Opinion | Every Night in Quarantine, I Danced With Hundreds of Strangers

Op-Docs

When the coronavirus shut down clubs around the world, I found community in a queer dance party on Zoom.

transcript

Club Quarantine

When the coronavirus shut down clubs around the world, I found community in a queer dance party on Zoom.

[ELECTRONIC STATIC] [ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC] [VITAL SIGN MONITOR BEEPING] [MUSIC PLAYING IN BACKGROUND] [ELECTRONIC SOUND EFFECTS] [DEEP ELECTRONIC BASS] [DEEP ELECTRONIC BASS] [DEEP ELECTRONIC BASS] [DEEP ELECTRONIC BASS] [ELECTRONIC MUSIC PLAYING] Wow, wow. [KISSING] Wow. [MUSIC PLAYING] [LAUGHING] [CAMERA CLICKING] [TEXT MESSAGE ALERT] [CAMERA CLICKING] [CAMERA CLICKING] [ELECTRONIC MUSIC PLAYING] [DANCE MUSIC] [MUSIC – CHARLI XCX, “SHAKE IT”] “(SINGING) Work it. Oh, it’s a migraine, make that pupil dilate. Wanna watch it gyrate.” [MUSIC – KELLY CLARKSON, “BEHIND THOSE HAZEL EYES”] “(SINGING) Everything, it felt so right. Unbreakable, nothing could go wrong. Now I can’t breathe.” I also might sext someone from Berlin. Really successful Zoom call. No, no, not yet. But he was private messaging me in the Zoom. He was like, “Oh my gosh, you’re so cute, I love you, what’s your IG?” Some guy, some guy from Berlin — OK, so I’m at the Zoom party. [ELECTRONIC MUSIC PLAYING] [ELECTRONIC MUSIC PLAYING] [ELECTRONIC MUSIC PLAYING] [ELECTRONIC MUSIC PLAYING] [VITAL SIGNS MONITOR BEEPING] [INAUDIBLE INTERCOM ANNOUNCEMENT] [VITAL SIGNS MONITOR BEEPING]

By Aurora Brachman

Ms. Brachman is a filmmaker.

I first heard about Club Quarantine through the queer grapevine: For three to six hours every night of the week, a queer dance party with people from all over the world was unfolding online over Zoom. My first evening in Club Quarantine, I kept my camera off. I was anxious about having my face broadcast to hundreds of strangers on the internet. But quickly that fear was replaced with awe; I attended the party each evening and increasingly became comfortable with my camera on. Whenever I logged onto Club Quarantine, hundreds of beautiful, brightly lit boxes twinkled at me. The short film above takes you into the virtual club, a peek into strangers’ private worlds.

There were people of all ages, races and genders. Many of them were Black and brown. Some dressed in elaborate makeup and costumes, dancing hypnotically alone. Some cooked, cleaned, napped or put their children to bed. There were older people, mothers with babies, people with disabilities, families sitting down to dinner. It felt to me that in this time of immense turmoil, with so many people suddenly alone, many of us needed our lives to be witnessed. Club Quarantine was there to witness them.

Although the parties usually attracted between 200 and 1,000 participants each evening, a core group of about 60 people attended almost nightly. I became a regular, and they grew to feel like dear friends whom I looked forward to seeing every night. I cast this film by privately messaging people through the Zoom chat, and for two months I filled my days talking with strangers all around the world. Each call lasted for hours, and we shared a palpable intimacy through our screens, unique to the moment.

As a young queer person coming into my own identity, gay clubs have been my refuge. In college I would frequent a predominantly Latinx gay club in Pomona, Calif., called 340. There I experienced a sense of ease and safety that I could not find elsewhere. My friends and I grew into ourselves in that club. When the pandemic began, I found similar comfort in Club Quarantine. Historically, nightlife has been one of the few safe spaces for the queer community. It is no surprise that in this time of devastation, queer people have once again sought community in the club, albeit a virtual one.

The nightly parties lasted for nearly four months, and in June they came to an end. Club Quarantine still exists, but the parties happen weekly now. As life begins to creep back to normal, I feel nostalgic for that time. In the midst of such intense isolation, my life came alive each evening as I was absorbed in a glittering world of queer people all seeking to connect.

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Aurora Brachman is a documentary filmmaker riding out the pandemic in Los Angeles.

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