You better run for your spandex, because Club Lyfestile is an epidemic dancing the nation.
Bravado night at Mix, a rooftop lounge and bar downtown, hosted a 13-person dance troupe from Philadelphia on Thursday.
Bravado is a party held at Mix every Thursday night. Past guest DJs include Nick Catchdubs, Designer Drugs, and Treasure Fingers.
I was able to follow the dancers around town for the night, and had the pleasure to know fun as I had never known before, the Club Lyfestile method.
The dancers are Versastile, Bumble Bees, RazzMaTazz, Champagne, Señor Sexweed, Jovius, Blackout, Miracle, Aquamarine, Marvey, Zephyr and Azimuth. They are followed by a videographer, Autofocus. Videos of the groups can be found on their site listed below.
A hungry hoard of dancers set up a changing room that functioned as a space for a grand entrance on the Bravado dance floor around 10 p.m. before hitting the streets of Downtown Sacramento in their regular day wear.
I was able to guide them to nourishment, and conducted a group interview over Chinese noodles and rice at Plum Blossom.
The genesis of Club Lyfestile (CL) was at the advent of caffeinated alcohol beverages, according to lead CL-er, Versastile.
A group of friends decided on a dance team concept, and Miracle, recalls one of their practices at a friend’s house in Philadelphia. “Somehow someone brought a case of Sparks to our practice, then we just flipped out and started dancing," she said. "We turned the living room into Club Lyfestile.”
Club Lyfestile is essentially an ever-evolving set of enthusiastic people who embrace the do-it-yourself ethos with open, glittered arms. Their outfits, choreography and music are all self-produced.
Versastile is considered the “dad” of the group, because of his hand in helping found the group. He also leads in much of the choreography.
“We’re all amateurs," he said. "A couple of us maybe did dance before, but we’re not like a professional group. When people see us dance, they’re not like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing. I could never do that!’ It’s more like, ‘Wow, that was awesome. I could do that!’”
Jovius, the burly half of the wardrobe sewing team, said that all you have to do is “show up to practice” if you want to be a part of the team.
This was the case for faux-hawked Bumble Bees. “I saw them play once and I was like, ‘That’s it,’ and then I went to practice the next day," she said. "That was three years ago.”
CL is in its fourth year running. This is their third tour but first full-fledged nationwide journey venturing past Chicago.
About two years ago CL collaborated with Philadelphia club owner John Redden to perform at his space, The Barbary. Redden is a DJ under the name JHN RDN, and he worked with Designer Drugs, another DJ duo, to create a monthy party called Live Forever.
“I don’t think we fully realized then what combining Club Lyfestile with a regular club DJ night would be like, but once it came into fruition it was a formula that really worked,” Redden said. Before playing in clubs, CL could be found at block parties and house parties in Philadelphia.
Shortly after joining forces with CL in a club setting, Redden joined the troupe as Blackout. On the current tour, after performing with the dancers, he spins a DJ set with electro beats, and mixes bands like Animal Collective.
Over dinner, I brought up the topic of religion. Their MySpace page advertises the group as Wiccan, the dancers say jokingly, but their beliefs align with other-worldliness nonetheless.
“We regularly talk to the Dance Gods,” Jovius said.
Everybody chimed in unison, “The Dance Gods,” in reverence.
“They control our days and if our whole tour goes well or not," said spunky RazzMaTazz, a self-proclaimed fishmonger.
The Dance Gods have worked their magic on the crew. No longer do they have to dumpster-dive for scrap spandex and upholstery fabric to be economical.
“Now we go to designer spandex outlets,” said strawberry blonde dancer Marvey.The group’s (tight) budget accommodates sparkles, yards of spandex and neon everything.
“I really love the idea of the second skin, so I taught myself how to sew so I could make spandex outfits,” said the burly Jovius.
The group has about 40 costumes for this tour, thanks to the labor of Jovius and Zephyr. The spandex onesie is a staple outfit and comes in a variety of patterns and light-reflecting colors.
They created rainbow "vomit-tards," a variation on the unitard, for a stunt where all 13 members jumped through the mouth of a 30-square-foot giant baby head.
As much as the stunts and performances are practiced, Redden finds there is still an air of suspense to the tour in its entirety. “We really go to these cities not knowing what to expect, what dance we’re going to do, the size of the venue," he said. "We don’t know where we’re going to stay that night."
After dinner, I was able to observe the troupe practice on the sidewalk next to a parking garage on 16th and L streets.
Some of the dancers piled into the tour bus and summoned me in an act of induction to the proper CL lifestyle. I received a “grand tour” of a small bus containing an explosion of fabric, groceries and, of course, cans of Max Fury alcoholic energy drinks.
Fearing rain, Versastile proceeded to take precautions. “You should close the windows — it might dance.”
The group burst with laughter.
It really is a lifestyle, but one that comes with a day job as well.
Zephyr is a nanny, Miracle is a photographer, Versastile is a union organizer and Aquamarine is a television editor.
The dancers are able to come from diverse backgrounds and contribute to an electric performance of gymnastics, disco-aerobics and jazzercise.
“It was overall something different and unique,” said party patron Haroon Ferhut. “I’ve never seen some kind of dance performance in a club.”
“It was raunchy to me,” he added.
Echoing the vibe, Bumble Bees said CL “is the kind of thing where you think that any one of us might make out with you.”
They gave a stellar performance that received applause and screams of encouragement from the crowd. JHN RDN’s set infused the dancers with the pulsating crowd on the dance floor until the end of the night.
It became clear to me throughout the night that CL is a cooperative that functions as one entity, each person relying on one another to create a finished product and way of life.
Among transcending culture and notions of self-esteem, CL exceeds gender and sexuality norms. Males and females alike don neon onesies, sport ambiguous nicknames and embrace spandexuality, a term a friend of mine introduced to me, and I passed on to CL.
They are an amalgam of joy, entertainment and raw modes of production that serves audiences from all backgrounds a dose of lighthearted fun.
“We want to cross some borders,” said Jovius, speaking on the future of the group. “We want to need passports.”
After the performance, CL parted for a taco run, and then north onto the next leg of their 17-stop tour.
Thank the Dance Gods for the alcoholic energy drinks that brought these fine people together under one second-skin.