The obligatory 'hands in the air' shot
They lust for the attention of your camera phone and they move like they’re your own private dancer. Yes, the cringey dancing DJs are bigger than ever and they’re dividing the dancefloor.
Where do you stand on dancing DJs? Yes of course DJs should dance. Or at least be able to try to. I’m talking about THOSE dancing DJs. Yes, you know the ones.
The ones who really go for it and not because they’re really feeling the music. Let’s isolate the dancing DJ demographic to those DJs who are maybe feeling the gravitational pull of their own ego a little bit more than the music.
Yep. THOSE DJS.
It seems more than ever, dancing DJs are a thing. And of course, they’ve always been a thing. And so they should be. If you feel it, let it show. That’s always been a central tenet of house music. And if you can’t dance to your own music, why should anyone else?
But we’re talking about THOSE dancing DJs. The cringe inducing ones who strike a pose that little bit too hard. The ones who play for the camera phones, not the hips. Who pucker and pout and preen and pace up and down the booth as if the space between the decks and the ice bucket has suddenly become a catwalk.
The ones who are really feeling it. Except “it”, isn’t the music. “It” is your attention. The saying goes: dance like nobody’s watching, but for some DJs, it’s clearly about dancing because everybody’s watching.
Let’s draw back for a second. The intention of this article isn’t to go all fun police on dancing DJs. It’s about the line that exists between genuineness and ego. And it’s an intriguing area of debate and one that is loaded with controversy. Getting lost in music is after all, the name of the dance music game, whether you’re a DJ, a dancer or both.
Playing for the spotlight is of course par for the course in certain genres and eras of dance music, perhaps most explicitly in EDM. It seems almost a requirement of the job that the EDM headliner must lead the party with moves that often cross into the farcical. It’s perhaps a role best demonstrated by Steve Aoki who has made a career out of going to the extremes with cream cakes and blow up boats to soak up every last bit of attention available in a party.
Cringey dancer or captivating performer? Satirical Instagram account Dear Morni's send up of Nina Kraviz's dancing recently attracted over 74 thousand views.
What is notable about dancing DJs in dance music culture today is how even the most po-faced of scenes such as techno, have become fertile ground for THOSE dancing DJs. The ones whose moves have become an object of praise for some people, and of ridicule for others.
Regardless of which side of that viewpoint you stand on, their presence is an interesting indication of far dance music culture and in particular techno, has gone from the shadowy days of anonymous producers hiding behind masks or hoodies.
Camera phone culture and social media have thrust underground dance music into the spotlight like never before. To the point where, perhaps the underground as we knew it, has ceased to exist. A new breed of DJs have emerged who aren’t afraid to capitalise on the opportunities that today’s media technology offer.
And when phones emerge atop the hands in the air. They dance. And preen, and pace. And why not you might argue? Isn’t dance music show business like any other realm of live entertainment?
It’s undeniable that there is a genuineness to certain show women and men. When in some people, the genes that drive the need to seek attention and perform, collide spectacularly and equally with the ones that drive musical talent. And our lives are all the better off for it.
Few people for example who would dare tell off Prince in his prime for getting a bit too into it on stage. And if Madonna hadn’t sang so brazenly about sex often while wearing little to nothing on some of her biggest tracks and videos, the world would probably be a less liberal place than it is now. At the time she was vilified by the tabloid press for using sex to sell. But with the distance of time especially, her records have become important artistic artefacts of self-expression and sexuality.
The line between ego and artistry can be a complex conundrum but even in the traditionally snooty world of techno, the genuineness in certain dancing performers is apparent. UK producer Mr G for example is a man whose life has been steeped in funk, and even in his mid-50s he is dancing harder on stage now than ever. A techno producer who toured as one half of the Advent in the hey-day of anonymous techno producers, like many other honeymoon ravers of the 80s, he was initiated into the scene while travelling around the UK dancing at soul and funk all dayers, where crews from the country battled each other on the dancefloor with flamboyant backspins and high kicks.
Mr G busting some moves on stage.
MR G is a dancing techno producer all day long and long may he continue to express himself behind a booth. Like the old maxim goes, you either have it, or you don’t. But be all that as it may, I still can’t help cringe at the DJ booth antics of some DJs when it appears ego-mania is out-tipping genuine showmanship.
In my own experience of DJing, there is a timeline of going for it in the booth. There’s perhaps the start of your career, when an excitement to be behind the decks transforms into going overboard in the breakdowns. But then as time goes on, you learn to get on with the task at hand and the frantic jumping around settles down to a more modest practice of attentive concentration and a self-indulgent dance when the moment draws you in.
By contrast to the stir some dancing DJs cause, I often equally cringe when dancers criticise DJs for “looking miserable” in the booth. I for one, would much prefer a DJ like ZIp or Helena Hauff concentrate, stour-faced on orchestrating a musical journey, than prance around wildly flapping their arms in a breakdown.
We cannot be certain of course whether those cringey dancing DJs are genuinely feeling the music and authentically expressing themselves or not. Only they know the answer to that question. Beyond it being an issue of personal opinion on how DJs perform, it is also a mark of how much the job of DJing has changed from the selfless task of selecting music to make people dance, to performing on stage to a passive camera wielding audience.
For me personally, that’s why the cringey dancing DJs are a little bit too much as they get in the way of what dance music is about. We dance to lose ourselves in music or at least that’s the part of dance music I signed up for. Disco for example was all about the dancefloor and rather than be passive spectators, the dancers WERE the party. The DJs booths of the original floors were often out of the way, or in same cases, completely shut off from the rest of the room. The dancer was the star, not the DJ and those long lost dancefloors seem like paradise in comparison to today’s. It’s hard to lose yourself in the music, when the scrum of people next to you are all jockeying for position to video the DJ jumping.
It’s ultimately your own personal choice which DJs you want to go and hear. My money is on the DJ who concentrates on the music, not the camera phone, and the one that dances with sincerity, not ego.
More light hearted stories below, to take away the seriousness of life:
Ibiza Random Rave Flights - Part 1
For The Record: Dance Music Needs to Shake Its Facebook Habit
Ibiza 2018 :: The Superclubs Evaluated