shaking things up

"All Night Dance" Starts a Movement

Dancer Robert Tyree, the Regional Arts and Culture Council and others rally around a rarely-recognized cause.

By Anne Adams December 8, 2011

The Event

“Let’s dance all night, walk into dawn. Not once a year. Not with thousands of people. Not wasted. Every month, every week, every once in a while. To our health. With our friends. Quite well, tipping on sublime!”

As door personnel dispensed brochures bearing this John-Hughes-style exaltation, former funeral home The Woods hummed under the nonstop boom of house music and members of the local modern dance elite mingled with patrons as young as 18. Linda Austin wafted tentatively through the room in a bright floral pantsuit and white cowboy boots. Danielle Ross flapped and spun in her striped poncho. Angela Mattox, fresh from PICA Unwrapped, swayed gracefully in her floor-length gown. Two men in “Hammer” pants kicked into an impromptu dance battle, taking turns throwing down. A willowy 6’4" woman bent as if by the wind, and myriad men booty-shook with metrosexual abandon.

The casual observer on the scene might not guess it was a RACC-sponsored event, or that Robert Tyree, the tall figure haunting the fringes of the room, was the evening’s mastermind, driven by a passionate personal crusade.

The Mission

Apparently, the grant-winning dancer and his fledgling org All Night Dance began to approach clubs, civic orgs, and city government about a year ago, with a slew of queries: What would it cost to commandeer a club for 12 or so hours of dancing? Could he co-opt an unused or abandoned industrial space? How could his event accommodate 18-20-year-olds (aka, adults below the drinking age)?

The red tape Tyree ran into was tangled up with concerns for rights, safety, and community, and laced with pernicious “lifestyle” prejudice. “In America, few understand why anyone would stay up all night dancing. Rather than tolerating…they assume everyone’s on drugs,” he notes.

But All Night Dance were quick to remind detractors that long-duration dancing has been a form of community bonding and spiritual renewal ever since tribal times, and hence should be held sacred as both rite and right.

The Implications

Events like Saturday’s All Night Dance may be part of a general shift toward accessibility by our modern dance community. With the release of a free modern-dance-themed broadside called Front this summer, Mizu Desierto’s backyard butoh invitationals, and Tyree’s inclusive idealism, recent forays from modern dance have been refreshingly friendly and free of erstwhile “you just don’t get it” elitism. And in the process of expressing their objectives, these dancers have also proven very eloquent, debunking any assumptions that the physically fluent are verbally shy.

Sounds like PDX Pop Now! may be gaining a partner in crime. Having long pushed for more all-ages access to live music shows, PPN has apparently set a precedent for All Night Dance’s similar advocacy efforts. AND openly compared PPN’s mission to its own, making future collaboration seem likely.

Between Mike Daisey’s surprisingly well-attended 24-hour monologue in September, the month-long “Occupy” campout, and Saturday’s 12-hour dance-floor throwdown, fascination with prolonged public togetherness is undeniably trending. Why?

~ A necessary correction of a widespread modern slide into social isolation?
~ A step in Americans’ acclimation to dwindling personal resources?
~ A conscious desire for depth after technology-enabled breadth has spread thoughts too thin?
~ A post-religious desire for ritual?

What do you think? Are you drawn to long-duration events? Do you think staying longer means experiencing an art form more deeply? Do you feel the need to gather your tribe around a fire and dance all night?

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