about thier experience of the early rave and free party scene, ephemeral moments of personal pleasure and political resonance, I would like to take thier nostalgia seriously. Their history, like the history of the scene, is both intensely intimate and politically universal. We really thought we were changing the world, my mother confesses. I bring up these old desires, old orientations and conversations and allow them to amass in the present. This evocation is a political project: We might be able to displace these hopes from a past which we have lost, towards a future we have yet to encounter. I am gathering together desires which might point towards a liveable future.

Lola Olufemi says, Look, I think love is a matter of positioning.

What direction are we facing? What are we looking to and moving towards? If we are talking about methodologies which move us, we are talking about their spatial aspects. In rave, this is inseparable from the intertwined relation between other bodies and our own. For Sara Ahmed, this is a question of orientation, the intracorporeal aspects of bodily dwelling. This invocation of orientation is also to think about a spatialising of desire: sexual orientation. Desiring is the same as turning towards. Where do we direct our attention? What do we desire? Towards what are we oriented?

At a rave, we dance facing each other. The DJ does not perform but rather enacts a continual moderation and modification of tone and direction. The performance saturates the crowd, there is no gravitational centre to hold our gaze. Coloured lighting and strobe are interspersed with moving dancers. This is an orientational shift: before the rave, most live music was centralised around the stage, the individual identity and ego of the music maker was central to our experience of the sound. Our bodies were turned towards a single point of origin. This shift in the direction of our gaze, shifts dancers to orient themselves towards each other. We are directed towards collective experience, and away from the individual. Rather than looking upwards, we look to those next to us. The performer has been replaced by the experiential aspect of intermingling bodies. Relationships are negotiated that are reciprocal and non-hierarchical: Peer to peer. Our energies are directed towards a sense of community. This spatial shift might also be a shift in the direction of our desires.

Leeds, 2018. I came up whilst holding the hand of a girl I had known and loved in private for a long time. I remember little of our conversations, only a kind of concentration of feeling. For the first time, I felt a reciprocal closeness which had as much to do with touch, as the vulnerability of honesty. We talked about family, and memory. We talked about loneliness and hopelessness. Her words resonated: there was a recognition of sameness in the other. Sonic resonance is, by definition, vibrations of the same frequency. It is a process of amplification. To attune might be the same as to be in tune: to be on the same wavelength. Somewhere, in the exchange, the relationship opened the possibility for a lessening of despair. Somewhere, in our exchange, we stopped speaking and began to dance. I remember the way in which she moved her shoulders, shifting from side to side with a coy kind of arrogance. Occasionally, that moment of intimacy resurfaces as I unconsciously emulate that gesture. Recognition of the other within the self. MDMA became a conduit for empathetic possibility. We were bound to one another, if only for the duration of an evening.

There is a politics to being/feeling connected (or not), to impacts that are shared (or not) and to all forms of attunements and attachments, for Kathleen Stewart, these intensities are ordinary affects. Affect here becomes the ephemeral moment of impact: When a moment of contact arises, what determines if it moves us? When do we feel a sense of rupture, or of resonance? Why do some moments carry gravity, whilst others leave me cold? When does meaning accumulate around a gesture, or an object, or an event? How can I begin to articulate the feeling of intensity which comes before, or out with, language itself?

We spilled out into the street, a joyful kind of collective. We walked through streets I had never seen before and haven't seen since. I remember the winding overpass which allowed us to cross the motorway. I remember the odd homeliness of the streets, glowing lights which offered a strange window into domesticity. I remember the way my arm linked into his. I remember throwing my head back in laughter.

After I dance, I begin to find ways of integrating the experience into my biography, into linguistic understandings like What happened? and How did it feel?. But, before this discursive transformation, I was there, and I was moving and I was changed: this is affect. The more I try to articulate what moves me to write, the more I encounter the element of experience which innately comes before our capacity to speak. Dance is an affective intensity after all: It can pool up in little worlds of identity and desire.

