For the past few weeks Neil Cutler has been setting up his lights and sound system and hosting Friday night dance parties at home with no one else around. But he hasn’t been dancing alone.
Since 2006 Cutler has been facilitating Nanaimo Community Dances, turning the Bowen Park auditorium into a welcoming, all-ages dance club on Halloween and Valentines Day.
“The philosophy is that it’s inclusive for everyone so we will have a lot of people with disabilities [and] families with young children,” he said.
On March 20, at the suggestion of a co-worker, Cutler set up his gear and hosted a live-streamed dance party from the OmTown Yoga Studio in downtown Nanaimo for the benefit of everyone staying at home due to COVID-19 precautions. He said it was a huge success.
“It made me realize how much of the philosophy of inclusiveness that had, but in a different aspect now for people who are stuck at home who can’t see anyone,” he said.
Cutler has since relocated to his backyard and this past Friday his virtual dance party was held via the teleconference platform Zoom for the first time, although he said most partiers were too shy to show off their own dance moves. He said his neighbours, on the other hand, have been “jiving away.”
Cutler said it’s “definitely strange” to be MCing through the microphone with no one present in-person, but he said there’s been a lot of interaction with his viewers nonetheless and the music is all-request.
“It’s so much fun the random songs that go out, like MC Hammer’s You Can’t Touch This and the jokes the come across because of course we can’t touch anything right now,” he said.
Although people are staying apart and alert, Cutler said his dance parties create an environment where people can temporarily put their worries “on the back burner” and enjoy a feeling of connectedness. He said people have been tuning in from Kelowna and as far as Alberta.
“The reason people are coming is because they want to connect with each other and we comment about [how] we’re dancing separately, yet we’re all dancing together,” Cutler said.
WHAT’S ON … Nanaimo Community Dances free virtual dance parties take place every Friday from 7 to 9 p.m. at www.nanaimocommunitydances.com.