Monday, September 21, 2009

Surviving Your First Dance of Vice


Please consider:

It's a Saturday. You've just gotten out of your boring desk job filing papers and entering computer data, followed by, as always, a frustrating stop-and-go commute home filled with loud music and louder yelling at passers-by. You throw your coat and purse on the floor, remove the dirt &grime &business casual attire from yourself, and slide into the finest of dresses, striped stockings, frosted-cake-like shoes. Your hair is curled. You buy balloons. Your makeup consist of neutral-pink lips, false lashes, (rhinestones optional) and sequin balloons stuck to your cheeks. After hours of painting on eye makeup and perfecting your cats-eye liner, you and a pink-haired acrobat in Victorian undergarments spend another two hours navigating the train to Grand Central and the subway to Brooklyn. You wander with the help of strangers to your destination, making turns and deflecting commentary. You navigate through the shoddy neighborhood somewhere past ten PM, and just when you think you're really and truly lost with no help of salvation, you see it: down the block, a huge tempest of dry-ice fog pours from a glass doorway, threading through disturbingly syncopated music led mostly by what sounds like an accordion and drums. Coughing slightly, you enter - a young woman in stripes takes money from you, draws on your hands, and points you towards the bandstand of goths, lolitas, Neo-Victorians and retrofuturists. Corsets, bustle skirts, suspenders and frock coats are everywhere, and somewhere just out of sight, frolicking on the edge of your vision, is something glittery and intoxicating.

Welcome down the rabbit hole. Welcome to Dances of Vice.

Dances of Vice is, according to their website, "the art of nightlife revived." Set somewhere vaguely in the Jazz Age but accepting the chronologically misplaced from as far back as the Baroque period, each monthly party has its own theme, ranging from "Spring Awakening" to "Vintage Boudoir." This month's theme was Cursed Circus, and between the fairy lights and fire dancers, never could it have been better pulled off.

Anyone who's anyone in the Tri-State area (or, to be honest, anywhere in the US, if they're interested in the New Romantic movement) has heard of Dances of Vice, but not all of us have the pleasure of attending as often as we like. Interested in attending you first Dance of Vice? Parfait! However, do keep in mind:

  • If you've never been to the location before, get directions beforehand. Google Maps has a new public transit option, and I recommend it if you're familiar with the subway station, however it confused country mouses Victoria Suzanne and I quite a bit! We ended up getting there almost entirely on the kindness of strangers, but this is NOT A GOOD IDEA unless you're at least a bit familiar with the area, because some people do like to mess with the tourists - and trust me, if you're wearing a huge frilly dress or a corset and bloomers, you're considered fresh meat.
  • That being said, I've never found stereotypes to be less true than in New York City - When asking for directions I've never had anything but the most courteous of responses.
  • Dress nicely but appropriately. Victoria knew she wanted to wear a corset and bloomers to the party itself, but also that it may not be the best idea to walk around Brooklyn in that getup. Wear a light jersey dress over revealing outfits, or bring a skirt (as Victoria decided on) to throw on during transit.
  • Bring a bottle of water. Usually the bar has a pitcher and cups, but this time they ran out and we had to walk back to the subway dehydrated and hallucinating. Well, okay, not hallucinating.
  • Bring a camera, especially one with video option. You will want to record this, trust me.
  • Observe. Watch the acts Shien Lee has picked for you. Dissect people's outfits, and take pictures of the most inspiring ones. Take a good look at the vendors' tables (if there are any- vendors seem to vary depending on the theme& facilities available). Be an open door! Allow inspiration and acceptance to pass through you freely! (that's what she said?)
  • Speaking of acceptance, you'll need lots of it. Between the glitter pasties, men in sequin hot pants, and vaguely homoerotic fire dancers (none of the above distastefully so, of course), this party took even me by surprise at times, and I've seen my fair share of shocking occurrences! However, everyone and everything I encountered there was incredibly beautiful, even the most shocking - open your mind, allow the shock to pass unnoticed, and just absorb all the creativity &freedom being contained in that one building.
  • Mingle! This is a huge group of like-minded individuals. Strike up a conversation with anyone you find interesting, and be willing to have conversations struck up with you.
  • Of course, as a disclaimer: be safe. Keep hydrated, stay with your friends, and if anyone or anything makes you uncomfortable it is totally okay to remove yourself from the situation. Remember, this is a party: you're there to have fun, not to pass out or be made uncomfortable in any way.
  • Bring cash! There was a raffle there, as well as a few vendors with some really gorgeous wares.

Okay, so "anyone who's anyone" was really not the wording to use above - Dances of Vice is really an underground movement spread really only by word of mouth through the alt-fashion scenes of the Tri-State area &some other parts of the country. It's a really amazing atmosphere because of this - a sort of "The first rule of Dances of Vice is you do not talk about Dances of Vice" type thing. It's a raucous revelry of glitter, flashing lights, and scantily-clad beauties of both genders - I really don't think I'm exaggerating when I say I've never experienced anything like it. If you get the chance to attend one of these events, I can't recommend it more highly.

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