Alexi Duggins is at your mercy. So this week you had him emulate Patrick Swayze in a car park
You know how Baby in ‘Dirty Dancing’ gets into a party full of crotch-frugging hepcats by carrying a watermelon? Yeah, well, my entrance to Experience Cinema’s ‘getup- and-dance-along’ screening of said film is a bit like that. Except that I’ not transporting a ball full of seedy red goop. I’m carrying a preconception.
Well, okay: preconceptions, plural. Firstly, that I’ll have to do ‘the lift’. Secondly, that I can do ‘the lift’. And thirdly, that some advance tutoring ahead of the screening will help my ‘lift’. But you know what happens when you assume? You make an ass out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.
So things go wrong soon after I stride across Shoreditch’s Leonard Street Car Park and badger the evening’s dance tutors into giving me tips.
My tiny partner – selected by me for her Borrower-esque frame which means she requires both hands to operate a chip fork – is repeatedly instructed to run at me. Again and again, I’m told to grab her hips, throw her upwards and hold her aloft.
Unfortunately, somehow, in my mind, this becomes: lug her about like a sack of spuds.
Suddenly, there’s a huge explosion of laughter. I look around, confused, and realise that the entire event has stopped what it’s doing to watch me turn an elegant dance move into the activity of a trainee grocer. Awkward.
Worse still, it turns out I needn’t even have bothered, because, for the actual screening, the dance teachers have chosen moves that sync to just three key scenes – none of which involves ‘the lift’. All of which, however, cause a riotous party atmosphere. A spontaneous conga breaks out. Hundreds of women (there are almost no men here) careen around the car park. And as the film’s opening credits roll, it’s more carnival than cinema.
Each dance scene starts with the crowd leaping to its feet in a mambo-crazed Mexican wave. So many women whoop at Patrick Swayze, it’s like an oestrogen-fuelled fire alarm. When he pops his top off and pads around his shithole bedroom the audience is reduced to a howling ladypack. Then, for the final joygasm of an ending, there’s a euphoric singalong to the ‘Doot doo doo’ sax breakdown in ‘(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life’: it sounds like a kazoo flashmob.
Even better, this all takes place on silent-disco-style headphones. By the end, the audience’s own weird sound effects have drawn a crowd of gawpers to Leonard Street. A baffled moped rider screeches off the road to watch. People offer the bouncers money for entry. It’s a big, exhilarating triumph. I wish I hadn’t bothered trying to do ‘the lift’, though. Totally pointless. There’s no bigger lift than a party like this.