Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dancing Questionnaire 23: Luc Sante

Luc Sante is the 23rd person to complete the Dancing Questionnaire. Luc has written extensively on New York cultural history, and much more, and as you might expect has savoured much of that city's legendary nightlife as well as clubbing in Paris and elsewhere.

1. Can you remember your first experience of dancing?

In 1963, when I was around 9 years old and in St. Teresa's School, Summit, New Jersey, our teacher would take us once a week to the adjacent Holy Name Hall to teach us square dancing. The tune was invariably "The Old Brass Wagon," and Mrs. Gibbs may have sung it herself--I don't remember a record. One week, though, she plugged in the jukebox and played "My Boyfriend's Back," by the Angels, and encouraged us to frug. I'm not sure the experience was ever repeated, but it left a permanent mark on me.

2. What’s the most interesting/significant thing that has happened to you while out dancing?

Oh gosh, that's a tough one... Possibly it was meeting Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Mudd Club, probably late 1978. I swear I knew at first glance that there was something exceptional about him. He moved in with one of my friends, and then another, and he and I were good friends until he became famous, circa 1983.

Basquiat at the Mudd Club in 1979
3. You. Dancing. The best of times…

From 1977 to 1982, roughly. Isaiah's, a reggae club in an upstairs loft on Broadway between Bleecker and Bond  approx. '77-'79; the Mudd Club from its opening on Halloween 1978 until it started getting press three or four months later (and then there would be huge crowds inside and out); Tier 3 on White Street and West Broadway (tiny, but excellent sounds), 1980-81; Squat Theater on 23rd Street around '79-'81, irregular as a dance venue but *the* place for the all-too-brief punk-jazz efflorescence; the Roxy around 1982--a roller disco that once a week would become a sort of hiphop-punk disco, often with Afrika Bambaataa on the decks. And sometime around '77 or '78 a gay friend once took me to the Loft, which I'm sure you've read about; it fully lived up to the hype.

4. You. Dancing. The worst of times…

White people attempting to dance to white rock, pretty much always the case until 1973 or so, when a great many people of my acquaintance suddenly "discovered" James Brown. And then the last three decades, when dancing opportunities have been few and far between.

5. Can you give a quick tour of the different dancing scenes/times/places you’ve frequented?

My first real dance experiences were all in gay discos, early '70s (I'm straight, but had a gay best friend): the (old) Limelight on Sheridan Square, Peter Rabbit's on West Street, and the amazing Nickel Bar on 72nd Street - where Robert Mapplethorpe, among others, would go to pick up young black men, and where the level of the dancing was so amazing I didn't dare attempt to compete.

Summer of 1974 in Paris: Le Cameleon on rue St.-Andre-des-Arts, a tiny African disco in a barely ventilated cellar - but it was the summer of "Soul Makossa." Nine years later I was back in Paris and Le Cameleon had moved to a much larger aboveground space--an exhilarating experience.

Also, besides the venues noted in #3, the Rock Lounge (sleazy, but good music) succeeded in the same space on Canal Street by the Reggae Lounge, circa '82; the World on 2nd Street a few years later (too sceney for words, but you could shut your eyes); assorted after-hours spots such as Brownie's on Avenue A (not to be confused with the legit rock club of the same name that succeeded it), although drugs were more of a priority than dancing or music in those places. Post '83 I can only remember the short-lived but excellent Giant Steps--a jazz disco--and a series of retro-soul clubs (don't remember their names, alas).

6. When and where did you last dance?

The New Year's Eve before last, a private party in Tivoli, New York, a pretty good techno mix.

7. You’re on your death bed. What piece of music would make your leap up for one final dance?

Tie: "One Nation Under a Groove," Funkadelic; "Got to Give It Up," Marvin Gaye.

All questionnaires welcome, just answer the same questions - or even make up a few of your own - and send to (see previous questionnaires).

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