Rave-o-lution in Tbilisi, 2018. Courtesy of Bogomir Doringer (I Dance Alone) and Naja Orashvili (Bassiani)
Last Dance
“If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part of Your Revolution” (Emma Goldman, 1931)
Dance music born out of
queer communities
new york
Club Bassiani
Safer Spaces
rave Revolution
Connected utopia
I Dance Alone, 2017. Courtesy of Bogomir Doringer
Giorgi Kikonishvili is one of Georgia’s first outspoken queer activists and the organiser of the Horoom Nights queer parties in Bassiani. During an interview, Kikonishvili described the club space and why the atmosphere is so memorable. The club space is enormous and has the highest quality sound and light system. Bassiani’s main dance floor was a swimming pool in the past, underneath the Dinamo Arena football stadium in the heart of Tbilisi. Kikonishvili went from swimming there as a child, to organising Horoom Nights.[32] The name Horoom comes from a celebrated Georgian war dance, the Khorumi. The dance has been created to remind the Georgian nation that to maintain peace one must be prepared for war.[32] That is the ethos of the Horoom Nights.
Members of the queer community continue to face inequality and violence. From New York’s dance floors in the 70's to Georgia’s club Bassiani today, dance floors form community centres in resistance to oppression and violence. However, a large number of representations of underground club culture fail to show the meaningful aspect of hedonistic raves. Dance floors that serve as platforms for progressive movements are victims of police raids. Places that facilitate societal critique and promote alternative values and cultures, can be a political enemy. Therefore, the clubbing community needs to reclaim their spaces and fight for them. Understanding the value of these safer environments is crucial in this fight. Furthermore, discussing the impact that dance floors have on marginalised communities can influence like-minded people. (This) research argues that the purpose of dance floors transcend hedonistic playgrounds, they function as platforms of resistance against the oppression and violence that the queer community faces. The following argumentation is derived from interviews with key activists and artists for whom nightlife plays an essential role. The study introduces dance floors from the past that have been fundamental for queer underground nightlife. It focuses on the importance of Georgian club Bassiani in an environment with little acceptance for the queer community. These results indicate that dance floors can go beyond hedonism and play a critical role in the lives of the people that make up this community. On this basis, it is recommended for people that are active in underground club culture to take a responsible approach toward representations. This can be accomplished by separating oneself from the fashionable representations of queer communities. Further research could be undertaken in order to identify other factors that could help defending these protective environments.
At the age of 18, I had a difficult experience coming out. I felt the need to live up to the expectations of my heteronormative surroundings. In an environment of touring with metal bands and also within my family at home I did not feel comfortable to come out of the closet. It was not until I danced on certain dance floors that I started to accept myself and set upon a journey of self-discovery. These places showed me acceptance and a life alternative to the one I grew up with. This experience brought me to study the social and political factors of these dance floors.

The aim of this research is to substantiate the importance of these places. It demonstrates an urgency, and highlights the value of places where members of the queer community can feel safe. The interest in the social and political factors of dance floors, as well as their positive impact on society, has increased in recent years.

Members of the queer community continue to face violence and inequality.[1] This has a detrimental psychological and social impact on these people.[2] Environments safe from violence and oppression are urgently needed. A place to form a resistance and exercise absolute freedom of expression.
1 “LGBT Rights,” Human Rights Watch, accessed October 6, 2018, link

2 Katie A. McLaughlin, Mark L. Hatzenbuehler and Katherine M. Keyes, “Responses to discrimination and psychiatric disorders among black, Hispanic, female, and lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals,” Am J Public
, (August 2010): 100(8): 1477–84, link
Dance music born out of
queer communities
Respecting the marginalised black and Latino queer communities from which dance music originates is important. The commercialisation of dance music renders the influence of these people invisible. During my first nightlife experience in Amsterdam’s famous gay street Reguliersdwarsstraat, I lacked knowledge of intersectional queer communities and their influence on nightlife. This is a fragmented version of the history. Think of it as remembering the highlights of a sweaty club night.

New York
During the 70’s in New York a large number of men expressed their gay identity through disco. Many experienced a trip of self-discovery on these dance floors. They discovered their same-sex partner preferences, while others already knew this of themselves. Mixed crowds consisting of bisexual and straight men, lesbian women and straight admirers of gay men, joined them. A dance of new liberation under the guidance of disco’s soul/gospel inspired funky grooves emerged.[3] New York's police persecuted people for being black, Latino and gay during this time. These individuals had no way to express themselves freely without severe backlash from the authorities.[4] Hooking up with another man was a high-risk affair. In 1969, the Los Angeles Police Department made 3,858 arrests categorised under legislation used to prosecute gays.[5] Only when the police came did the dancing abruptly stop. Clubs and DJs from this period were fundamental for gay communities and laid the foundations for club culture as we experience it today. Before introducing these clubs, a step back to the Stonewall Riots and the Continental Baths is necessary.
8 Dan Gentile, “Electric Relaxation: The Continental Baths birthed NYC disco and the careers of Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan,” Wax Poetics, May 4 2016, link
6 Elizabeth A. Armstrong and Suzanna M. Crage, “Movements and Memory: The Making of the Stonewall Myth,” American Sociological Review, (October 2006): 71: 724–751, link

7 Maestro. Directed by Josell Ramos. Artrution Productions, 2003.
9 Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton, Last Night a DJ Saved My Life (London: Grove Press, 2000), 120–122.

