Those who believe that the current oppression of raves and dance culture in general is based entirely on a desire to stop the spread of the drug ecstasy are, I think, ignoring our culture's historical fear of the union of body and soul that dance represents. One can't fight something unless one understands it.

The body is the vehicle of dance. People's attitudes towards dance are shaped by cultural and religious beliefs about the body and its uses. Christianity from the beginning developed a love-hate relationship with the body for many reasons. For one, they wished to disassociate themselves from pagan beliefs. I won't get into a detailed discussion of philosophy here, except that early Christians, fueled by the Neo-Platonic school of philosophy, believed that the body, the flesh, was inferior to the intellect and the spirit: bifurcation of the body and the soul. The origin of much unhappiness in our culture.

Dancing, the ultimate expression of the unity of body and soul, is therefore viewed with much ambivalence, especially secular dancing. It's not that the Bible condemns dancing. David and Miriam danced. There are positive references towards dance in the Book of Ezekiel and the Psalms. Jesus is quoted as saying (Matthew 11:17 and Luke 7:32): "We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced." But both the Jews and the Christians hated the body-soul dancing of the pagans. However, since dance was central to most pagan religious rituals, and the Church wished to convert these pagans, the early churches incorporated certain forms of ritual dance into ceremonials and, until the late Middle Ages, many Christians danced in church. With the Reformation and the ensuing Counter Reformation even religious dancing came to an end in mainstream Christian religious practice, with the exception of some sects like the Shakers. Dancing became completely disassociated with its early religious communal power and became completely secular. And most secular dancing was viewed with suspicion or the outright belief that it was the work of the Devil him/herself.

Increase Mather in 1685 pretty much defined the American Puritan attitude towards dance in his tract against "Mixed or Promiscuous Dancing": "...sober and grave Dancing of Men with Men, or of Women with Women..." was ok "...in due season and with moderation." But "wanton," or pleasurable dancing, especially "Gynecandrical Dancing," was literally evil.

So, one says, things have changed in three hundred years. Puritanism no longer holds sway here. Methinks it is as powerful as ever. Work, the Puritan focal point, is the centerpiece of our 24/7 lives. Pleasure is still suspect. Anything that is perceived to interfere with productivity of the individual is damned. Then the controllers used hell-fire sermons as the vehicle of social control; now it's pseudo-science.

Thus, dance culture has always been under very heavy fire in this country. My grandmother was arrested repeatedly when she went dancing at jazz clubs in the twenties, not because she was drinking the devil's brew, but because she was dancing the devil's dance. Dancing to rock 'n roll was bitterly opposed because this passionate "Negro" music, it was believed, would lead to teenage promiscuity and anarchy. Facilitated by "reefer madness." For a few brief years in the seventies it seemed like everyone, even the elite white man, was dancing to disco. This came to an end in the eighties when we were reminded of the Puritan dictum that playing too hard can lead to unhappiness and making money was a far more acceptable and righteous way to spend one's time.

Things haven't changed that much. Good, righteous mainstream Americans DON'T dance all night long to tribal beats. That's the devil's music (it may undermine the GNP). Unleashes all those disorderly pagan connections between the body and soul. Can't have that in the rigidly controlled, work and money-oriented Puritan society we all seem to accept without question.


It should surprise no one, therefore, that dance culture is again under attack from the mainstream culture. Unless one can fundamentally change the Puritan paradigm of life this oppression should be expected. Drugs are not really the issue.

It is also understandable that house music and modern electronic dance culture arose, as did prior musical and dance movements in this country, from underground sub cultures.

House music did not evolve one happy day from disco in Chicago. That's absurd. House music evolved musically in New York and Chicago from African-American musical traditions like gospel, soul, jazz and funk as well as Latin salsa. It evolved spiritually and aesthetically in the US out of the need for an oppressed peoples, African Americans, gays and Latinos, to build a community through dance and, later in the UK, out of the need for young people dissatisfied with the meaningless materialism of Thatcher's England to build an alternative community of music and dance via acid house.

The foundations for the house that Jack built were laid in New York City in the '70s, and so we will first look briefly at the culture at that time, examine some of the technical issues involved in DJing in those days, and then attempt to create some feeling for the social and musical milieu in which house music evolved.