Community Life is a Dance Worth Doing: Baby Loves Disco is for US

Oct 15, 2015 | Alison Fleminger, Director of The Performance Project at University Settlement | categories: Arts

When I blurted "I get it! This isn't just something for the kids, Baby Loves Disco is for US!" - DJ Mikey Palms and MC Mister Marc laughed, high fived each other and instantaneously transported me to our middle school days in Brooklyn. Even though I was considerably taller than both of them back then, they were never short on the charm needed to egg me on and pump me up for fun times.

As we discussed bringing Baby Loves Disco, a national dance party craze to the Lower East Side, I felt my smile, a sensation I associate with coming full circle. Wise people say happiness is about getting paid to do what you loved to do to as a kid. Mikey always loved introducing friends to new music. At awkward school dances he got us groove 'in to everything from Led Zeppelin to Run DMC. So it no wonder he's spent the last 20 years creating some of city's best music venues, parties and radio shows.

Marc was always using his lyrical wit to keep life rolling. His skateboard was his mobile soapbox. So it's no wonder Marc became a member of the revered underground hip hop crew Brooklyn Academy and then later a respected non-profit communications advisor. And me… well I always loved inviting everyone to come party at my house. So it makes sense that I would become the Director of Arts at our nation's first settlement house.

Back in the day, we had to "roll deep with our posse" because traveling anywhere solo was ill advised. Now, I don't think we miss the days when the Lower East Side was riddled with cardboard homeless villages and crack houses but I think we do miss the connectedness that comes from needing to be literally surrounded by friends. I also think we miss the clarity of knowing we each play an essential role in keeping our urban tribe happy and healthy.

Growing up our go to social media tools were pay phones mix tapes, local radio shows, and graffiti. So "chill 'in" huddled all together on stoops until our backsides were numb was what it took to maintain our network. There was no Google to resolve our arguments. We had to map out our routes by sharing our lived experience. Placing our fate in each other hands wasn't a choice - it was a necessity. We had to put in quality time exchanging, combining and celebrating each other's talents and resources to get anything accomplished.

Of course, we all still believe in the profound power that comes from feeling rooted and present to community and it's our intention to pass this power on to our children. It's just that the obstacles have gotten more sophisticated. Even though it's safe to ride the subways, Netflix has quelled our need to travel for entertainment. Liking pictures of our friends' kids on Facebook gives us the illusion we know what's happening in each other's lives and our smart phones offer us so many life tips, we fear calling up a friend would be gratuitous.

Luckily there is an easy way to reboot and remember the difference between being plugged in and authentically connected. It's called Baby Loves Disco! This monthly family event is designed to tune us back into our bodies, our breath and our collective rhyme so we can show the next generation of Native New Yorkers that community life is a dance worth doing.


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