- Deborah Sengupta Stith American-Statesman Staff
“Partying is the bastard child of ceremony,” Ghislaine Jean, aka Qi Dada from Riders Against the Storm, told us five years ago.
“When people go to party, they drink and they do all these different things because they’re trying to have an out-of-body experience; they’re trying to lose themselves,” she said.
Back then, Body Rock ATX — hosted by Mahone, her husband, Jonathan Mahone, aka Chaka, and Eddie Campos, aka DJ Chorizo Funk — was only a few years old. The monthly hip-hop dance party had Dionysian aspirations, but it hadn’t fully blossomed into the ecstatic monthly happening that turns 8 on Feb. 2.
As the years progressed, and Chaka and Qi honed their skills, they elevated the ceremonial vibe. It became a guiding vision that distinguishes the party from other events. “Most people go to some awesome dance parties in town to dance and have a good time,” Qi said in late January. “Body Rock is different. People come to get free. People come to be safe. They come to commune and share a hidden part of themselves they aren’t sure will be accepted elsewhere.”
The group celebrates their anniversary at Empire with a blowout bash featuring DJ NuMark from Jurassic 5. In honor of the occasion, here are eight things you should know about Body Rock ATX.
1. Everyone is welcome.
Jonathan Mahone: No other party is more diverse. We attract the hood, hipsters, hippies and gypsies — elders in their 70s, and cats just out of college, figuring their lives out. Professionals and partiers. Everyone feels safe and included to the point where parents even bring their children (teens and under) so they can experience what a real party feels like. Not a club. A party! We’ve seen mamas with babies in their arms dancing on the dance floor, giving everything they have. That is inspiring.
2. You might end up on stage.
Eddie Campos: We try to always create circles of dance on stage where people can be highlighted and showcased, expressing their movement for all to celebrate and support. We have impromptu Double Dutch sessions with an imaginary jump rope, soul train lines and limbo.
3. And nobody will be mad if you can’t really dance.
Campos: You don’t have to be the best dancer … but you have to give it all you got and let go of your inhibitions. It’s very clear to the crowd when someone is, and it’s inspiring to everyone. We’ve had such a range of body types, races, genders, backgrounds and identities grace the stage and fuel the energy of the party … and they have all received a roaring response from the crowd
4. It can get wild.
Ghislaine Jean: One party at Sahara lounge was themed Tribute to the Booty. There were three women sprawled over the pool table while a dude played all their booties like bongos. Why was it wonderful? It’s OK to want your ass smacked and it’s OK to want to smack an ass. Let’s just make sure everyone is having a good time. Let’s hold space to fulfill your passion safely.
5. It also can get deep.
Jean: A woman came up to me sobbing. She said, “I didn’t know how much I needed this right now. My child was shot at and I’ve been holding it. I needed to release it so bad. Thank you.”
6. They frequently assign a theme to the party, and some tribute nights have become perennial faves.
Mahone: Prince is wild! His energy brings out the raw sexuality inside everyone. “Our Songs in the Key of Stankonia” is also crunk as hell. Stevie brings the love, and Outkast brings that foot stomping, Southern pump.
7. But you’re always likely to hear something new and fresh.
Campos: We don’t start the themed night until midnight, so the first two hours I like to explore different sounds and styles to warm up the crowd and get them hyped before we embark on the theme. Lately, I make it a point to include some mixture of new dancehall, West Indian sounds and Afrobeats. The energy in these genres screams “booty ceremony,” but these genres are still definitely under the radar.
8. If it’s your first time, show up ready to sweat, and if you’re feeling down, they’ve got you.
Mahone: We care about everyone who comes. Literally. It’s hard out here. We need to a space to shake all the (expletive) off. That is real. This is not an act, and you can feel that immediately. It’s a special healing energy that has a tangible effect on you as soon as you open up just a little bit.