The venue was on the wrong side of town. It was the kind of place which would have inspired fear in me had been sober and alone. The houses had thinned, and the grey concrete building could have been anywhere, except for the energy that was spilling from it. Dazed dancers were spat out onto dull roads and frantic music amplified in intensity the closer we approached. Inside the room was taped with reflective foil, a cavernous space packed with bodies. Sweat seemed to accumulate on every surface, so much so that the walls were wet to the touch. And we danced. Flashes of green. Her face turned towards mine, grinning with delight. The sharp scratch of solvent hitting the back of my throat. My arms twisting in time. His bare back. The flickering lights from behind my closed eyes. He touches me and it passes through me like an electric current: sharp, harsh, cold. The surface of my skin is conductive. Fumbling for keys in the dark. Standing so close to the speaker that the beat reverberated through my ribcage. Red lights. A radiating love for faceless figures. Moments of clarity. The feeling in my muscles as they stretch and contract. I was dancing and I was dancing, and I was dancing and I was dancing, and it felt as though a wormhole of time opened up and swallowed me. The distinctions between the temporal zones of past/present/future crumble and dissolve. I yield to accommodate this shift. Had I ever begun? I am untethered from the constraints of linear time. The continuous folds over itself and implodes into singularity. The trajectory of my movement becomes circular. Dancing no longer had a beginning or an end, only now, now, now. An ever unfolding present, looping, and inescapable. Chronology collapsed.

Outside I remember the way she looked laid against the grass as we cooled down, gasping for air and trading cigarettes. I remember the dew of the morning. The sun had come up while we were in our little pocket of elsewhere, and we basked in its youthful glow. I remember lying on my back, and language evading me. Yet I was saturated with the feeling that something of myself had been left behind. Some part of me would continue dancing in that little room forever, held in a space outside of time. Lying on the grass, I felt intensely altered by the experience. I also felt grief. The part of myself that I had left behind lingered like a ghost limb: its absence felt. We walked home through the rising light. I remember the sound of birds. I remember the comfortable intimacy of our shared silence.

Why turn into language something which exists outside of language? Why try to speak about something which integrally resists capture? I am moved. How and why talk about dance? I was moving and I was moved. This is an impulse which acts itself out and sustains itself: I speak about affect, even though it evades language, in an attempt to have my words affect you. In the words of Kathleen Stewart, I am performing some of the intensity and texture that makes them habitable and intimate. I was moving, and I was moved and I wish to move you-

At home she shared my bed. I couldn't sleep, so I watched her soft curls on my pillow, listened to the soft ebb and flow of her breath. I looked out of my window at the sky, and I wept. It exploded out of me with such cathartic force that I still cannot quite integrate it into language and experience. The heaviness in my chest was nothing short of pure intensity: fear of the future, the pleasure of vulnerability, overwhelming happiness, crippling loneliness, deep sadness for an ending- My whole body ached with a feeling of heaviness which came before language itself. As I cried, it felt as though my body was betraying me. It could no longer hold all of the things I was asking it to. Tears leaked from my eyes. Sound erupted from between my teeth. I lost control of myself and my borders. She woke up and did not ask me to explain myself. She simply held me together for a time, her arms wrapped tightly around my torso, my head cradled in her neck. Eventually, as I regained my shape, we made breakfast together.

Emotions can crash over us in ebbs and flows, it is a process of moving through, moving with. Like the beat rises and breaks, not unlike the come up, the comedown, the plateaus and drop of drug taking. Feelings are held in us, both spontaneous and fabricated, but always real. Pleasure bubbles up alongside, before, and following, despair. How can I begin to articulate the wax and wane of these emotional intensities?

On a dancefloor, over a year after the death of a friend, his face resurfaces inexplicably to the forefront of my consciousness and I almost cry. I'm still dancing. Grief permeates me. As I dance, grief is transformed into joy, joy shifts into grief, the two are juxtaposed against each other. They are awash, they mutate. My grief is altered by joy: it becomes a euphoric celebration. My joy is altered by grief: it accumulates urgency and purpose. I find a way of living with, and moving through, these moments where emotions crash over me. Time moves on, we shift into lightness, we debate grabbing a drink, our feet get tired.

On the dancefloor, we are porous to feelings that move through us, both individually specific and collective. When M Cooper Minister talks about his experience of dancing through grief, he says This process embeds a spaciousness in my body. The presence of other friends alongside me on the dancefloor does not negate the enormity of this absence, but together we share the feeling, it expands beyond the personal. My loss is shared, and we pull together through the expansiveness of our collective grief and euphoria. There is a transmutation of the group. Nowadays, when I go to these nights, I cannot help but read into the urgency and resilience of this community of dancers. Perhaps we are all moving through the shared grief of a pandemic, with its disparate and universal affects. My longing is both timely and transcendent. These are portals into the self and other worlds.

