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Getting down with the Barefoot Boogie

Gabe Joselow
Contributing Writer
By Gabe Joselow
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, February 19, 2004
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When I was handed an ad from the Tucson Weekly as a suggestion for the "What Not to Do in Tucson" column, I thought it was a setup.

"Dress-to-sweat barefoot boogie on a sprung Marley floor takes place every Friday. Plenty of room for freestyle, trance-robics, hip-hype, extreme dancing, contact improvisation, rhythmastics and physio-rolling. First Friday of the month is the Drum Circle."

What the fuck are trance-robics?

I don't know. All I know is this didn't sound like something I wanted to be a part of. Still, as the writer of WNTDIT, it is my job to take the hit for all of you. I'm your masochistic mascot, and this looked especially painful.

So I agreed to go to barefoot boogie on one condition: If I smelled patchouli, I was out of there.

I don't know much about contact improvisation, but I weigh all of 135 pounds, so if someone started improvising with me, I don't think there is much I could do to stop it.

I was decked out in my finest Adidas gear and ready to bust a move. My crew and I walked down to Seventh Street, crossing train tracks, broken glass and graffiti. We could not see the boogie haven, but we could hear the tribal groove pounding through the thin, brisk air. We followed the sound to the magical barefoot bohemia.

I feel I should explain something before I go any further. I am not trying to look down on or ridicule anybody. Nor am I trying to tell people how they should or should not act. I am just an adventurer into the offbeat, ludicrous and bizarre, recording what I see. That said, this shit was whack.

We walked into Orts, 121 E. Seventh St., also known as the "barefoot ballroom." The lights were very low and there were ropes hanging from the ceiling. The drum circle that had summoned us was off in the corner. It was like stumbling upon an ancient civilization in the middle of some primal celebration. But as I looked around, I realized these people weren't unusual or mysterious ¸ they were my parents.

Your parents were there, too, flailing and gyrating in orgiastic revelry. Sure, there were some grungy folk there; but for the most part, the people swinging on the ropes and throwing giant kickballs at each other weren't beatniks and hippies ¸ they were orthodontists and accountants. And yes, some of them were even making out on the dance floor.

Maybe I wasn't taking the right drugs. Or maybe I'm just not in touch with that inner white boy, because I could not dance the way they danced. I tried stomping my feet, I tried swinging my arms around a lot, I tried doing the lawn mower. But my moves were off, and everyone knew it. There I was, dressed to sweat, dancing like an idiot, but my heart wasn't in it. I tried rolling around on one of the kickballs, but all I did was bash up my knee, making any further dancing impossible.

The next step was to move on to the drum circle. We started on the outside of the circle where a few people were playing instruments. Some people were playing things that were definitely not instruments (I think I saw one lady hitting a bunt pan). We started bashing around on things, but we got some looks for hitting the cowbell with too much disco ferocity.

At some point, we noticed one member of our posse was missing. Ted had disappeared, and we feared he had been pulled into the make-out tent with one of the professional hippies. Instead, we found him glassy-eyed, entranced in the middle of the drum circle tapping happily at a set of bongos. I went in to join him, and within seconds, I was handed a drum and sucked into rhythm.

My rhythm was broken, unfortunately, by a man with two recorders stuck up his nose. He started playing them simultaneously and dancing in front of me, summoning me like a snake from a basket with his magical musical septum. The magic wore off when the drum circle disbanded.

We left in silence, perhaps a bit ashamed. But I think we all really learned something about each other, something we have all sworn never to tell another living soul. Nevertheless, the spell was broken, and we had to return to our world of espresso machines and wireless Internet.

But for a short while, we were truly alive with the boogie. It was beautiful.

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