10 Tim Lawrence, “Love Saves the Day: David Mancuso and the Loft,” January 5, 2014, link

11 Tim Lawrence, “From Disco to Disco: New York’s Global Clubbing Influence,” Red Bull Music Academy Daily, June 9,2013, link
12 Tim Lawrence, Love Saves the Day: a History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970–1979 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004), 124.

13 “Paradise Garage,” NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, accessed September 5, 2018, link

14 Peter Shapiro and Simon Reynolds, Modulations: A History of Electronic Music: Throbbing Words on Sound (New York: Distributed Art Publishers, 2000), 46.
15 Alice Echols, Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010), 67–69.

16 Peter Shapiro and Simon Reynolds, Modulations: A History of Electronic Music: Throbbing Words on Sound (New York: Distributed Art Publishers, 2000), 41.

17 “A Brief History of House Music,” Complex, accessed September 5, 2018, link

18 I Was There When House Took Over The World. Directed by Jake Summer. Amsterdam: Pi Studios, 2017. link
19 Andy Thomas, “Ron Hardy’s radical Music Box mixes and edits defined a new sound in dance music,” Wax Poetics, March 16, 2015, link

20 Luis-Manuel Garcia. “Can you feel it, too?”: intimacy and affect at electronic dance music events in Paris Chicago and Berlin” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 2011), 27.

21 Matthew Collin and John Godfrey, Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House. London, (United Kingdom: Serpent’s Tail, 1998), 94.

22 Christoph Schaub, “Beyond the Hood? Detroit Techno, Underground Resistance, and African American Metropolitan Identity Politics.” Forum for Inter-American Research, (October 2009): 2 (2), link

23 Ashley Zlatopolsky, “The Roots of Techno: Detroit’s Club Scene 1973–1985,” Red Bull Music Academy Daily, July 31, 2014, link

24 Mike Servito, email message to author, December 9, 2018.

25 Sean Albiez, “Post-soul futurama: African American cultural politics and early Detroit techno,” European Journal of American Culture, (August 2005): 24 (2): 131–152, link
35 Paata Sabelashvili, Skype interview with author, December 3, 2018.

36 Giorgi Kikonishvili, interview with author, November 10, 2018.
The Loft. Courtesy of Duke University Press
Shortly after the Stonewall riots David Mancuso held the first of many private house parties at his loft in 1970. ‘The Loft' was one of the first dance floors where gay men could safely come together in a racially, economically and sexually diverse crowd. David’s vision was to offer his guests a way to break free from the violence and oppression in their everyday reality.[9] Dancers partied under pulsing vibrations from one of the best sound systems around. David would  fine-tuned the sound system throughout the night. The place was not registered as an official club as, for example, alcohol was not being sold. Therefore, closing times did not exist, and parties stretched at least from midnight until afternoon. ‘The Loft’ became an influential example for all the clubs that followed.[10] Around the same time, entrepreneurs Seymour and Shelley took over the discotheque called ‘The Sanctuary’. An old German Baptist church was transformed into the first public nightclub that welcomed gay dancers.[11]

Nicky Siano, a Loft regular, set up his own ‘The Loft’ inspired venue in 1973, called the Gallery. According to Mancuso, no other place came as close to the Loft.[12] Around 1977, Both Larry Levan’s and Frankie Knuckles’ popularity exploded during their DJ residencies at the Gallery. Before, they had both worked at the club. Knuckles’ DJ career grew exponentially when he became a resident DJ at Paradise Garage, a new club that ran from 1977 until 1987 in an underground garage. Together with a massive devoted following of black and Latino members of the queer community, Paradise Garage became a key influence on dance music and culture which spread both nationally and internationally. This club signifies the birthplace of the modern nightclub.[13] It was here that disco music transitioned into house music, under the guidance of one of worlds greatest mixers, Larry Levan.[14]
Cybotron - New Dance Show (1990)
Photograph by Mariam Giunashvili
49 Paata Sabelashvili, Skype interview with author, December 3, 2018.

50 Krushinka, “Georgian drug wars – how the activists fight against repressive drug policy in Georgia,” 34 Mag, April 20, 2017, link
Police raid Bassiani, 2018. Unknown source
51 Paata Sabelashvili, Skype interview with author, December 3, 2018.

52 Bogomir Doringer, email message to author, January 19, 2019

53 Giorgi Kikonishvili, interview with author, November 10, 2018.
54 Bogomir Doringer, interview with author, November 1, 2018
55 Luis-Manuel Garcia, Skype interview with author, December 6, 2018.

56 Mike Servito, email message to author, December 9, 2018.

57 Paata Sabelashvili, Skype interview with author, December 3, 2018.
58 Bogomir Doringer, email message to author, January 19, 2019

59 Bogomir Doringer, interview with author, November 1, 2018

60 Alexander Iadarola, “Berghain Officially Given High Culture Status and Lower Tax Rate,” Vice, 12 September, 2016, link

61 Bogomir Doringer, interview with author, November 1, 2018

62 Denk ich an Deutschland in der Nacht. Directed by Romuald Karmakar. Berlin: Arden Film, 2017.

63 Paata Sabelashvili, Skype interview with author, December 3, 2018.

64 Beatrice Aaronson, “Dancing Our Way out of Class through Funk, Techno or Rave,” Peace Review, (June 1999): 11(2): 231–36, link

65 Scott R. Hutson, “Technoshamanism: Spiritual Healing in the Rave Subculture,” Popular Music and Society, (July 1999): 23(3): 53–77, link
66 Moran Rosenthal, Queerhana (Berlin, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, 2017), 48.

