Dance like no one’s watching: a No Lights No Lycra review

July 4 2017

It’s no secret that like Carrie Bradshaw, I’m a shopping-is-my-cardio kinda gal. However I suspect quite unlike Carrie, I’m also in the carbs-are-lyfe camp and that’s the sorta thing that has a way of catching up with a person. So tonight I journeyed way outside of my regular cardio comfort zone and tried No Lights No Lycra.

What is No Lights No Lycra?

No Lights No Lycra was started in Melbourne by “two unruly dance students” who were looking for a place “completely let go” without the rigour and rules of dance class. How do you create a space for people to dance completely free of inhibition? You let them wear what they want, turn the music on and the lights off. And with this very simple premise, No Lights No Lycra was born.

Fast forward 8 years, No Lights No Lycra (or NLNL as they cool kids call it) is run in cities all around Australia and the across the world. My local NLNL (see how I’m cool now?) is in a hall at West End on a Tuesday night from 7-8pm. It’s $6 to go in, the lighting is dim before 7, at 7pm the lights go out, the music cranks up – a very fun and diverse mix of tracks – and it stays that way for an hour.

The ‘no lycra’ thing is not for real – you can wear whatever you want, and people totally did. I wore leggings and a shirt, but I saw people come in wearing their work attire, jeans, jumpsuits, crop tops and shorty shorts, whatever.

The no light rule, however, is pretty strict (the one or two occasions where someone picked up their phone was really obvious and lit up the whole room) and as you’d hope/expect, there’s a strict no touching rule. As a woman whose had a lifetime of being told to fear being in dark public places with strangers, I wondered if I’d feel self conscious. I did a little at the start, but it’s a very non-threatening vibe in the room, or that’s what I felt. It’s also mostly women. The Brisbane No Lights No Lycra has 150-200 people come weekly, so even though you can’t see people, you do really feel a sense of togetherness. And you really can’t see people – there’s a few cracks of light sneaking in under doors and behind curtains, but it’s black. After a few moments your eyes adjust to the light and you can get a sense of the space around you so you don’t bump into anyone… but you can’t see people. Just shapes.

And then you dance like no one is watching. Because they’re not.

Actual picture from No Lights No Lycra. (Lies, it’s not an actual picture. It’s dark in there. You can’t take photos. If you did take a photo, this is probably what it would look like.)

Why I wanted (needed?) to give this a go

I have always loved to dance. My childhood was filled with dance, dancing makes me happy and unlike running or riding or lifting heavy things, I don’t totally suck at it. I have tried dance classes for adults and never quite had the feeling I had as a kid. For starters, the adult dance scene is very svelte. Now I’ve banked some serious hours getting very comfortable with who I am and how I look, but standing in front of a mirror for an hour next to a swathe of women who look fresh off the cast of the Australian Ballet doesn’t really help the cause.

And as for the gym… I’ve just never really found my happy place there, it has always felt like the a struggle. And the longer I’ve been away from it or structured classes, the harder it has been to go back. Not just ’cause my fitness ain’t the best, but because I like to do what I’m great at. And while I fully acknowledge that everyone has to start somewhere, getting the ‘I’m great at this’ feeling can be really tough when you’re just not great at it! And I just don’t really want to come face to face with the limits of my fitness with an audience at this point in time. I don’t want to bag classes cause they really can be so great as so many people experience. But it’s just not where I’m at currently.

So I’ve been on the hunt for somewhere I could be a part of something and do the one type of conventional  ‘exercise’ that I have always enjoyed, but go at my own pace and without any shred of judgement.

I freaking loved it.

NLNL seriously delivered! I went to there to dance, or at least move… and move I did. But some unexpected things happened too. The most interesting: I realised how extraordinarily visible we are these days, or at least I feel I am. Surrounded by people, or photos, or reflections, or social media or thingsss all the time, it is SO rare to be invisible. I choose that, absolutely. But I hadn’t really considered that it may take a toll. It is so rare to be invisible and revel in the joy of it.

Reasons you may love the uninhibited vibes of No Lights No Lycra too*:

  • you want to discover your natural dance style
  • you have been seriously wanting to outwork outwerk your twerk
  • you like to let your hair out and dance with it flying around
  • you want to put your hair in a super high pony tail and flick it
  • you kinda like the feeling of yo’ jiggle when yo’ wiggle
  • your face gets really red when you exercise and no one being able to see it might be liberating
  • you have glorious DD+ breasts and sometimes you want to jump around but kinda just want to hold them still when you do so because skin elasticity but it’s not that socially acceptable to be grabbing your boobs… but is in the dark
  • you want to be totally unfindable for an hour… just one hour
  • you want to feel like you’re part of something in a room full of people you don’t know
  • you’ve become a bit addicted to buying feminist-themed t-shirts but have since discovered you kind of have nowhere to wear them
  • you want to be totally free of what anyone else thinks
  • you want to be totally free of what you think
  • you think that it’s fun to make a variety of not-conventionally-attractive facial expressions while you dance and prefer to be unseen while you do it
  • you just need to start somewhere
  • you think you may be secretly great at crumping but think that perhaps it’s best that noone ever discovers this secret about you *averts eyes*
  • you want to sweat ’til you smell your sweat but would prefer no one else to witness it
  • you’re just ready for something different
  • you’re just ready for something

*these may or may not be further examples of my personal experience. *more eye averting*

I was thinking about how to end this post and whether I’d say it’s for everyone. It’s probably not. But it has the very rare characteristics of not requiring you to leave your inhibitions at the door…. it’s a safe space for inhibitions cause it simply makes them invisible. I’ll be going back, and I highly recommend giving it a crack! Find a No Lights No Lycra near you here.

Have you tried No Lights No Lycra? Do you want to? Tell me of your thoughts and experiences! 

p.s. forgive me for starting so many sentences in this post with ‘but’. And ‘and’. Excessive stream-of-consciousness-never-quite-done vibes tonight. I blame the uninhibited dance!

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