If we are to talk about the love and delight of ecstatic movement, perhaps we must look to a much more archaic source. In Dancing in the Streets, Barbara Ehrenreich binds rave into a complex history, charting examples of ecstatic ritual from the Greeks to colonisers descriptions of African settlements. These rituals are a timeless practice which is united by music, dancing, eating, drinking or indulging in mind-altering drugs, costuming and/or various forms of self-decoration Ehrenreich argues for is a vocabulary to describe the intimate and yet transcendental nature of this collective being-together, What we lack is any way of describing and understanding the love that may exist among dozens of people at a time. My radiating love for faceless figures, chemical euphoria makes movement kaleidoscopic. A love that transcends the self, transcends the singularity of romantic love, towards love for a community. The space of the rave is intertwined with love: from explicit eroticism, to the transcendental pleasure of being part of a community. This phenomenon is as radical as it is innately human, in the words of Ehrenreich, the capacity for collective joy is encoded in us almost as deeply as the capacity the erotic love of one human for another.

Maybe finding a vocabulary to talk about the spontaneous, self-losing love which rave might provoke, we might be able to recognise its political possibility. The space is transformed into a brief utopia defined by egalitarianism, creativity and mutual love.

Pockets of experience coalesce at times as perfect manifestations of our personal and political desires for community and care. The term Utopia immediately evokes a complex history of its uneasy relationship to liberatory politics. It is, on the one hand, a real articulation of our desires, essential for orientating ourselves towards a better future. Yet it remains, by definition, forever unattainable. The Utopia is a perfect non-place; it forever resides in a future which has not yet arrived. Theorists such as Ann Cvetkovic and Avery Gordon, have endeavoured to rescue it out of the ghetto of non-existence, through their reframing of the useable and the everyday utopia. These, by their very nature, have a relationship to the present; they are about finding a way to live. Using utopia as an anchor point towards desires which already are, or can be, made manifest in the here and now. Gordon's utopia is bound by public and private relationships; an image of community working and living in-difference, of not waiting for another world but of being already there. Her useable utopia has changed its tense. The future-perfect has arrived in the present and must be negotiated. For it to be in the present, for it to have presence, means allowing our desires to be immanent and manifest. In the context of rave, this might be about finding already existing pockets of radical collectivity. Through the self-losing empathy that MDMA can, at times, produce, as well as a transcendence of the individual body to move as a collective one, the space of dancing together might be an already existing manifestation of our utopian desire for communities of greater care. Cvetkovik, similarly, uses the ordinary utopia to reframe movement as a covert politics, with the capacity to affect change. A politics of feeling that is manifest not just in the overt or visible social movements of conventional politics but in the more literal kinds of movement that make up everyday life practices of forms of cultural expression. The space of the rave is transformed into a useable utopia, through expanding our ways of moving and relating to the self and other, and enacting our desires. These are as everyday as fulfilling the craving to move your body to the beat, but also as utopian as a political being-as-many. This defines a present-day utopia, the simultaneously utopian and ordinary desires that can remake affective cultures.

South of England, 2019. In the aftermath of a period of extreme loneliness, I find myself attending a dance workshop in a sunny field outside of London. We are part of a motley and provisional assembled mass of people, in various states of disrepair. I nurse a hangover, my body still fragile from throwing my limbs around the night before. The leader asks us to close our eyes and find the movements already nested instinctively in the body. I feel a throbbing in my head. We are asked to trust the ways in which the body wants to move. My restless hands sway and float. We look for somatic experiences: touch, pace, a feeling of sadness held in the crook of my knee. We shift how we think about dance from its visual representation, towards its internal sensations. As I move, it is as though the force of gravity relinquishes some of its weight. I feel myself become expansive.

