Catherine Romano’s monthly column examines the rich underground dance scenes in Toronto. Covering performances, events and parties, Stage RIGHT offers a peek into dynamic subcultures through engaging interviews, observations and photographs.
Union Station, Toronto
Boom boxes, banana costumes, ’80s wardrobe and a mandate to dance your way through the city streets. Wondering what I’m talking about? Well, on a cold Wednesday night I was told about a Decentralized Dance Party. The details were vague, simply meet at 7:30 pm in front of Union Station at the corner of Front and York Street and bring a boom box. I soon discovered that this was more than a street party, instead it was a mobile celebration. Union Station was the starting point and by the end of the night, party goers would make their way up Bay Street, into the Eaton Centre and travel throughout downtown Toronto.
This kind of grand scale party requires a lot of boom boxes. Most are brought by DDP participants, but must be prepared in a very specific manner (you will need lots of duct tape) to make it through the night and transmit the party soundtrack. A handful of banana -costume-clad people act as the Elite Banana Task Force. More than just comedic effect, they help facilitate the party atmosphere by tuning radios on each boom box and crowd control (although the friendly police presence seems to mostly manage that responsibility).
Decentralized Dance Parties are site specific works on a grand scale. While the concept is more party than performance, DDP has all the markings of a show. Movement and music are brought to a public space, and spectators choose to either watch the crowd step, leap, twirl or participate in the parade. The manipulation of a traditional performance environment makes this city-wide production accessible and affordable.
The creative minds behind DDP are Vancouver natives, Tom and Gary. Interested in starting a party revolution, they began their quest using an iPod hooked up to a boom box, attached to their bikes. Years later, that original idea developed into a North American tour, with each party bringing thousands of people together. The DDP family favourite event was held in Vancouver in the summer of 2011, invading subways, buses and ferry boats, and covering 17km in 13 hours (yes, 13 hours!).
P.S. The very best moment of my DDP night was when a hundred boom boxes played the Beastie Boys while the crowd exited Union Station. This is the same route I’ve taken many times (usually with my young son). But on Wednesday night, I was rapping to (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) clutching a boom box. For a moment, I actually forgot who I was.