67 Britt-Mari Näsström, “The Rites in the Mysteries of Dionysus The Birth of the Drama.” Peace Review, (January 2003): 18: 139–48, link
An identity used because some individuals whose gender or sex is non-conforming may not have an easy way to culturally identify their sexual orientation.

Engaged in the pursuit of pleasure; sensually self-indulgent.

Treat (a person, group, or concept) as insignificant or peripheral.
3 Tim Lawrence, “I Want to See All My Friends At Once’’: Arthur Russell and the Queering of Gay Disco,” Journal of Popular Music Studies, (August 2006): 18 (2) 144–166, link

4 “It Just Aint Disco – The Legacy of Disco Considered,” Jaeger, accessed September 4, 2018, link

5 Dudley Clendinen, Out For Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001).
Violent riots between police and bar patrons erupted on the evening of June 28, 1969. The police raids on New York's Stonewall Inn gay bar acted as the catalyst. Raids of homosexual bars were common in New York and other American cities during the 60s. However this time, instead of accepting humiliating treatment, the bar patrons fought back. Although Stonewall did not mark the origin of gay liberation, it was a tremendous milestone for gay culture and nightlife.[6] The Stonewall protests changed the face of nightlife and triggered a gay liberation on the dance floor. All the great clubs that followed could cater for gay crowds and allow men to dance together. While the event did not drastically alter the freedom of the queer community in public yet, liberation in the swathes of underground nightlife.[7]

One year earlier, in 1968, Steve Osrow founded The Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse in New York. It acted both as a hedonistic playground and a community centre for the queer community. The police raided the bathhouse over two hundred times. Continental Baths collected over 250,000 signatures for a petition to change New York City’s outdated legislation. The petition resulted in the repeal of laws against homosexuality in New York and marked a victory for gay liberation. The Continental Baths provided a solace for the gay community; two gay African-American men, Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan first visited the club in 1973 and developed their DJ skills here.[8]
New York's dance floors formed safer environments for marginalised people in the 70s. During this time the police persecuted people for being black, Latino and gay in New York. Dancing under disco’s funky grooves was a way to break free from violence and oppression.

Interviews with key activists from Tbilisi, Georgia show that the dance floor is still a place to break free from oppression and violence. The acceptance towards members of the queer community in Georgia is low. Club Bassiani forms the community centre for these people. On May 2018 various movements joined forces in Tbilisi, after police raids on multiple clubs. A rave for social change erupted. It was a flashback of New York's Stonewall riots.

The protest in Georgia demonstrates how the dance floor utopia of a world full of acceptance connects with the real world. Providing space for diversity, inclusivity and discussion are roles that the nightclub took. These safer environments are places to tryout alternative ways of communicating and living. Dancing on these dance floors breaks down social borders as race, religion, gender and sexuality. A rhythmic bombardment of drums, all night dancing and flickering lights bring the body and mind in a different state of consciousness.

Although these spaces change marginalised people's lives positively, 70s police raids on clubs repeat itself in Tbilisi in 2018. Silencing progressive movements is easier for the government than solving problems. Platforms, where people can criticise society and promote alternative values, can be a political enemy.

Dance floors go beyond hedonistic playgrounds. They form the centre of queer communities that experience oppression and violence. A platform for social change where different progressive movements meet.

The starting point of the research was based on how I experienced dance floors in The Netherlands and how they helped me with my sexuality. Being afraid and unsure to reveal who I am, made me deal with uncertainty, stress and anxiety. These safer environments were the most important places for my coming out.

The research learnt me how I used role-play when I was uncertain of my sexuality. At a queer party you can step into a different role and identity. The dance floor was like a tryout stage. This role-play helped me with defining who I want to become and made me proud of who I am. The interviews show how close my experiences are to that of others. How music forms the common ground to fight for the same principles.

Discussing the impact dance floors had on marginalised communities can influence like-minded people. It shows a community and environment that welcomes them. The study's results show people inside and outside the community the value and urgency of spaces where oppressed people can feel safer. Making the potential of dance floors visible can educate recent clubbers.

Often people portray underground club culture as a style or fashion which, results in dull and meaningless representations. Portrayed styles and fashions might attract young people but fail to show the meaningful face that hides beyond hedonistic raves. The interviewees are all people that danced out of urgency of which nightlife forms an essential role in their lives. These real stories show the value of these safer environments.

I would like to thank my interviewees, Bogomir Doringer, Giorgi Kikonishvili, Paata Sabelashvili, Mike Servito and Luis-Manuel Garcia. Your contribution played an essential role in my project. The conversations we had were inspiring and gave me a continuous motivation. I thank Bill Bernstein, Omara Gogichaishvili and Mariam Giunashvili for permission to include copyrighted pictures as a part of my thesis. I am also grateful for my friends on the dance floor, close friends, and strangers that contributed to this project.

