I’m in a club that costs something like two grand a year. It’s called an Arts Club, but I see precious little evidence of artists apart from the pictures on the walls. I see a lot of tired hardworking nine to fivers winding down in their smart clothes. Women in tall heels. Men in universally dark suits and white shirts. All of the men have product in their hair. The women adjust their makeup in mirrors around the dance floor. The band is essentially an extremely good karaoke. They’re singing pitch perfect versions of radio one singles from the last ten years, to a track. I think they’re occasionally miming.
The last conversation I had in this Arts Club was about different computer programming languages. The relative merits of Python vs MatLab. That’s likely as close to art as we’re going to get here. Nobody in The Arts Club seems to work in the arts.
We came here from Ecstatic Dance in a gym in Camden. Two hours of hard crazy wild dancing. I’m still wearing a tracksuit and trainers. So is my friend. We are both wet with sweat, with tired legs. The dancing that’s going on here in this self conscious club is about as far from ecstatic as you can get. Coketastic dance is perhaps the right moniker. It mostly involves moving your arms like a penguin and gurning. That’s probably why all the men are wearing penguin costumes. Women in crippling heels occasionally look my friend up and down and scowl. “You’re the coolest person here,” I tell her, and I mean it, tracksuit and all.
In the middle of the dance floor a couple doggedly tries to inhale one another, faces and bodies ground together amidst the writhing flock of penguins. Nobody bats an eyelid. I go to the bar. That’s my first mistake. A glass of prosecco and an alcohol free Becks. £22.70. No wonder there are no artists in evidence. Perhaps Damien Hirst should show up and get a round in. I doubt I’ll ever come here again though so may as well get the full experience, including the horror of seeing the bill.
I’m parked round the corner on a single yellow. I’m hoping I won’t get a ticket after that round. The advantages of not drinking are supposed to be that you save money. But at least I can drive home. I won’t have to wait at a freezing cold bus stop. Because somehow, 2am happened. Time to go.
I remember when I stayed sober for exactly a year and I was always driving people home. I quite liked it. And this evening I didn’t miss alcohol, even though I did have a placeebeer.
The atmosphere in the two dancing rooms today couldn’t have been more different. My first time at an Ecstatic Dance class and I was slightly dreading it would be a bit like organised fun, but it was very well run. Like a sober rave. People were ‘aving it. Nobody was self conscious. Drum and Bass, psytrance and a spot of garage mixed up with tribal dance and with brilliant projected visuals. Everyone was joyful at the end of it – beaming. We gathered round a table to sweatily eat fruit after the class and it tasted so good. We had all done accidental exercise, and lots of it. Dancing to keep fit. Joy.
Then the penguins, looking each other up and down and locking their jaws as the young musicians on stage earned their tutorial fees with their amped up karaoke hit parade. Identikit lonely hearts boosted by booze and fine tuned by cocaine, trying to focus on the room through the fug whilst automatically moving parts of their bodies in a staccato imitation of the thing formerly known as dance. Everyone with a drink in their hand, and the drinks so expensive. London. Oh London. Tomorrow there’ll be more dancing. And all I want to do is lie in a bubble bath and read my book on my new bamboo bath tray…