If you watch the door of a No Lights No Lycra event it’s easy to pick the nervous first-timers. The apprehension of newcomers is understandable; the premise of No Lights No Lycra sounds strange when you first hear it. You arrive to a dance venue that’s alcohol and drug free, once there the music gets turned up and the lights get turned off. And that’s it—you dance. From humble beginnings in Melbourne, events now occur all over the globe–everywhere from Bendigo to Brooklyn. We caught up with Alice Glenn, one half of the duo who created No Lights No Lycra to find out what it feels like to dance like nobody’s watching.
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Can you explain the philosophy behind No Lights No Lycra?
At the heart of No Lights No Lycra (NLNL) is the belief that everyone can dance but social anxieties often prohibit people from enjoying opportunities to dance. So, we wanted to create a space that addressed this. NLNL is designed to be inclusive and non-judgmental, thereby encouraging people to explore and experience the joy of unselfconscious dancing.
First and foremost we want people to feel comfortable. Dancing in a dimly lit space invites people not to worry about what they look like.
Community is formed when people come together to share something they have in common–in this instance, a desire to dance. There’s now a really dynamic, engaged community worldwide who freely share their NLNL experiences on social media–it’s a beautiful thing to see.
How was No Lights No Lycra born?
It was started by myself and fellow dance student, Heidi Barrett. As dance students, we were fed up with traditional ideas about dancing; sick of environments where mirrors and lights and performance were at the heart of the experience. We really just wanted somewhere to dance freely without the pressures of being watched.
Do you get all types of people at NLNL events?
Anyone is welcome at No Lights No Lycra. We have both kids that come and 70 year olds. It’s an experience that’s suited to any body type, any fitness level and anyone who loves music. Your body will thank you. In our experience, most people become addicted.
How do people describe their first No Lights No Lycra experience?
It can be a bit daunting the first time you walk through the doors at NLNL.
It’s dark and there are lots of people dancing freely and wildly around the space. After a couple of songs it becomes easier to let go and enjoy the feeling of dancing without being watched.
It sounds like a key element is the darkness that removes self-consciousness. Why do you think people get self-conscious about dancing in particular?
I think our society breeds fear and self-consciousness. We are constantly bombarded with messages, through advertising and mainstream media, about how we should look and feel. These dance nights are a date with ourselves, a place to dance, free of social pressures, away from judging eyes and critical dance teachers. It is a place to let go of preconceived ideas about what a dancer is and should look like, and rather enjoy dance just for the blissful feeling it brings.
How has NLNL spread all over the world?
We started No Lights because it was something we needed in our lives, but over the last six years it became clear there are many people around the world who also share this craving for a safe place to dance. Just six years after launching No Lights No Lycra, we have more than 65 nights operating across the globe.
What do you think is the key to its success?
People come to No Lights because it is a healthy, safe and fun way to exercise. Gender, age and sexuality are irrelevant and no one cares how you look, as long as you’re having fun.
Are you surprised by its success?
We never set out to start a business and definitely never anticipated 65 communities around the world but on reflection it isn’t that surprising that it’s taken off.
It just makes so much sense.
Photography by Alan Weedon