by Scott Wilson
Picture a young woman who just got off work – all stressed out, pent up with energy pulsing from the seams of her shirt to her blue suede shoes – she needs a release that the gym, and Tae-Bo cannot offer.
Enter No Lights No Lycra. Every Tuesday at 7pm until 10pm the stressed out and energetic mass of Chicago can head to Wicker Park on Milwaukee and the Defibrillator Performance Art Gallery for a chance to move and dance as if it’s a basement sleepover with your best friends. It’s dark, they serve no booze or drugs, you wear what you want, and the base is turned all the way up.
No Lights No Lycra is an international dance party started by two dance students in Melbourne Australia. They sought a dance experience that was removed from the hum-drum of rehearsals and coordinated movements familiar to them and their fellow students, but also not like a dance club, where alcohol and social expectations limit a person’s ability to move as freely as they are able to. The name comes from the fact that the venue is as dark as possible, clearly, but the Lycra part has to do with the uniforms the dancers have to wear as part of their vocation. NLNL, from its inception, is not a venue for professionals to practice or singles to mingle, but a place for everybody to move freely.
The movement spread to Chicago this winter by the hand of Chicagoland native, Whitney Richardson. While living in Brooklyn Whitney’s boss told her about a great way to relieve stress, and took her to NLNL in the basement of a cathedral. “You feel like you’re on a playground – liberated” When she moved back to Chicago last year life was lacking NLNL. After a month-long search to find a venue that was both willing and up to code, she discovered Defibrillator in Bucktown, which has become the new home.
Types of people who go to NLNL may be surprising. “It’s not a meat market, we get about a 50/50 male to female mix; a lot of men in their thirties who just want to get comfortable dancing.”
As for music, Whitney or whatever guest DJ they have plays an eclectic mix. Some classic club tracks, some oldies, electronica, hip hop –anything you can dance to, but more obscure than Top 40.
Though relatively unheard of in Chicago, No Lights No Lycra offers something new to the city: a public living room to dance in. For $5 at the door you can be a part of a dance phenomenon taking place in seventeen cities in six countries. Need to bust a move? Head on down.