I'm thankful for Tim Lawrence his extensive writing on New York's Disco legacy which inspired my project enormously.

I would like to thank Wouter Wullems for having the patience to hear me endlessly talking about this project. Also, for your support with the copywriting.

In addition, I would like to thank my tutor Merel Boers for the thesis guidance. And I thank Matthias Kreutzer, Jan Robert Leegte and Silvio Lorusso for the guidance of the thesis design.

Thank you.

Peter van Langen

The Hague, January 20, 2019
However, these discos also revealed their less inclusive side. The costs of disco culture with rising door fees and pricey drinks excluded financially hurt queer people, especially those of the black and Latino communities. Within gay disco, the inclusive constantly competed with the exclusive. Some private clubs could legally exclude woman and continue as men-only clubs.[15]

Nonetheless, without disco’s history and its “safer spaces,”, it seems impossible to see people dance on a pounding four-four kick drum. The beats name comes from the drum machine, a so-called four-to-the-floor beat machine. The arrival of this machine and cheap synthesisers, changed the mid-seventies soul records inspired by disco's groove from funky to martial. Disco producers, like Giorgio Moroder, Jean-Marc Cerrone, Patrick Cowley, and Bobby Orlando took new directions with these machines.[16]

While Paradise Garage in New York invited Larry Levan to be their resident DJ, Frankie Knuckles became the resident DJ at Chicago’s new club the Warehouse. From then on, a connection was established between New York’s and Chicago’s dance scenes.[17] ‘The Warehouse’ was founded in 1976 by Robert Williams. It was private queer nightclub in Chicago, Illinois. The origin of ‘Chicago House’ is traced back to this club. Knuckles took control over the turntables for eight to ten hours. Once the door prices rocketed, Knuckles left the club.[18]

When Knuckles left the Warehouse in 1983, founder Robert Williams renamed the place to Muzic Box. He invited Ron Hardy to become the new resident DJ. Hardy was one of the pioneers that turned disco into house. The Warehouse had been a gay club while the Muzic Box welcomed a mixed crowd, including heterosexuals and more woman. Although Frankie had played more Black disco tracks, Hardy worked the EQ and played at intensely high speeds. It was an out of control underground club where people freaked out on music and drugs. It was here that Hardy pushed house forward.[19]

House tracks produced in Chicago became highly popular in Britain and developed into a harder style known as ‘acid house’. When crossing the Atlantic back to Chicago, the transformed version of house music primarily became a white, middle-class, heterosexual phenomenon.[20] This acid house genre had exploded in Britain and became the soundtrack of the second Summer of Love in 1988. Ecstasy culture was founded under a formula of loud music, drugs and nightlong dancing.[21]

In the late 80s and 90s, Detroit was a wasteland due to the process of deindustrialisation and suburbanisation. This resulted in an impoverished inner-city and an abandoned downtown. Under those circumstances racial and social tensions increased. The move of  Motown Records to Los Angeles in 1972 was a definitive mark of the city’s cultural decline.[22] The label was fundamental for Detroit’s African American music scene. The arrival of techno music played a tremendous role in putting Detroit back on the map.

However, just before the rise of techno in the mid 80s, an influential and diverse musical period was taking place. Around 1980, Detroit’s dance crowds became more varied on social, racial and sexual levels. One of Detroit’s foremost queer disco DJs, respected locally as well as in New York and Chicago, was Ken Collier. Collier performed an extensive residency at the influential club Heaven.[23] Mike Servito describes Club Heaven as “Music greatness. Ken Collier was Heaven. I feel very fortunate to have experienced such an iconic DJ. A community from the thriving music scene surrounded you at Club Heaven.”[24]
Despite the Georgian government setting aside the drug policy debate and the victory to reform the policy remaining far from conquered, the protest was successful. Sabelashvili recalls the uniting of the electronic dance scene, a different form of peaceful protest, the triggering of a new global wave of rave activism and the apology from the chief policeman to the crowd as the successes.[51] The events inspired people far beyond Georgia and motivated the clubbing community to fight for their spaces. Their motto 'We Dance Together, We Fight Together' inspired other movements around the world. One week later 25,000 people met in Berlin to protest against fascism, with 200,000 gathering in October. Both Berlin events were initiated either by clubs or party organisers. This demonstrates the urgency and importance of such events as well as the return of political issues to the dance floor. Doringer has dealt with this topic for several years. 'Dance of Urgency' is already the third exhibition in which he examines 'wild' dance culture in clubs or in the street and pursues the question of how socially critical energy and new strategies of rebellion arise from such archaic practices.[52]

This event helps people outside of the clubbing scene to understand the value and power of clubs like Bassiani. It demonstrates that club culture is more than partying. These communities are built from smart, educated people who think critically about the political systems they live in. Many political ideas are shared and established on these dance floors and continue outside the club. According to Kikonishvili “this protest was a manifestation of what we have achieved before. On this demonstration, we united all our progressive movement which use Bassiani as their platform. 5 years ago you could not gather 15.000 people who would defend these values. This revolution was a sign for hope for us.”[53]