If we are to turn towards the somatic experience of dance, rather than its aesthetic form, we might look towards contemporary dance practitioners. Skinner releasing technique, Feldenkrais and Ohad Naharin's Gaga, are all styles of dance which begin with the internal sensations and conventions of movement. Naharin says in an interview: We work without mirrors. But still, it is a lot about form. It doesn't come from looking at yourself but really sensing where you are in space and the distance of your body parts from each other and from your colleagues and from the universe. Similarly, Skinner Technique is grounded on the idea that when we are letting go of habitual holding patterns, we can move more freely, articulately and powerfully. It begins always with the body of the dancer, not just attending to its conventions, but finding alternate forms of motion. These newfound movements have the capacity to alter us, or little by little, shift affective patterns and expand a somatic register according to which it is possible for bodies to act and react. The untrained rave dancer might enact some of this theory, without even knowing it. When we dance together, the conventions of ordinary movement fall away. On an ordinary day, I hold my arms at my side, keep them from touching fellow passengers on the street out of polite courtesy. I keep my fingers directed downwards, I do not throw them towards the sky, for fear of making a spectacle of myself. In the dance space, these considerations fall away- I can follow through on the impulse to raise my hands upwards in a gesture of exultation, or demand space around me. The rave dancer is untrained, unwatched. We are not dancing towards certain ends, but rather to feel, to be compelled, to follow through on sensory desires. We might enact or make manifest some of these theoretical approaches. The sensations of movement are centralised as the be all, and end all, of that moment. In the midst of this joyful dancing, filled with these sensations of heat, muscular tension and touch, I feel recentred in my body. Movement for movements sake is nothing short of a revelation.

The leader of the workshop asks us to turn towards another dancer and emulate their movements. I watch my partner move, the weight of her arms, rotation grounded in the thighs and pelvis, so unlike my own stiffness in the knees, the lightness of my hands. I try to match her inclinations, flex the muscles of my legs, hold my arms in line with gravity. Moving in this way makes me feel rooted, at ease with the weight of my body. Through this simple gesture, I not only become attentive to the patterns of movement which I instinctively and unconsciously enact, but also, I am immediately offered an alternative way of moving. Empathetic dispossession: I can take into my body some of her experiences. The possibility of alternate choreographies also offers up new affects, both personally and politically.

Scotland. 2022. In an email, my father writes, The value of protest, alternative living, tying yourself to a tree in front of bulldozer, partying all night even, I can't help feeling it somehow lies in a different and rather more occult domain entirely. When we're there, inhabiting those spaces bodily, it feels like one of the most precious and valuable things we have ever known in life, or will perhaps ever know, and that subjective affect, it is something like a pure experience of autonomous and unfettered existence, and with that follows pure joy. It is worth nurturing and believing in.

Wales 2021. We move through the crowd as though we are floating. As the chemicals saturate my brain, my limbs become light, and I feel that we are filled with grace. He greets people with an expansive familiarity which contains me. Confidence rises in my chest like hot air, and I can feel the music breach my body. Lights flash through me. His body defines the border of where mine ends. People around me swirl and shift. Bass makes my heart beat out of synch. I can feel his gaze on me. I am buoyed by the feeling that I am desired, that I am desirable. The immensity of the crowd pushes against the smallness of my body. He looks past them, and his directness makes the vastness of the space shrink. It feels as though the room might be expanding and contracting in time with my lungs: oscillating between the intensity of intimacy and the expansiveness of being a body in a crowd. My gaze swings. My feet hurt. A kind of methodically driven collusion between the itch to shift and gravity. I try to let go of the tension in my jaw, but the clench and release only fuels the feeling that my borders might be collapsing. I feel myself carried by the mass of people. I can feel the way that the lights shift and change the surface of my skin. In my peripheral vision I encounter another familiar face, but her smile seems to leer. Her face is warped and incomprehensible. I want to shrink at the state of myself. My eyes shift in and out of focus. I scan the crowd, but I have lost contact. The radiant heat of other bodies infringes on my space. They seem to tower over me, encroaching on my boundaries. My gaze swings in search of familiarity, contact, touch, intimacy. Where has he gone? Every lose curl seems to catch me in hope that it might be him. I try to fight my way through, without direction, but the current that swept me up now feels resistant to my desires. Oh joy! I recognise a figure in the crowd, her back, her neck, twisting through entangled limbs. The music sours. I want to feel its transcendent euphoria, but my mind is elsewhere. I cannot align myself with its resonant rhythm. I fight to catch up with her but remain on her whispered trail. She leads me to him. As a flash of light illuminates his face, I feel relief wash over me. She throws her arms around him, and they kiss. I moment which hangs suspended in the space of a beat. Time seems to stand for a moment. The other dancers seem to cease to move. Bile rises in my throat. I turn and I leave.

