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Tim Lawrence

Tim Lawrence is the author of Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-79 and Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-92. He is a founding member of the Centre for Cultural Studies Research and Lucky Cloud Sound System.

 

Abstract:

"Networking and Contact: Competing Forms of Queerness on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-88"

 In Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, Samuel Delany argues that in the pre-Disney era, Times Square’s cinemas and sex shops operated as “contact zones” where people from a variety of class backgrounds could meet, and he contrasts this social interaction with the tourists who now travel to the newly regimented, corporately-zoned midtown area in “networking” groups that are demographically homogeneous and hermetically sealed. Delany’s critique informs the division and sub-division of New York’s queer and queer-friendly dance scene of the 1980s, with the Saint illustrative of the way class, gender and racial divisions could become embedded when groups (in this case white, middle-class gay men) decided they wanted to dance in isolation. Ultimately the embedment of neoliberal economics, the acceleration of the AIDS crisis and the popular take-up of identity politics compelled queer and non-queer groups alike to organize around niche interests, tastes and allegiances.

Yet across the same period, Danceteria and the Pyramid attracted a broad coalition of dancers who were opposed to the conformism of the Saint, while the Paradise Garage and the Loft nurtured a form of contact that surpassed the democratic intensions of Danceteria and the Pyramid in their ability to attract multiracial and cross-class crowds. Along with Danceteria and Pyramid, the Loft and the Garage suggested that queer communities can flourish most forcibly when they are integrated, and that contact is more rewarding than networking. Illustrative of a moment when thousands of dancers would head to queer-friendly venues on a weekly basis, they also indicate that, in contrast to Delany’s depiction of the old Times Square, queer communities can reach across gender as well as genre.

My Speakers Sessions

Sunday, March 25
 

4:00pm EDT