Although these dance floors are so valuable for progressive movements, people want to take away spaces like Bassiani as they see it as a threat towards their way of life. A place where the youth has a space to criticise society and promote Western culture and values. As mentioned by Doringer, the youth is the future and if it thinks differently in a society where the Orthodox Church and Pro-Russian factions are so dominant, the youth will reshape the future. People view this as a political enemy.[54]
Photograph by Mariam Giunashvili
I Dance Alone, 2014. Courtesy of Bogomir Doringer
Connected utopia
Paradise Garage Dance Floor, 1979. Photograph by Bill Bernstein / courtesy of the David Hill Gallery London
Studio 54, 1979. Photograph by Bill Bernstein / courtesy of the David Hill Gallery London
Ben Klock - Bassiani (2017)
Similarly to New York’s disco, Chicago’s house and Detroit’s techno, the struggles of their everyday reality triggers the liberating atmosphere on the dance floor. Kikonishvili explained how his country’s problems, such as the oppression and violence towards the queer community and Georgia’s surreal drug policy, cause the crowd to throw all of their emotions into the clubbing experience. You can feel this on the dance floor, the DJs feel it as well. If you are found to have even one pill in your possession, you risk a prison time of 5 to 8 years. This means you often see friends disappear behind bars. “When you live in a country like this, and go to a party, it almost feels like your last party. When you come outside, you never know what will happen to you. Everything in Georgia is unexpected, so you always put all your emotions into it. It feels like your last dance.”[34] It is as though there are two parallel realities, appearing and disappearing with the setting of the sun. The disparity between day to day life and nightlife is immense. One reality creates opportunities to resist, in a non-verbal way, against the other.

Evidently we can trace back a long history of clubs that are supportive towards marginalised groups. Paata Sabelashvili, founder of Georgia’s first ever LGBTQ+ organisation and a member of the ‘White Noise Movement’, explained how the clubbing community in Tbilisi was already supportive towards the queer community. Although none of them are queer themselves, the club owners understood what was needed yet missing on the dance floors. Something that was lacking were women. Naja Orashvili, one of Bassiani’s founders, fought for space for women in clubs. Through talking to the few women in these spaces, problems came to light. Issues of harassment in clubs exhausted women. The knowledge of this, the sympathy towards those affected and commitment to put a stop to it will make you feel at home. At club Bassiani you will see a gay couple making out and a masculine macho guy dancing next to them, without anyone bothering each other. “What Bassiani made possible for some people to see, feel and go through, was a game changer. It changed expectations, future outlook and the mindset of an entire generation.”[35] Giorgi explains how the first time he stepped into Club Bassiani it took him only ten minutes to realise this space will affect a considerable amount of change. “It felt like a different world. Bassiani was the first place where I kissed my boyfriend publicly feeling no fear at all. It changed my whole life. If there was no Bassiani in Georgia, what would we have? I do not want to imagine.”[36]
Safer Spaces
Clubs like the Loft and Paradise Garage are examples that demonstrate how important it is for marginalised people to enter a safer space than the world outside. Bassiani’s team understands how to achieve this.

Although homosexuality and gender transition are legal in Georgia, the queer community is under great pressure from negative societal attitudes.[37] Dark rooms fulfil a crucial role in the Horoom Nights by providing a safe haven for visitors to meet and have sexual intercourse. The intercourse that takes place here is a pure form of resisting the conservative values of the country. Kikonishvili explains that people who find it hard to express or identify their sexuality can privately experience it in these spaces.[38]

One of Bassiani’s methods to assure a safer space is the registration system. In order to register,  a name, identity number and Facebook profile are needed. Verified users can skip the door control. Differing from the exclusive members-only systems of the disco period, the role of Bassiani’s systems is to avert people that pose a danger to other clubbers. Kikonishvili explains how the club implemented the registration system when Bassiani was first established in 2014. Back then it was a completely different situation, it was even more important to have control. Nowadays the amount of control has changed, it is not an exclusive door policy at all. “We do not only want to dance with our friends, but with our former enemies.”[39

Luis-Manuel Garcia explained what elements create a safer space. Luis is an ethnomusicologist. He was a raver first, then he became a scholar in dance music before getting involved in the Berlin-based Room 4 Resistance collective. According to Luis, creating “safer spaces” has to do with outlining clearly what the expectations of behaviour are. Together with clear procedures for organisation when problems arise, as well as feedback and complaints throughout the night. The actual physical space itself is also of importance, by avoiding surveillance and intrusiveness, yet still being able to keep an eye on how the night is going. These communities easily experience the feeling of being watched.

Despite the goal to create inclusive spaces, avoiding exclusion is impossible in order to assure safer spaces. There are a lot of challenges of inclusivity when organising for a community that is usually not so welcomed and included. “With Room 4 Resistance we have been trying to develop a women-centric dark room for many parties. Because of how patriarchy works, its difficult to make that happen, without excluding cisgender men.”[40]
Bassiani. Photograph by HITORI NI (Omara Gogichaishvili)
Bassiani. Photograph by HITORI NI (Omara Gogichaishvili)
Rave Revolution
Similar to the Continental Baths and Stonewall Inn that provided safer spaces, Bassiani and Café Gallery are unmistakably the victims of police raids. The police demonstrated an excessive use of force towards harmless clubbers in May 2018. A video by BBC News shows how hundreds of masked policemen, armed with machine-guns raided club Bassiani and Café Gallery. The police detained 70 people including one of the co-founders of Bassiani, Zviad Gelbakhiani, near the club. According to the government, it was part of a crackdown on drugs. In response, within hours, thousands of people had gathered on the square in front of Georgia’s parliament building to fight for freedom and equality.[41] Kikonishvili points out that the main reason for the attack was ideological. Bassiani was influential enough to cause a headache for the government and conservative part of the country. The progressive communities had been speaking out against the government and the problems within their society. The government responded by silencing the people, instead of listening to them.[42]

