I remember the very first time I went to a queer, underground gig. Nervous, giddy, and with only adrenaline keeping us warm, we peeked down one nondescript alley to the next, trying to locate the entrance which, arguably, was the toughest task of the night. There were no obvious signs of life other than a burly, stoic figure slouched beside a door. A flash of IDs sent us flying through a long neon hallway and then, after what felt like a tumble down the rabbit hole later, we heard the first pulses of the dance floor. Plunged into darkness, save for intermittent splashes of light across the walls, we joined the mosh of bodies of what might have been a hundred people. Packed safely like sardines in a tin can, marinating in our collective stickiness, I felt strangely at home flailing around carelessly. That was when I knew there was no going back from here.
Before we all got sucked into the chaos of COVID-19, I got to pick the brains of CRM and MX, who operate as designers by day and freaky dance party masterminds by night on their newest event series together: PLASMA. In a JJ Bean somewhere along the Drive, the duo quickly enveloped me in their gentle banter, humble demeanour and generous laughter telling me how it all started.
PLASMA was birthed in a moment true to its roots — on a sticky, cavernous, reverberating dance floor. “We started talking about it at a moment, for me, is kinda lost in the smoke-machine haze of a dance floor of some kind last year,” CRM muses. Chiming in, MX clarifies that while the exact moment is hazy, the intent and mutual desire to create a new event series was there — their affinity for similar aesthetics and spaces made them instant collaborators from the get-go.
Let’s face it, Vancouver has earned its reputation as No Fun City. But somehow, a handful of creatives with the will, vision and hope strong as steel, have managed to find loopholes large enough to make space for fun to happen. The underground scene, albeit small and precarious, is teeming with activity serving its community members with generous slew of DJs/music acts local and from out of town.
“We wanted to do something that wasn’t happening in the city right now,” CRM replies, when I asked him if he felt there was a gap in the Vancouver scene, “a lot of these amazing events happening in the city feels as though a lot of the music that is happening right now is driven by a particular genre, and is driven music first.” PLASMA, he explains, was an effort to put space first and let everything else fall into place. “[The] party series we want to create is more about creating a space first, the music could be something mutable”
That got me curious, why a space-first approach? MX reveals, “we both have a love for spaces and how to transform them,” especially of interest to them is digging deeper into “what [one] can do to transform a space with limited resources”. They both find that by conceptualizing the space — with anything from installation, light design, or manners of breaking up the space to allow for a more intentional and thoughtful process — people can gather with similar intention. For PLASMA, it’s all about what they can bring to familiar and well-loved spaces to make them look, feel and sound a little fresh and new every time. They are hoping that by being reflective of the communities who will show up, the atmosphere of the space could drive interactions on the dance floor, as well as friendships and community to flourish and extend beyond.
While PLASMA will mutate and shape shift from space to space, there is one element that will stay the same — the ability to dance.
Being someone for whom dance is a huge means of self-expression, CRM is thrilled to hold space for folks that share a similar affinity. “It’s exciting to try to create a space for people for whom [dance] is a primary motivation, more so than coming out just to be out, or coming out to hear a particular type of music over and over again. It’s more about a freedom of self expression, in a space that gives you a sense of security to be yourself.”
Dance is not only a way to connect with fellow freaky dancers, it is also immensely cathartic for some, especially marginalized communities. MX tells me, “For many people who are in the scene, especially for queer folks, you have to put up this image for most of your everyday, and dance parties are usually a space where you can be the way you want to be everyday.”
Being intimately entangled in these communities, MX and CRM both understand the need, and power of, dance in a space to put the safety and wellbeing of their people first. This could mean dance existing in all its forms, from all types of bodies.
“Plasma is for dancers, that includes people who dance in wheelchairs and of other forms of motion. It is not just for people who are able-bodied. For me its also for the queer, trans, femme, non-binary babies. Trying to create a safer space for [everyone] for self-expression, by building an ongoing series that does its best to take everyone’s well being into consideration, and let that become the identity of it.”
Whether PLASMA seems like the event for you, CRM and MX hope it inspires readers of Discorder to go out and start their own thing. New projects, new collectives, new voices filling voids in Vancouver’s creative landscape.
“We need as many people doing this as possible and doing it better than us, if possible.”
At the end of the night, we emerged out the rabbit hole completely spent, with woozy grins plastered on our faces. This time donning shiny, second skins, which kept us warm on that early winter morning. Steeping in the afterglow, a heavy silence hung between us as we made our way home. It was obvious that we had found something special — a whole other world, within the city, where we felt completely at home. There is something magical about these spaces that exist only for those who seek them out, brought together by shared affinities. For a city struck by loneliness, even more so now that we’re all stuck at home, I hope to see more collectives and events like PLASMA adding their unique takes to the scene.