Feature: Stationary dancing

Friday 7 April 2006

The idea of dancing here, outside Tie Rack and surrounded by people I didn’t know was surprisingly nerve racking. Half of me was worried that when the time came I would chicken out. I had been paranoid about missing the start, so I ended up arriving far too early and killed some time wandering around the station, trying to look inconspicuous and looking out for others there for the same reason as me. Finally the time came, the clock struck 19.22 and a buzz swept through station. A cheer rang out and the event was suddenly underway. Approximately 100 people were getting their groove on underneath the departure boards and before I knew it I was one of them. The hardest part was 3 seconds before I started dancing. I was there alone and had no friends to count down with so I had to launch myself into the throng solo. Five virtuoso minutes later I was dancing like there was no tomorrow.

There was a constant flow of people encountering us: as each train emptied new spectators would arrive and react differently to the spectacle and this motivated people to keep dancing. Responses ranged from ignoring it to joining in to general bewilderment. Some spectators felt the need to investigate and many people stopped me dancing to ask what was going on, but some just stood and stared, hypnotic as it was. The unexpected element was that a lot of people were filming it on their mobile phones, and knowing someone was filming me somehow made me more self-conscious. Some people asked if they could, but others just did it and this felt quite intrusive into my personal space.

Despite many people’s attempts to make it a social occasion, the fact that everyone was listening to their own music meant that people kept getting drawn back into themselves, however much they tried to be with their friends and have a collective experience. The dancing didn’t only transform the space and stop people in their tracks – it transformed codes of behaviour, not only for the dancers but the onlookers too. Some of the guys watching took the opportunity to chat people up whilst they were trying to dance, but I suppose you can’t avoid the side effects of bringing a nightclub atmosphere to a train station! The best moments were when I was in my own world, just enjoying the music and I looked up and realised again that I wasn’t in my bedroom, I was in the middle of Liverpool Street Station. The experience was addictive and people were still dancing 2 hours later, when I finally headed home.

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