Soon the protest turned into a two day rave for social change. DJs, from the label Giegling, started to play on a sound system which activists placed on the square. Sabelashvili explained how the organisers of a queer night shut down the club in solidarity with Bassiani. Attendees adorned in beautiful dresses and high heels went to the parliament to join the frontline of the protest. It was like a flashback of the Stonewall riots. According to curator Bogomir Doringer (Ph.D. candidate, Artistic Research, University of Applied Arts, Vienna), when people come together to dance collectively, they influence one another's movements through their physical and emotional bond. In May 2018, thousands of ravers gathered in the centre of Tbilisi, Georgia, to protest against the police raids of two well-known clubs: ‘Café Gallery' and 'Bassiani, internationally renowned for its activism. The protesters danced for two days in front of the parliament and ultimately extracted an official apology from the government.[43] Doringer draws a parallel between the protest of 2018 in Georgia and the narrative of the book Time to Dance, a Time to Die. “In this story, the people entered a euphoric collective state of trance and danced for days. It was a dancing plague in 1518. They danced without an end in sight, until the society recognised the oppressive and unequal circumstances they lived under. This is when the dance stopped.”[44]
Club Heaven Detroit, Dj Ken Collier (1991)
31 Onnik Krikorian, “Orthodox Church goes on the rampage in Georgia, New Internationalist,
July 1, 2013, link

32 Giorgi Kikonishvili, interview with author, November 10, 2018.

33 “Khorumi-Georgia,” Dance Ask, accessed November 26, 2018, link

34 Giorgi Kikonishvili, interview with author, November 10, 2018
Club Bassiani
Bassiani. Photograph by HITORI NI (Omara Gogichaishvili)
Juan Atkins one of the founders of African American techno music was greatly influenced by DJ Ken Collier. Atkins and Vietnam veteran Rick Davis formed the electronic band Cybotron in the early 80s. With synthesiser and rhythm machine-based electronic music, they developed a philosophy that explored the utopian/dystopian contradiction of science fiction. The band inspired the younger Belleville high school friends, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson.[25] The three individuals from the Detroit suburb, known as the Belleville Three, are credited for the birth of Detroit techno.
In Germany, techno became the sound of celebration when the Berlin wall collapsed in November 1989. Club Tresor, located in abandoned vaults, brought kids from East and West together. By the early 90s, Tresor’s founder Dimitri Hegemann formed a strong Berlin-Detroit connection. Bookings and releases on Tressor gained the label new talent and lifted many of Detroit’s artists their careers.[26]

In sharp contrast, the second-wave of techno in the early 90’s morphed into a more aggressive and politically charged sound. Together with Jeff Mills, Mike Banks started the independent record label and music group 'Underground Resistance’.[27] Mills was already known as local radioDJ ‘The Wizzard’ and Banks as part of the house music band ‘Members of the House’. ‘Underground Resistance’ is a movement delivering anti-commercial and anti-racist messages.[28] Another techno group that established a political stance was ‘Drexciya’. James Stinson and Geral Donald created a retrofuturist mythology drawn from the history of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. ‘Drexciya’ confronts the legacy of slavery and its present-day appearance in post-industrial America through music, visuals and texts.[29]

For Mike Servito underground parties in the early 90’s were places to meet like-minded open people and other gays, rather than gay bars and clubs. This is where Servito’s friendships with Jason Kending, Jeffrey Sfire and Carlos Souffront started over 20 years ago and continues still to this day. They represent a group of influential gay DJs from Detroit. “The early 90s in Detroit felt like a community that was very open to all walks of life”.[30]
Anti-gays clash International Day Against Homophobia, Tbilisi(2013)
New York’s clubs of the 70’s transformed dance floors into sites of resistance. Today, club Bassiani acts as the centre for queer communities in Georgia.

