Endless asphalt, roads, subways, and concrete towers connect the dots in any typical North American city. These are the well-worn paths of the day-to-day, leading workers to their jobs and homes—infrastructure certainly not designed for dancing. Enter a dude with an MP3 player and FM radio transmitter, and add a few hundred boombox-toting partiers tuned in to the signal, and those same streets turn into road revelry rooted in ridiculousness.
This ridiculousness—with its own sense of purpose—is the Decentralized Dance Party (DDP), a free mobile dance event with no central location and no central audio source. Though Decentralized Dance Parties are spontaneous in nature, organizers still arrange a specific date, time, and location. What happens next is up to the crowd.
The DDP crew arrive at the site with boomboxes (though partiers are encouraged to bring their own), and the party wanders from there. Born from 20 people partying on a beach in Vancouver, Canada in 2009, the DDP crew’s Party Safari Tours have since brought impromptu, urban-dance free-for-alls to tens of thousands across North America.
Classics from the 80s and 90s like Bon Jovi and House of Pain lay the beat for these dance-wanderers. Wearing banana costumes, three-piece suits, and superhero outfits, they bounce along bridges on mini-trampolines and spin through skateparks on office chairs. They launch into public fountains and splash-dance, set up on streets and breakdance, partner-dance, and solo-dance. Rules are few; the more liberated and free the better.
The sense of liberation comes largely from people coming together to collectively reorient their psychogeography—that is, how people perceive the spaces they inhabit. As the party winds its way through the city’s chasms, previously well-trodden paths gain new meaning. New sights erupt into the collective party consciousness, and new ways to interact with the environment emerge. Public space is seen with new eyes.
Decentralized Dance Partiers ask not what the streets can do for them but what they can do for the streets.
Party instigators Tom and Gary pose an open question to their community: how can the DDP reach a larger audience? How can public-space-starved urbanites put their utilitarian asphalt and concrete to better (or more frivolous) use?
Tom and Gary have sworn to deliver Decentralized Dance Parties to every single country on the face of the Earth. No small claim, but they’re on their way. A redesign of their gear aims to put an affordable price tag on impromptu parties. One recent development, tentatively dubbed the Social Stereo, uses open-source technologies to allow boomboxes to talk to one another, share live music, and spread the party as far as the speakers stretch. This way, parties can erupt anywhere—decentralized dance as it was meant to be. Urbanites fighting the workday doldrums in any time zone may soon be hit with a spontaneous boogie, right smack in the middle of their day-to-day.