There's no instructors, no booze, no lights and absolutely no inhibitions...
In what would be the most bizarre DJ mix of the millennium, Jessie J’s Domino – an easy-breezy mid-tempo pop track – veers off into Prodigy’s Firestarter, possibly the angriest song of all time.
In a pitch-black room where people are only distinguishable by colourful neon lights, floating glow sticks switch from gentle swaying into frenetic zig-zagging. It’s like being in a room full of pissed off airport traffic controllers. I think people are moshing. I can’t quite tell. The surreal scene is compounded by the fact it’s happening in the Chorlton Irish Club, a community centre often hired out for funeral wakes.
What on earth’s happening here and why have we only just found out about it?
“My best friend lives out in Australia and there’s something very similar out there,” says Sue Handley, Dancing in the Dark's co-creator. “She’d been wanting to go for ages and dragged me along. It was just a very dark room full of people dancing. There wasn’t even any glow sticks."
“After five minutes I was actually crying laughing. I thought, this is mad, let’s bring it to Manchester.”
Sue and her partner Sean Connors launched Dancing in the Dark in December last year. It’s become Chorlton’s ingenious answer for people who hate fitness classes and don't fancy night-time clubbing.
For £3.50, you grab some glow sticks and dance non-stop for a solid hour. There’s no instructor, no booze, no drugs and no lighting, just bangin’ tunes and room to move. There’s no need to be a regular Patrick Swayze either, as anything goes: Dad dancing, the robot, sliding around in your socks, whatever…
“Exactly, it doesn't matter," says Sue, “It’s not like clubbing, where you’re there standing on the edge of the dance-floor looking around, self conscious about what you’re wearing or what other people are wearing, in here it’s a totally different deal."
It’s not like a fitness class either but you can still burn calories – up to 8,000 steps' worth.
“We found many people who find gyms really boring and a lot of people who don’t like classes. If you’re uncomfortable with your body shape or not that self confident it’s not something you’d want to put yourself through,” says Sue.
“With us it doesn’t matter what you look like; you don’t have to stay in time and you don’t have to remember any routines from the week before. Just come I, dance, come on your own, come with a load of mates. Yes, it’s quirky but it works for everyone.”
"Obviously our 70-year-old probably wouldn’t appreciate Firestarter, but she would like Elvis..."
It really is for everyone. Out of the anonymity of the dark and into the light emerged a mix of people of all different ages, colours and creeds all covered in sweat, out of breath and smiling ear-to-ear. One lady’s wearing the most fabulous leopard print dress, while other ladies and gents are in gym kits. Not that anyone cares about a dress code.
“We get people from ages eighteen up to 70. Quite a few blokes come, my other half does the music and dances,” says Sue.
That’d explain the music choices, then. What’s with the Prodigy?
“You have to play something for everyone because obviously our 70-year-old probably wouldn’t appreciate Firestarter but she will appreciate a bit of Elvis,” she laughs. “Sean does a mix every week of dance, club classics and Northern Soul. We have to keep the beat going throughout, we try not to slow it down.”
It’s easy to see what people are getting out of Dancing in the Dark - your endorphins soar. Naturally, I join in and bounce around to House of Pain’s Jump, a classic. I give it some welly, breaking into my long perfected running man because – from what I can see – no one really gives a damn what I'm doing.
“People come out absolutely buzzing,” smiles Sue. “It’s an hour where you can just devote time to just yourself and forget about the world.”
I’m sold on Dancing In the Dark. There’s scarce few opportunities where you can throw care to wind, forget to put on eyeliner and exercise your best Beyoncé dance routines in public.
It’s true what they say, everything really does look better in the dark.
Dancing in the Dark takes place every Wednesday at Chorlton Irish Club 7-8pm, find out more on Facebook