In a documentary available for free on YouTube, Glitterbox, a nightlife brand and record label, gives us an insight into what club culture is and how it has, for many people, become an important turning point in their journey of self-expression and acceptance.
For decades, dance floors have been places where people came together in diversity and acceptance. The songs are more than just beats: the lyrics carry positive messages; they are meant to bring people together and empower them. Honey Djon, a trans producer and DJ of colour, describes club culture as a "safe place for people of colour, for non-gender-conforming people, for trans people, for Black people, for Latin people." Clubs were created by people who needed a place where they felt safe, in every sense of the word. It is all the more true for clubs created by LGBTIQ+ people of colour as they did not have this feeling of safety in the streets, and sometimes in clubs - especially those with a predominantly white heterosexual clientele.
Following Lucy Fizz, a trans woman who dances with so much energy on the dance floor, The MX Fit, a French man of colour who saw his feminine side embraced in clubs, and TeTe Bang, a lesbian who found in drag performances a mean to express herself, the documentary explores the odyssey of artists who have found acceptance through communities in clubs. Clubs became places where they felt safe, and where they could take the suffocating masks they felt they had to wear in their everyday life.
"It is that feeling of people telling you that you're perfect as you are, you don't have to change, what you're doing right now is good enough." - TeTe Bang
We are taken on a historical journey of the disco and dance culture through John "Jellybean" Benitz, a famous American DJ, and his knowledge of the New York City club scene that evolved from Black, Hispanic and LGBTIQ+ communities in the second half of the 20th century, a journey that tells the story of how it became a place where marginalised people came together, in all the possible meanings carried by this expression.
Through American actor and singer Billy Porter, we are told the tales of a Black gay man who came out in the early 1990s, when the AIDS crisis was still largely ignored by the American government. Billy Porter portrays this generation who had to come to term with their sexuality in a time where society stigmatised LGBTIQ+ people. The dance floor became a "place of healing" for him and many other LGBTIQ+ people who could leave their everyday life problems behind clubs' doors.
With these portraits and the history of clubs, we are reminded of how liberating it feels to be on the dance floor and let yourself go, something we, unfortunately, have not been able to do for over a year. While we have managed to keep a sense of community, it is very different from being physically together and being surrounded by an energy that only stems from clubs. It is not surprising that since March 2020, many have taken clubbing online through video calls. People have adapted to the current situation. Club Quarantine (@clubquarantine on Instagram, @reachclubq on Twitter) hosts an LGBTIQ+ nightclub on Zoom on weekends attracting hundreds of young people who come dressed up - or, and that is the beauty of it, in their pyjamas - and have a good time for three hours, or more if there is an after-party. And while the feeling is different, these online clubs are new spaces, accessible for an even bigger part of the population as people who do not have access to “physical” clubs, whether because of a disability, health concerns, or kids at home. The Zoom links and codes are shared on their social media if you feel like clubbing in the comfort of your home on a Friday or Saturday night! (Be aware of time zones as the hosts are from the USA).
For more information: www.wherelovelives.film