Introducing the anti-dance class
Forget the mirrors, perfectionism and self-consciousness of most dance classes. The antidote has arrived in east London
I spend a lot of time wishing life was more like a musical. Surely there are few situations that couldn't be improved by a spontaneous outburst of synchronised dancing. And it turns out I'm not the only one who thinks that way. Sink the Pink (yes, it's as rude as it sounds, but let's leave it there) are a camp party crew who run club nights at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club and Dalston Superstore, and in an inspired move they've just started up their own dance classes. The idea is that every week you can learn a routine to a different song, and then when you go to their club and that song comes on, the place erupts with flashmob-style unison dance mania. Obviously I had to try it.
Rocking up to Bethnal Green for the very first class, I come through the door to a chorus of hellos from the Sink the Pink family - clad in a riot of floral leggings, neon bumbags and pastel Lycra. Feeling somewhat underdressed, I'm directed to the clothing rail where, unlike the ballet classes of my youth, the supplied uniforms are anything but regulation. Suitably (ie ridiculously) attired, it's time for a serious warm-up, reawakening some muscles that haven't seen action for a while, and getting perilously close to BGWMC's sticky carpet.
Then Lady Gaga blasts through the speakers and we're off, punching the air, vogueing, strutting and over-emoting at the behest of instructors Lottie and Jono from '80s-ish dance troupe The Breakfast Club. Lottie shouts out the names of the moves, 'The Crucifix!', 'Touched by God!' and some helpful pointers, 'Do your sex face!' and there's a lot of laughing, whooping and cheering every time we manage to get through a new section, until - ta-da! - we have a whole routine.
You could call it an anti-dance class. There's none of the culture of perfection or creeping feelings of inadequacy you might have experienced at other classes. No mirrors, no cares, no competition, no sizing each other up, no worrying what you look like - just a lot of giving it your all. And a lot of sweat.
But Sink the Pink aren't the only ones rewriting dance class etiquette. Coincidentally, while I was vogueing like my life depended on it in Bethnal Green, two more dance jams with a similar set of values were going on in different corners of east London.
Dance Dance Party Party is a minor phenomenon in the States and recently got its first UK offshoot, a weekly session in Shadwell. The motto is 'no boys, no booze, no judgement' (sorry guys) and it's the perfect outing for girls who like to freak out on the dancefloor but don't want to neck a bottle of vodka or navigate endless club queues, extortionate entrance fees and leering blokes before they do so. You put on some comfy clothes, turn the lights down and the music up, and jump up and down for an hour in kinetic ecstasy. Again, a lot of sweating and a lot of smiling is the result.
If you boys are feeling left out, then head to No Lights No Lycra, an Australian import that offers similar lo-fi dancing thrills with no gender restrictions. Held in the crypt of St Peter's Church in De Beauvoir Town, you dance your heart out in complete darkness, which might sound a bit spooky were it not for the non-stop smiley-faced soundtrack. You can propose your own playlist too. If you were looking for an excuse to cancel your gym membership, you've just found it.