London. 2022. I write back to my father, I got your email yesterday while I was reading Jacques Derrida's A Taste for the Secret and something about holding these ideas alongside each other struck me. I was thinking about uncertainty, the other, the unknown and unknowable, and its importance, if we are to resist any kind of totalising view of the world. I think that is what I am grappling with: a negotiation between past and future, which doesn't totalise. To subscribe to any kind of politics which does not leave room for the radically unexpected, seems to be to lose any faith in any kind of future, because by its own logic the future is already known. What I'm looking for in some way is some hope, which is also to say that I'm looking for faith in a totally unknown future.

You talk in your email about feeling the feeling of subversion bodily, I think that's something which I have been trying to get at. The first time I took MDMA, the first time I went dancing, the first time I went to a queer club and saw this possibility of being otherwise- they were moments in my personal experience which felt like something which was unknowable until I encountered them, that totally transformed me. I have faith in those things, because, beyond my nostalgia for your experience, and mums, and hundreds of others, I did actually feel their subversive power, their capacity for transformation. What the outcome of that transformation is, I'm still not sure. I am trying to leave space in my politics for that unknowable uncertainty.

Maybe I am contradicting myself when I lament for rave's death, when actually, I don't think it is dead at all. I think the pervasive nostalgia for that era might be a sign that something new, and as yet unknown, might spring from it. The promises of the past might remain as yet unresolved. I think maybe that is why rave, as an entity, interests me so much: an embodied sense of building something together, which becomes through the act of building. Perhaps rave as political methodology rather than political ethos.

How might dancing be able to enact change beyond us? In trying to tease out a relationship between dancing and the political, I am remined of the linguistic links which already exist in conventional politics: political movements which are oriented towards certain ends, or strategic moves made between parties of individuals: This is a movement of politics. What, then, might be a politics of movement? Theorist Andre Lepecki proposes the Choreopolitical, as a term which begins to demand an explicit analysis of movements covert orientations, desires, and conventions. He argues that doing politics, is also a matter of knowing how to move: it is choreographic. He asserts, the loss of knowing how to move politically results in, as much as produces, the loss of being able to find sense, meaning and orientation, in moving freely. Rave is tied, more than anything else, to certain choreographies. Dance is the material of its embodiment. The way in which we move demands certain specific orientations and social relations: negotiations of space and expansiveness, looking in the direction of peer-to-peer connection, rather than being led by a single political organiser or musician. These chorographic conventions reveal, or perhaps create certain political inclinations. When we dance, we are learning how to move, so might we therefore be doing politics? In rave we are immersed in both sensory information, and direction. We dance, and the dancing itself is a means, it enacts both political and personal desires. For Lepecki, the political comes into the world as an enduring movement of obstinate joy.

London 2022. It's already late when a friend calls me. I'm feeling lethargic. We been up the night before until the early hours and I am ready to collapse into a dreamless sleep. He tells me: a rare opportunity. He asks: please? I pull myself from my warm cocoon, reassemble myself. The darkness outside drums with excitement. I meet him on the bridge. The Thames glitters with lights; crossing the river has forever made my heart surge with awe and trepidation. We wind our way through labyrinthine backstreets to a pin on a map. Slotted between a car park and a darkened nondescript office is our entrance. Hesitant on the approach, we are buoyed by wide-eyed people who appear from the shadows ahead of us: elegant figures in long coats and short skirts, swinging cans of beer by their sides. We follow them over the bank, down rough stone steps. A narrow patch of shingle forms a corridor under the arch of the bridge, from which people and sound spill into the night. Up ahead a girl laughs, ankle deep in water. Skittering sounds, can I nick a rizla? wandering- The closer we approach, the denser the mass of bodies became. We weave through the crowd. The rocky floor under the arch of the bridge has been packed with an immense sound system, wires spilling over the bank, carefully cordoned off. In the dark I could hardly differentiate one figure from another. My gaze shifts and revolves. Visibility, partial erasure. Facial features fade into obscurity, lit only by the spilling streetlights reflected on the surface of the river. Snatches of conversation. He grins at me, the white of his teeth flashes. Pulled, swaying, the ebb and flow. I graze against the skin of a stranger. Familiarity! A body presses against mine, envelops me. How are you, how are you doing, how crazy- The sound of us and the river is drowned by music. I think- Observations arrive and evade me. Immensity says move, move, crash, surge. Hello! Over here! Greeting people destined to remain strangers. I am awash with the desire to commit the night to memory, shining, spinning. The uneven rocks which ground me to the surface of the earth. The squirming movement of the crowd. I'm reckless with my watching: transitory, cradled in it. And yet, again, again, moments shift into memory, and I want to be here and now and nowhere else. Not the future past, my telling you this story, the narrative desire- what comes before my telling? This comes before: the booming bass which travels through me from head to toe. Now, now- my hand rises to touch his shoulder. Goosebumps form on my arms, indistinguishable from the cold. I commit to the anonymity of strangers. Obliteration seems paramount: to stop being a self, retrospective. The borders of the singular self collapse, I surrender to the collective body. I am becoming something which moves and unfolds, without memory, only the here now intensity- Every time another figure brushes against me is an event. I am alive with ever-unfolding bursts of energy which immediately bring me back to the present.

