No Lights, No Lycra emerged in Melbourne in early 2009. The word spread quickly and the original project soon became an international dance community spreading its wings all over the world from Berlin to New York, London to Vancouver, and Shanghai to Paris. Co-founders, Heidi Barrett and Alice Glenn admit that they still get very excited every time somebody contacts them from the other side of the world wanting to switch off the lights.
The project’s origins go back to Heidi and Alice’s university days studying contemporary dance and choreography. “We were living together at the time and would often dance around in our living room without the lights on and be like ‘Oh, imagine a room full of people doing this! That would be so much fun!'” Heidi recalls, thinking of how it was all meant to become reality one day.
But the necessity for NLNL came from a slightly different angle. “Alice and I just wanted to start a space for people to come and dance, without worrying about what they look like. And we really needed that space for ourselves”. She told me how dancing came to be part of her life, “I grew up with it! My dad is very musical. He was always at the piano, and I was always dancing around, putting on performances.”
The establishment of No Lights, No Lycra is a truly moving story of how two girls seemingly losing their passion for dance, gained it all back, and even more importantly were able to share it with people. “Studying dance all our lives, we had to always look a certain way in the mirror or repeat somebody else’s moves. Eventually, we have burnt out and lost the joy in it!” they say. “Turning off the lights was about us starting again with dance, discovering why we danced in the first place.”
No Lights, No Lycra is all about the freedom of movement, appearance and self-expression. It’s a place where people can dedicate one hour out of their busy schedules to just enjoy themselves, forget about their troubles and let loose with some great tunes. “Everyone dances at home in their kitchen or lounge room”, the project “is just a way of bringing everyone together to do that, with the energy around you”.
When I asked what it is that attracts people so much about NLNL, the response didn’t keep itself waiting: “In the world we live in, people are under so much pressure and stress in their daily lives. No Lights offers a place for them to come turn off their minds, shake it all out and feel part of the community”.
Heidi and Alice seem to be very excited about NLNL running at the University of Melbourne on a weekly basis every Thursday lunchtime, and why shouldn’t they? “We’ve always had Uni students come to our nights and it’s just perfect to have it on campus, so they can come straight after class or after an exam and release it all”. In case you’ve had enough of essay writing and you want to know where to go – Des Connor Room, Union House.
I’ve been there myself and can assure you that this ambitious project is loved by all sorts of people! Heidi confirms that “people from all walks of life, all ages, from five to seventy years old” come to dance. And this means that not only students are invited, but also all you professors, lecturers and wonderful staff members out there should come along too!
No Lights No Lycra is on every Thursday in May from 1pm to 2pm in the Des Connor Room in Union House. It is free for students, and a gold coin donation for anybody else.