Steppin' into the Screen | Where Love Lives: A Story of Dancefloor Culture & Expression
"We marched on streets, we fought for medication, we fought to live and the dance floor was the place that we went to be with each other, to heal, to recharge...”
Where Love Lives was advertised as a Glitterbox documentary, that it was not. It was however a mesmerising montage of struggle, inclusivity, club cuts and heartwarming characters. If you go into it with this understanding then you won’t be disappointed. What did Granny always say? Keep your expectations low and then you can only be pleasantly surprised.
For those of you who know me, you’ll know I’m the rambunctious disco devotee and DJ Shady Lady, so when I saw that Glitterbox was making a documentary on all things dance floor related I was shook, Glitterbox is a company that I feel a cute yet kindred spirit with. To paint a picture, within the first minute of the mesmerising montage my heart began to hurt, it was a perplexing feeling. It hurt so bad, to be still stuck in a party-less lifestyle and yet hurt so good to feel nostalgic about how lucky I am to have had those moments in my life. If you’re a disco-devoted-glitterazzi-dance-freak like myself then when you watch it, you’ll get the same feels I did.
Simon Sunmore, owner of Defected and Glitterbox kicks it off with “I don’t know how people find their way onto the dance floor, everyone has an individual journey, everyone has a story to tell” the mesmerising montage proceeds to do that as follows. Focussing on the resident DJs/artists like Honey Dijon, Kathy Sledge (Sister Sledge), The Shapeshifters and the resident performers of Glitterbox we see the overall mission statement of the film is the dance floor creates community, it brings life to people who have been disenfranchised and lets them soar beyond that.
Fortunately it does give historical referencing to the beginning of the dance floor and it's given by resident DJ Jellybean, in a nostalgic NY tour guide style. He reflects on how lucky he was to experience iconic DJs who started it all in The Big Apple. For those of you who haven’t learnt the origins of the dance floor, first of all shame on you and second of all it started with the Gay, Trans, Black and Latino communities of New York.
If you’re listening to disco, house, techno, EDM and everything in between, it is essential you know where its roots started. In 1971 these gay and trans communities weren’t allowed to be seen dancing together as they would be arrested (pause for disgust and outrage at our history) and there was nowhere else to turn so they found a safe haven in places like The Loft (bless you, David Mancuso) and Paradise Garage (founded by Michael Brody and iconic thanks to Larry Levan). A place where they could set their soul alight without bigotry or fear. If you want to learn more about this, then I highly recommend reading Love Saves The Day by Tim Lawrence, it gives an in-depth look into the history of American dance music culture from 1970-79.
Nicky Siano also deserves a mention here as he was one of the first DJs on the scene and is also interviewed in Where Love Lives “You have to remember what was happening socially, Civil Rights, the Vietnam War. People got out and protested everyday and ended the war and then they got rid of the President...people were feeling very powerful, people felt like they were bonded together and when the clubs opened it was a place where people could gather and share their power”.
This idea of shared power twinkles throughout. When I go to a club I so often hope for performers, dancers, some form of spectacle, it moves the club from beyond the black box to a sensorial extravaganza. Throughout this pandemic Glitterbox has always tried to elevate it's performers in their Virtual Festivals even when the club wasn't available and I truly applaud them for that! Glitterbox zooms in on performers like Lucy Fizz (transgender club kid icon), The MX Fit (French drag queen and dancer) and Tete Bang (club kid and drag queen) to give you a true understanding of their own club family. When Lucy started going out she began to see the community, a community she had longed for, a place where being transgender was unifying not misunderstood. For MX Fit it was a matter of the dance floor directing him down a safer path in life. Tete takes us through her “Drag Den”, a magical wardrobe of polyester princess fantasies. Billy Porter (Pose, Netflix’ fictional series on the Gay and Trans NY Ballroom and Voguing scene) tells his harrowing story of how the AIDS crisis directly paralleled the birth of the dance floor “We were dying, gay men first, were dying of a plague and nobody cared. The government didn’t talk about it for 8 years. We marched on streets, we fought for medication, we fought to live and the dance floor was the place that we went to be with each other, to heal, to recharge...”.
In each story we see how quintessential the dance floor has been for everyone interviewed, a
a place of acceptance, of empowerment and of love. I’m going to be a tad biased on this rating because if I was an English disco label incarnate, I would be Glitterbox, so I’m going to give this montage which dances between beauty and history a VG rating (check the Condition Board below). This film can be found here for free on Youtube. For the disco-loving friend who doesn’t know their dance floor history this one is for you!