Hello Starseeds and welcome to Episode 5 of the Rachel Z Project which has the very saucy title of the ART of Go Go Dance and Atlantis Electric Circus. No need for any sort of lengthy introduction because the associated storylines with this particular episode should illuminate any meanings behind the title so let's jump right into it!
Once upon a time in a land not too far away, I was a Go Go Dancer. As in, I got paid to dance to live DJs for events around Toronto at some of the biggest and glitzy clubs. Before I get to this point however, I am going to go back to the beginning of my relationship with dance. Dance for me was always a way for me to connect with myself. I was extremely and painfully shy growing up and super sensitive to criticism. So, going to a separate dance class for me as a kid would be no bueno. That would be far too intimidating - what if I looked like a fool and messed up everything?
The Dance Teacher that Changed Everything
My elementary school was a small Catholic one out in the prairies of Manitoba. It was called St Emile School. Most folks in Winnipeg knew about St Emile based on the huge barn door look from the outside. That huge barn was actually the gym and the place where we would have all of our assemblies. There was also a Church next door that we would go to Mass at. When I was in Grade 3 we had a new Kindergarten teacher join the school. Her name was Miss Luba. She was also a jazz dance instructor and so offered free jazz dance classes during lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays to the entire school that were absolutely free to join. Those classes changed my life. Every year, all of the Catholic schools in my hometown of Winnipeg would get together and put on a dance performance festival. Ours from our tiny little school would always go ALL OUT. My favourite performance was the Flintstones where Terry Fredrickson… the lone guy in dance class being Fred Flintstone. I need to find that video - it exists. It’s also a perfect example of how things can mess up in the performance and still look good.
At this same time, myself and my best friends at the time: Laura, Jenn and Rachael would put on these elaborate performances for our school. It's really funny to me the popularity of TikTok now because we would spend our weekends making little music videos based on the choreography that we would learn from music videos. And isn’t really that what TikTok is all about? The first one we did (and I am filming an ode to it today) was “Are You That Somebody?” by Aaliyah, we also created a dance to “The Sign” Ace of Base and “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child.
In the safety of my own home, however, dance took on a whole new meaning and level of importance as an art form to express myself. The reason why I love dance so much is because I love MUSIC.
I have very distinct memories of hanging out with my dad in the basement of our first home in St. Norbert listening to actual vinyl records. Remember the Banana Boat song? My dad also really loved Elvis, hence why I have a soft spot for the King. My mom loved the OG power ballads of the 90s and Celine Dion was a special favourite. I am pretty sure every Filipino mama blasted the Celine Dion “Power of Love” CD - let me know if you had that experience :).
The house that I grew up in from about 6 til 16 had a sweet sound system on the main floor of a four level split, so I had a little “dance studio space”. I would make up complete dance routines based on my favourite songs and then pretend I was performing them since I also had a video camera at the time. A favourite CD of mine was Dance Mix 95. My friends and I actually ended up creating a dance to Saturday Night that even included fancy partner flips. At this same time my parents had enrolled me in acting and improv school at Prairie Theatre Exchange as well as performing in traditional Filipino dances for Folklorama in WInnipeg.
My mother is Filipina and dance and music is an integral part of Filipino culture. As a result, for me, dance is also another way to commune with my ancestors.
I have a favourite saying to people who claim that they are uncoordinated or they “can’t dance”. As much as I enjoy dance classes, there can be this idea proliferated that your ability to dance is measured by your ability to pick up on choreography. Now I am aware that this insight doesn’t comfort everyone because there are those who feel that a freestyle dance (much like what Go Go dancing is) - that is, a dance where you just listen to the music and do what comes to you is considered much more challenging.
In either case, I think that we as a society have forgotten about the importance of BODY LANGUAGE. After all, a large proponent of overall communication is non verbal. All things considered, dance is a powerful form of body language aka soma speak (hehe). As such, it can be leveraged as a powerful way to tell a story.
In high school, I took triple sciences but I also took drama and was also a part of my high school musicals from grade 10 until grade 12. Myself and Rachael choreographed dances from “The King and I” and “Les Miserables”. CATS was my final thesis in drama in grade 12 where we sang and performed Macavity. Let’s be honest, the best part of the old animated Disney movies was always the music that helped to add dimension and heart to the story. And for those who have ever performed on stage - there is nothing quite like the last curtain call and having the audience love you back.
My high school as mentioned in Episode 3 was an all girls Catholic High School called “St. Mary’s Academy” and so for our musicals we borrowed boys from the All Boys School. I even got to run auditions for dancers in Grade 12. Here is where a really nice story fits in as far as my belief that dance is for all of us. During the audition I distinctly remember fighting to pick a girl who didn’t do that well on the choreography but she had such a great performance factor that I fought for her to get a spot in Les Mis. She ended up eventually running auditions herself when she got to Grade 12 I found out! Which is all to say that choreography can be practised and taught but you can’t teach that special spark and performance.
