I promised myself I wouldn’t use any pronoun followed by the phrase “on a boat” in this article, but I just did, so now we can all take a moment and repeat whatever part of that Saturday Night Live digital short we want silently to ourselves and then move on. Once we’ve addressed the elephant in the room, we can address the polar bear in the captain’s hat.
DANCE_MF, Cincinnati’s prestigiously sweaty monthly dance party, celebrates its first anniversary Saturday with a giant booze cruise aboard the River Queen riverboat. Replete with the usual dancing, DJs, video projections and, of course, Razzle Bear, DMF’s furry arctic mascot, this birthday party will have everything you’ve come to expect from DMF and more, including free beer, wine and cake. There will even be a live performance on deck by local Indie poppers The Seedy Seeds to celebrate the release of their new video, “Drive Me to the Center.”
If you’ve never been to DANCE_MF and/or have no idea what I’m talking about, you are probably an adult human with a respectable job or children who doesn’t necessarily find a monthly need to get really close, drunk and dancey with a bunch of twenty- to thirtysomethings. But DMF is more than a party.
“It’s not just music and dance,” says Mandy Levy, co-founder of PROJECTMILL, the Cincinnati creative collective that spawned this cultural event. “(It’s) art and video and comedy and interactivity. It’s a brand and a personality that we’ve worked hard to develop and maintain.”
PROJECTMILL is a network of creatives, aka “projectors,” who have the skills and enthusiasm necessary to develop and carry out a variety of different social events and artistic endeavors. Separately, they’re artists, musicians, videographers and the like, but the members’ different talents come together in PM with a mission to literally make fun.
“We like the idea of team creativity, and we’re inspired by the impressive artistic community in Cincinnati,” says Levy, who is originally from Chicago. “If a rising tide lifts all boats, then an institution like PROJECTMILL could help people stay motivated and find success (creatively).”
This year, along with sustaining the mammoth hipster ball that is DMF, they kicked off the Contemporary Arts Center’s “Contemporary Fridays: spin” series. The group is also manning its own stage at the MidPoint Music Festival and most of them have been involved in successful personal projects such as the bands Bad Veins and You, You’re Awesome. Pete Ohs has made music videos for groups like Wavves, Fiery Furnaces and The Unicorns and has won four Midwestern Regional Emmys for past projects. Kevin Bayer, of YYA, actually produced the Seedy Seeds video that will debut on the boat.
“DANCE_MF was an indirect byproduct of Northside Tavern’s New Year’s (party in) 2008,” Levy says. “It was made clear that crazy night that the hipsters of Cincinnati were dance-deprived and rhythmically-repressed.”
To capitalize on this success and the new back room and stage opening up at the Tavern, projectors Sebastien Schultz (drummer for Bad Veins) and Joshua Mattie, of the CAC, suggested a monthly event to “bring dancey back to Northside.”
“We wanted to give the people of Cincinnati a regular event they could rely on to let their hair down and have an incredible time in a positive environment,” Mattie says.
Thus the first Saturday of the month at Northside Tavern was knighted DANCE_MF, which Levy claims means “Dance and Make Friends.” At least that’s what she tells her parents.
Each month the dance party features a new theme and Razzle Bear, a mystery person in a plush polar bear suit who wears various outfits to reflect the theme of the night, including dance-related workout gear. In November, he even dressed in a suit and tie to present the winning speech as President of the Danceocracy.
This time around, he’ll be donning a captain’s hat as DMF takes to the water in an event politely referred to as ON THE RIVER/DANCE_MF. PROJECTMILL had to nix the original name, RIVERDANCE_MF, when it was met with some antagonism.
After a press release about the anniversary was published on CityBeat’s blog, Levy was contacted and ordered to change the name by someone who works for “The one and only Riverdance.”
“She didn’t say ‘or else,’ ” Levy says. “But her message was clear. We were being legally threatened by Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance!”
Despite that ironic setback (Flatley’s initials also happen to be MF), the group’s taking its “one party at a time” philosophy to the mighty Ohio River for one night only.
“Apparently there are five or more birthday parties celebrating with us that night,” Levy says. “Rumor has it, even a bachelorette! Things could get crazy. As long as no one gets thrown overboard, I think we’ll have success.”
ON THE RIVER/DANCE_MF, which takes place Saturday, is sold out. For more information on DANCE_MF or PROJECTMILL, visit www.theprojectmill.com.