The marginal acceptance towards the queer community in Georgia illustrates the vital role club Bassiani plays in the lives of these people. Onnik Krikorian writes how, on the 17th of May in 2013, 20,000 counter-demonstrators brutally disrupted the International Day Against Homophobia in Tbilisi. Despite a statement by Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who stated that lesbians and gays have the same right as any other social group. Patriarch Ilia II, the spiritual leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church, called for a ban of the event and describes homosexuality as an abnormality and a disease. A small group of fifty queer activists had to flee the scene after counter-protesters broke through barriers.[31] This event demonstrated how queer people in Tbilisi have no outlets through which to express themselves freely. This was one of the evens that triggered Tato Getia, Zviad Gelbakhiani and Naja Orashvili to start club Bassiani. They established a new place of resistance.
Despite the nonviolent resistance from the protesters, the atmosphere changed when far-right groups turned up in force. In the video of BBC News, we can hear George Chelidze, the leader of the fascist group Georgian National Unity, claiming that the protest was offensive because it was leftish provocation. The protest was not only about the police raid, the protesters demanded drug legalisation and queer propagandism.[45] Sabelashvili states that: “The counter-protesters are now used against us by the same political system. Maybe they need our help and guidance, to understand our story too, and then we can talk. But it takes time.”[46] Dance floors have often reunited enemies and could be a place to start breaking these barriers. In the same way, as on the dance floors of New York, Chicago and Detroit, dancing became a political act.The protest was stopped after the Interior Minister apologised to the crowd, which was greeted with a euphoric applause. During the rave protest in front of the parliament, a decision to de-escalate the situation was made between Interior Minister Gakharia and members from White Noise, Bassiani and Human Rights Education. The decision was based on two promises. Gakharia promised to establish the legality of this police operation and illegal detentions or arrests would be investigated. In addition to this, concrete steps will be made to finish the reformation of drugs policies in the near future. Some protesters deeply regret this decision. In spite of the pressure thousands of ravers put on the authorities, and the promises from the Interior Minister, two months later the Georgian government put the drugs policy debate aside.

The protests were led by the White Noise Movement which has advocated for drug decriminalisation since 2013. The Georgian police regularly chase clubbers to take urine tests. The movement takes on the responsibility to support those arrested and educate clubbers about their rights.[47] According to a report commissioned by the Council of Europe, Georgia has the highest prison population in Europe and is among the countries with the largest proportion of people imprisoned for drug offences.[48]

In an interview Sabelashvili, tells his story of going to jail nine years ago for smoking weed. During that time he was an LGBTQ+ activist and his fellow activists judged him. Back then, people associated drugs with masculine behaviour, people who bully and act violently. This stigma surrounding imprisonment for weed usage made him feel ashamed “The reaction I encountered from educated and open-minded people around me, shocked me. I had hard times going through that period. Also, it let me think and learn a lot. Basically, no one wanted to hire me.”[48] Krushinka claimed that over 300,000 people—almost 10% of Georgia’s population have been street tested for drug use over the past seven years. People receive 6-8 years in prison for a scanty number of substances. Otherwise, a fine of 30-40 thousand lari (euro 12,000—15,000) is the price of your buyout. Due to the aid of the White Noise Movement multiple prison sentences were avoided and hundreds of prisoners were released. As a tactic against the authorities, the movement creates extensive hype and media attention.[51]
We dance together, we fight together (2018)
It is important to remain aware of the continuity between life inside and outside the club instead of considering nightlife purely as escapism and hedonism. Making the connection between the worlds inside and outside the club keeps you grounded so that you don’t lose yourself. By controlling this, you can bring valuable experiences back into the world outside. According to Luis-Manuel Garcia, a method that transports resistance of oppression from the dance floors to our daily lives is, “by emphasising the continuities between the dance floor and daily life, and sometimes by undermining and pushing back against the idea of dance floors as an escape, or disconnected utopia.” Spaces which serve as a break from oppressive authorities are important. They provide a staging ground for alternative ways of being together and communicating to be implemented in the larger world. A track that connects to this idea is the intro of DJ Sprinkles album Midtown 120 Blue. The point she makes is that there is an abundance of problems that people within queer subcultural communities face and the dance floor operates as a refuge, but we should not forget some of it follows us.[55]

For Mike Servito being part of club culture gave him a sense of belonging. It made him realise that you can live in a way that does not coincide with societal expectations. “I learned the value of friendship and the value of self-worth. I think all my experiences in club culture has made me tougher and smarter and dealing with life's obstacles. You learn a lot by being around so many characters in club culture.”[56] According to Sabelashvili, it’s not about hedonism only. “We could use the dance as a common ground to unite people. This dance never radiates any violence to anyone. We should start a global movement and together protest against the crazy things that happen in the world. Not only for drug policies, queer equality and women’s rights.”[57] In an interview, Doringer explained that all types of dance are based on particular symbolism and are an expression of their own culture and time. “So the question arises: does dance possess more expressive power in times of crisis? And for what reasons does dancing occur? Can neighbourhoods or cities be revitalised through clubs or dance floors? In times of changing political conditions, how do old rituals link with the concept of safe spaces and socio-political urgency?”[58] As a kid Doringer went to a techno club during the bombings in Belgrade. “When you are 16 and they tell you do not go to school and the bombings are happening and you know the techno club is open, well sure why not… You go there and it feels like mocking the political system and the dead. You think you are super cool, but at the same time, you realise that you are actually really scared. So you kind of just beat up this feeling and you dance like crazy.”[59]

Often people forget to see the value these places have for society and the nation. A great example of a city that recognises the value of such a venue is Berlin. The German court has ruled club Berghain with a High Culture Status. This means the club provides high cultural events rather than just entertainment. The club will accordingly pay taxes at a lower rate, 7% tax instead of 19%.[60] In an interview with Doringer it becomes clear that it’s important to think about the direct economic values a place has. These places play an important role in placing a city or country on the map. Club Bassiani in Tbilisi is a great example of this. Doringer states that: “The reasons for this kind of places to exist is that cultural institutions failed to reunite different groups. The cultural institutions do not provide space for diversity, inclusivity, discussion and certain cultures so the club took this role. If you think of the number of people going to a place like Berghain compared to a gallery or museum it is incomparable, they circulate and directly influence and educate people.”[61]

