As a child I had a sort of natural ability to dance, much like my ability to play the piano. Mimicking whatever I saw was easy and I did it often. My parents, understanding that this ability would only flourish with proper training, put me in dance classes at a young age.
For years I studied ballet, tap, and jazz (which later became hip hop). It wasn’t until high school, where my free time was largely occupied by school plays or musicals, and field hockey and lacrosse, that I finally gave up dance lessons. It didn’t stop me from dancing on my own, though. Like the release I feel while playing the piano, dance often offers a similar euphoric experience for me.
Despite my love of dance, I was in college before I’d ever entered the “club scene.” My resistance to clubs stemmed from a variety of personal insecurities and fears such as:
- When I dance, I dance big. You’ll never find me “grinding” against someone, nor do I truly even consider that dancing. It’s more like dry humping a stranger and um, no thanks.
- I don’t like to be touched by strangers, especially in what I deem inappropriate ways (groping, grinding, sandwiching, etc…). It doesn’t matter that my form of dance is obviously not an invitation for these common club activities; it never fails that someone will try to invade my space anyway. This is a total lack of regard for someone’s personal preferences, in my opinion. Disrespectful even.
- Generally clubs aren’t places for people who take dance seriously. They’re a place to hook up and this is the last place I’d ever consider finding a suitable mate.
- Also typical of clubs, is alcohol consumption. Personally, I don’t want to drink in a public place, surrounded by a sea of strangers, with the potential of getting wasted and doing something I would later regret.
My college roommates finally convinced me to go to a club with them one night after many failed attempts prior. I only caved because it was their birthday and guilt has a way of winning people over. It wasn’t a totally horrible situation, but all of my opinions on clubs were only confirmed for me that night. In the end, my roommates were trashed and dancing on the bar with random people pressed up against them. And because I was there with them, any attempts I made to really dance were unsuccessful.
The type of clubs my roommates had exposed me to basically played remixed versions of whatever was popular at the time, in a cramped black hole in the wall. It was always dirty and hot, and unless you were drunk and blissfully unaware, it wasn’t the most desirable of places to hang out. I went a few more times after that with them, but usually found a corner to position myself in and became the designated driver.
After my roommates had finally won the battle of getting me to the club, my other friends, who had tried for years, felt compelled to try again. It wasn’t like I could really say no to them anymore so I let them expose me to a whole different kind of club scene, one that ended up being more my style and actually an enjoyable environment. So much so, that they dubbed me a, “club kid,” after just my first night there. The club was Redwood Trust, once a bank in Baltimore converted into a three story night club. Every level of the club offered a different feel.
The basement level was dark and smoky, with live drums accompanying the “underground” music they played on this floor. It was a lot of base that just thrummed through your body, pretty much the rooms where people got high and zoned out to the music.
On the second floor a live DJ hosted the show, and they didn’t just mix popular tracks, they actually made music mixing their own beats. This floor held the main bar, stretching across one entire wall of the club, and had neat architectural additions to it tying it to its former purpose, like the bank draws embedded into the bar (so cool). There were very little places to sit on this level as the main focus of this floor was dancing and nothing else. The better part of the floor was wood and at the opposite end of the bar, a stage stood for those that could really dance. I was there often. Foam fell from the ceiling on this level and lights swirled from every corner of the room to accent each dancer. This floor was my floor. The place I felt the most at home.
With a loft-like opening to the third floor, the music from floor two bled into the top floor, but there wasn’t much room for dancing there. Upstairs, on the third floor, another bar existed, and then every other free bit of space was occupied by couches or “lounge areas.” Maybe this place was intended to be the “wind down” place, but a lot of drugs and hook up’s took place up there and honestly, unless I was looking over the balcony at the dance scene below, I rarely ventured up there.
So, it was very wrong that I would find myself up there on the last night I attended Redwood Trust….
I was pressed onto a couch when I came alive, surrounded by people I didn’t know, with a strangers face in mine coaxing me to do things I was not interested in taking part in. My mind felt fuzzy, like my eyes could only see a blur of life in front of me, but somewhere deep in the back of my brain I knew what was happening was wrong. Somehow I found the strength to push said stranger off of me and stumbled towards the nearest bathroom. Once inside, I threw my face into a sink, heaving for air and wanting to throw up, while trying to understand how I even came to be in these circumstances to begin with.
Muffled voices met my ears, with lines like, “Oh my gosh, that’s her,” “Who?” “That girl who dances in the center of the stage,” “Yeah, you know, the girl with that black guy and those other freak kids that surround her,” “Lady Lux. She’s on Buzz’s site every week, don’t you know her?” “Somebody go get them!”
While their comments swarmed inside my ears, I tried desperately to come to, but my attempts were useless. All I remember was just being happy to be away from the immediate discomfort I’d felt moments ago before finding my way to the bathroom. And then suddenly, my friend, actually nicknamed, “Freak,” and the black guy the girls had mentioned seeing me with, showed up in the girl’s bathroom. In one smooth movement, he’d scooped me up in his arms and we’d escaped.
The scene that passed my eyes after that was quick, lots of muffled noise and blurred vision until I found myself being dumped onto a curb outside, with someone promptly shoving their hand down my throat. The whole ordeal was very, ‘WTF,’ for me, but I still knew it could have been heaps worse had I not found some sort of sense and been rescued by whoever went out to find my friends.
As I puked up my guts onto the pavement, the reality of it all started to become very clear to me. Beside me, my best friend at the time, Lauren, whom I’d bought an alcoholic drink for (because she was underage) and taken sips from while she flirted with a random guy, sat beside me in the same condition as me with another of our friends forcing her to puke up her guts. And the friend that had rescued me was finally returning to our group outside with blood on his knuckles looking ever-so satisfied. Shortly after him, while whipping my face clean, I took in a group of guys who I vaguely recognized being kicked out of the club, the leader of said pack missing a few teeth, and several of them bleeding from the nose.
I’d been drugged. Against my will, and for the purpose of being taken advantage of. Anyone that knows me knows that one of my biggest fears is rape. I’ve had a friend go through it and it’s something I can’t imagine myself ever recovering from. And that night, I might have been very close to the action. Very close to my worst fear.
Despite my love of dancing and my new found enjoyment in Redwood Trust, I could never go back. Even after the beating my friend did to those punks who tried to take advantage of my friend and I, and the club itself overlooking the violence he enacted on them, I just couldn’t erase the thoughts, the memories, from my head. That place was dangerous and it was no longer my scene.
I tried to go to another club once, a long time after that with my sister and her friends, but I resumed the designated driver position, waiting in a corner for the night to be over in that old black hole in the wall and never tried again after that.
I miss dance, truthfully, and would love to take up a class again some day, but my club dancing days have long been over. And I don’t foresee myself ever giving that scene a chance again honestly. I know I should overlook a singular idiot individual, but they killed it for me in the worst of ways. They made something I irrationally feared worthy of fearing, and sadly, I’ll forever hate them for it.