When I got to University I auditioned for the Bison Dance Team and became one of their first members. That part of my life was one that was really fun (okay and maybe a little dramatic). We on the dance team got to dance in front of hundreds of people in stadiums, for basketball games, promos and in bars. And I learned the fact that discipline is necessary to bring a creative vision into a tangible reality. There was real training on being clean, and doing a dance piece over and over and over again until it was perfect, extra minus points if you forgot about your face or your toes weren’t pointed.
My dance captain and mentor at the time - her name was Crystal. I truly hope she is doing well. And let me tell you, this little blonde white girl could dance HIP HOP holy shit. I still remember some of her dances (like Amerie’s 1 Thing) to this day. I do also remember that she would never ever let us dance to Beyonce. It was her opinion, and I agree, that she can’t dance and a disservice to the other artists who could. I never was a part of the dance team without her, so I wasn’t privy to the drama that happened to the dance team when I left.
But now, I am finally at the Go Go Dance part of the story!
The Art of Go Go Dancing
When I first moved to Toronto, I was a part of a Go Go Dance company run by a beautiful Russian girl named Dasha. She always referred to me as a firecracker. We would be booked at clubs from Muzik, Uniun and special events at various swanky clubs in Toronto. When I Go Go Danced at Guvernment we would do 3 sets of 20 minutes a piece and get paid 300 dollars plus cab there and back. Honestly I don’t know if you could get a job like that now. My counterpart Go go friend Ginger (who now lives in LA) and I would play and mirror our moves on the platform.
At Muzik, we had to arrive at least 90 minutes before our first set for hair and makeup and costume prep. We would all be on this cake-like platform in an outward circle formation. We were fairies one night, ballerina dancers another, cyberpunk realness another night.
That was so very long ago now.
Guvernment has since been torn down.
And my dreams have now been telling me to create something from the ashes.
Atlantis Electric Circus
My university degree was a double honours in Psychology and English Literature. And so as I am writing the Dragon Warriors, I am also working on “Atlantis Electric Circus” which is the story of Atlantis embedded within the graphic novel of the main storyline.
A play-within-a-play is a literary device in which an additional play is performed during the performance of the main play. The concept of a play within a play (or a story within a story) comes from the French saying mise en abyme, or “placed into abyss.” Shakespeare himself was a big fan of using this literary device in both Hamlet - which is in my opinion overrated - and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Modern day Wizard Alan Moore even uses this device in Watchmen, having a pirate story be a comic book that makes an appearance within the world of the Watchmen. What a play within a play seeks to do is to further drive a point or a thematic point home. From my perspective, it brings a meta attention to the play-like and theatre-like way this reality functions. For the musical The King and I, there are whole scenes dedicated to the story within the story.
Bringing this back to what Atlantis Electric Circus is. There is a huge cosmic link between Shamanism, the ability to traverse and guide others through worlds, and being a musician. In my first Sacred Soma Storytime Serenade series I talk about the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus was a gifted musician and as such able to travel dimensions including venturing into the underworld to retrieve his beloved.
Likewise, Kevin as a DJ has helped me to remember who I was as a dancer. In the Rum Diaries, which is a movie about the late wonderful writer Hunter S Thompson he talks about being a writer - and finally being about to write like himself. And really, when I was taking dance classes in my adult life again I found myself frustrated when I couldn’t pick up on choreo right away, or if I didn’t look exactly like how the teacher was looking. And remember, after Go Go Dancing I had returned to my regularly scheduled Archno-matrix life. At this time, I did get back into taking adult dance classes in Toronto and even joined a performance group called the Badass Babes.
Since Mushroomland, my perspective as it comes to dance has shifted dramatically.
Movement and Music Magic
When myself and Kevin were still personal trainers at the old Extreme Fitness at Yonge and Dundas, I used to use the empty studios to rehearse fitness routines and put together dance routines. Kev would come by and just watch me play.
And now that I have the privilege of having Kevin DJ at home, I am able to rediscover new music that deserves to be embodied and moved to. Combine synchronicity with formation and the right energies - why couldn’t we make magic right?
There is a wonderful psychology behind how moving in sync with other human beings releases Oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone. This is why really good sex would do the same thing between partners - amirite? ;)
Additionally, dopamine, the motor hormone that is also responsible for the body’s reward system is intrinsically related to movement. And this is a perfect way to bring this particular episode to a close. I am creating my very own Go Go Dance crew called the Infinity Dancers. We are planning a performance showcase on February 4th for the dawning of the Age of Aquarius with the performance of “Atlantis Electric Circus”. Please stay tuned for all of the fun details of that event coming up!
I hope that you found this Episode of the Rachel Z Project entertaining and if you have any particular songs that move you, I would love to know what they are! Until next time, stay blessed starseeds!
If you would like to catch the previous Rachel Z Project Podcast episodes, please check this link out.