Own that Floor

We’ve just come back from a great weekend at Hullzapoppin’ (extra qudos for such a wonderful event name!), and apart from the high point of making it through most of a pure jazz-steps stream intact with a still-not-entirely-healed calf muscle, my non-dancing highlights included presenting the latest version of my DJ Introduction workshop, and being allowed to close out the whole event with a two hour set – which in itself was a real privilege. As ever, these last two have inspired a few thoughts, and given how long it has been since my last post, I feel like sharing some them.

There’s two particular points in the workshop that always seem to spark some debate. The first of these is that I never prepare for a set. It used to surprise me that people find this odd, and one of these days, it’ll be the focus of a blog post, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

The second of these comes under the heading of a DJ’s role(s) at an event, where I suggest that a DJ should “Invest themselves in the event, and assume a degree of responsibility for its success.” Reactions to this vary, but people are often surprised that I make this suggestion.

One of the questions people ask is quite simply: “What does that mean?”… which is a fair question.

It certainly doesn’t mean that we become single-handedly responsible for an event’s success or failure – that is hardly fair, and there’s too many other factors involved for that to be possible.

A dance, however, can live or die by its music, and providing the right music is a major responsibility. We need to care about what we’re doing, and that caring needs to go far beyond the “here’s a track I like” mentality that I see from time to time. Or, indeed, the “here’s a list of tracks I like, and now I shall go and dance to them” school of DJing (fine at your own events, but I would never do that at an external gig, paid or otherwise).

One word which can sum up what we need – in my view – to do is simple: “Care”. Care about the dancers on the floor, care about the ones sitting out. Care about the beginners who can’t cope with the higher tempos, or more sophisticated rhythms. Care about the speed-addicts who want to swing out at tempo, or to dance with more intricate musicality. It’s a lot to take on board, but to do a good job, we need to at least make the attempt.

Most of all, the way I’m beginning to think of it is this: I have to take ownership – I must own the floor, the dancers, the mood and the atmosphere. It’s all been entrusted to me for the duration of my set, and I have to respect that, fully focus on them, and do my utmost to make sure everyone has an amazing time. And it’s a two-way thing – the times I’ve been able to really do that, I get that enjoyment back in full measure – for me, it’s every bit as fun as dancing.

So that’s pretty much it. Own the floor. Everyone wins.

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