But why does dancing on these dance floors break down social barriers and create such a powerful bond between strangers? An important element of dance floors is collectiveness. According to Ricardo Villalobos, togetherness within crowds of people comes from the consistent, rhythmic music we all share.[62]  The beat allows you to connect in a non-verbal way with strangers, brought together, moving under the guidance of these sound vibrations. Smile to the person next to you, acknowledge that the fact that you are both in this journey is enough. Or follow the beat with the same body movements as the person in front of you. It is as if we all communicate with the same language. Sabelashvili describes the element of bonding by concluding that dancing to the person next to you transforms this person into your new family member. Sometimes the people here take better care of you than your own family. After you have danced with a person to the same music, the differences dissolve. “It competes with faith, family and conformity, it competes with everything. All that matters is this person dancing there with you, a common ground that unites you. Regardless of who you are you fight for the same principles. It makes you spiritually benefit from this ritual.”[63]

It is more than just beats and dancing that fuels the atmosphere of dance floors. A combination of rhythm, sound and lights are, according to Beatrice Aarson, the right conditions to enhance togetherness and break down classifications such as race, religion and gender. The rhythmic bombardment of drums and the movement of the dance bring our body and mind into a different state of consciousness. A state that breaks down all concepts of class.[64] Similarities between raves and the trance dances of the Dobe Ju/‘hoansi of Botswana can be drawn. No mind-altering substances are involved in these trance dances. A trance state is reached by a combination of the rhythmic drumming of the Ju/‘hoansi, which is like the drumbeat-drive pulse of techno, exhaustive all-night dancing and flickering lights.[65] Raving is the modern version of trance dances.

Looking back at my difficult experience of coming out, since I had adjusted myself to my heteronormative surroundings, I can testify that it severely influences your psychological well-being. Being unable and not wanting to reveal your true self is hard. Having to deal with uncertainty, anxiety and stress, I realised this could be caused by hiding my sexuality. Covering your true self and being someone else is exhausting. According to Landy’s role theory, a variety of mental, social and functional roles make up our personalities. Switching between roles provides us with a range of choices and reduces the anxiety that comes with attaching oneself to a single identity. This role-play explains the Dionysian atmosphere of a queer party. At queer parties, you can step into a different role and identity, and for a moment celebrate total freedom. It allows muscular homos, femme lesbians, bisexuals and transgender men and woman to dance together without threatening each other’s identities.[66] An interesting parallel can be drawn to the ancient Greek god Dionysus. Dionysus was the god of intoxication, ecstasy and theatre. His followers were called maenads, from the Greek word mania, meaning “madness.” He represents the transgressor of borders. No distinction between sexes was made by Dionysus, he appears both as man and woman. He was a god of chaos and the protector of misfits.[67] Personally, I constantly had the feeling that playing in a metal band meant having to live up to the expeditions that accompany it. My role was being a tough heterosexual guy playing guitar in a metal band.

Similar to dance floors of the 70s like The Loft and Paradise Garage, Bassiani forms the centre of queer communities. A place that activates activism and works towards social change. Here, club nights are about more than sex, drugs and escapism. It is about social change, even if it is just for one night. A place where people can experience recognition and total freedom of expression.
26 Dan Sicko, Techno Rebels: the Renegades of Electronic Funk (Detroit: Wayne State University
Press, 2014).

27 “Future Shock: The Emergence of Detroit Techno, Told by Wax Poetics,” CDM, June 29, 2011, link

28 Christoph Schaub, “Beyond the Hood? Detroit Techno, Underground Resistance, and African American Metropolitan Identity Politics.” Forum for Inter-American Research, (October 2009): 2 (2), link

29 Charlie Mills, “Inside ‘Neptune’s Lair’: Drexciya, Dystopia and Afrofuturism,” link

30 Mike Servito, email message to author, December 9, 2018.
DJ Larry Levan, Paradise Garage, 1979. Photograph by Bill Bernstein / courtesy of the David Hill Gallery London
37 “LGBT Supporters Rally In Tbilisi, Despite Fears Of Violence,” RadioFreeEurope RadioLiberty, May 17, 2018, link

38 Giorgi Kikonishvili, interview with author, November 10, 2018.

39 Ibid.
40 Luis-Manuel Garcia, Skype interview with author, December 6, 2018.
41 Rayhan Demytrie and Ed Ram, “Georgia’s Rave Revolution,” BBC News, 30 July 2018, link

42 Giorgi Kikonishvili, interview with author, November 10, 2018.

43 Bogomir Doringer, email message to author, January 19, 2019

44 Bogomir Doringer, interview with author, November 1, 2018

45 Rayhan Demytrie and Ed Ram,“Georgia’s Rave Revolution,” BBC News, 30 July 2018, link

46 Paata Sabelashvili, Skype interview with author, December 3, 2018.

47 William Dunbar, “Bassiani’s come down: the rise and fall of White Noise and Tbilisi’s #raveolution,” The Calvet
, July 18, 2018, link

48 “Penal Statistics: Georgia in the Council of Europe Report,” Civil Georgia, March 23, 2018, link


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