Gasp. Shudder. Drift. I give in to the sway.

Lola Olufemi says, Sometimes the girls just want to put theory down and dance.


Ahmed, Sara. Queer Phenomenology Orientations, Objects, Others. Durham, N.C.: Chesham: Duke University Press, 2006.
Cvetkovich, Ann. Depression a Public Feeling. E-Duke Books Scholarly Collection. Durham, NC: Duke University Press; Combined Academic [distributor], 2012.
DanceConsortium.. “Ohad Naharin discusses Gaga movement”. Youtube video. 2:08. October 25, 2012. Accessed 27/04/22 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGPG1QL1vJc
Derrida, Jacques, Maurizio Ferraris, Giacomo. Donis, David. Webb, and Gianni Vattimo. A Taste for the Secret. Cambridge: Polity Press in Association with Blackwell, 2001.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy. New York: Metropolitan Books-Henry Holt and Company, 2006. \ Feldenkrais, Moshe. The Potent Self: A Study of Spontaneity and Compulsion. Berkeley, Calif.: Frog : Somatic Resources, 2002.
Fisher, Mark. Ghosts of My Life Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. Winchester, UK: Zero Books, 2014.
Fisher, Mark. ‘Everything is impossible now...’ K-Punk, 2009. Accessed 27/04/22. http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/archives/011418.html Gilbert, Jeremy., and Ewan. Pearson. Discographies Dance Music, Culture and the Politics of Sound. London: Routledge, 1999.
Haraway, Donna. "It Matters What Stories Tell Stories; It Matters Whose Stories Tell Stories." Auto/biography Studies 34, no. 3 (2019): 565-75. Jameson, Fredric. Valences of the Dialectic. London ; Brooklyn, NY: Verso, 2009.
Katan, Einav. Embodied Philosophy in Dance : Gaga and Ohad Naharin's Movement Research. Performance Philosophy. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
Kozel, Susan, Ruth Gibson, and Bruno Martelli. "The Weird Giggle : Attending to Affect in Virtual Reality." Transformations (Bundaberg, Qld.), no. 31 (2018): Transformations (Bundaberg, Qld.), 2018 (31).
Lepecki, André. "Choreopolice and Choreopolitics: Or, the Task of the Dancer." TDR : Drama Review 57, no. 4 (2013): 13-27.
Kraus, Chris. I Love Dick. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2006.
Lepecki, André. Dance. Documents of Contemporary Art Series. London : Cambridge, Mass.: Whitechapel Gallery ; MIT Press, 2012. Minister, M. Cooper. "Dancing with Death: Finding Ritual Rhythms on the Dancefloor." Liturgy (Washington) 36, no. 4 (2021): 7-13. Nelson, Maggie. The Argonauts. London: Melville House UK, 2016.
Olufemi, Lola. Experiments in Imagining Otherwise. UK: Hajar Press, 2021.
Preciado, Paul B. Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era. New York: Feminist Press at CUNY, 2013.
Stewart, Kathleen. Ordinary Affects. Durham, N.C. : Chesham: Duke University Press ; Combined Academic [distributor], 2007.
Van Der Kolk, Bessel A. The Body Keeps the Score Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma. UK: Penguin Books, 2015.