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Dance like nobody's watching

When Bruce Springsteen penned his big hit Dancing in the Dark back in 1984, he probably wasn't talking about getting your groove on in a hall with garbage bags taped over the windows.

But he might have appreciated the sentiment behind No Lights No Lycra (NLNL), a new dance phenomenon encouraging Canberrans to brush off their inhibitions, by dancing in the darkness.

Every Tuesday night a mismatched group of men and women converge on a community hall in Ainslie and shake what they’ve got for an hour and a half.

To keep the daylight savings sun out, the windows are covered with garbage bags and holding the door open for too long is frowned upon.

The music is eclectic - everything from Dolly Parton, to 90s disco classics and current indie dance hits - and the atmosphere is elated.

Canberra organisers Lisa Sampson and Lucy Nelson said the aim is to express what you’re feeling through movement in a social environment, without worrying about how you look.


"I think the emphasis for me is, in a town that sometimes takes itself really seriously, to have a bit of fun," Ms Sampson said.

Unlike other dance forms popular in the capital like Zumba, Salsa and ballroom, there are no dance steps, no costumes, and no feeling goofy. 

The Canberra event began in July, and from humble beginnings has grown in popularity as the word has spread.  

On a big night, NLNL now crams about 50 dancers into their little hall in Ainslie - which is just about all that's comfortable.

"Some people dance in groups, some people come alone," Ms Sampson said.

"We’ve had a pregnant lady come along … we’ve had younger people, older people, there’s really no restriction."

NLNL originated in Melbourne in 2009 as the brain child of two dance students dance students, Alice Glenn and Heidi Barrett.

Since then it’s gone global, with events held regularly in 14 cities around the world, including Brooklyn, Berlin and Glasgow.

It's sweaty work, but devotees swear it's better than an hour at the gym.

Twenty-eight-year-old Nadine Eram of Kingston attends regularly in Ainslie with her friends.

"We've started saying that we don't need to go out on a Saturday night now because we can just do it here in our gym gear," she said.

"You don't have to worry about heals and makeup."

Ms Eram said she isn’t really fussed about lights or no lights, but enjoys not thinking about who is watching.

"People just leave you alone to do your own thing and go crazy," she said.  

"And it's such a great workout as well."

NLNL is an alcohol free environment with no age restrictions - and only one real rule, according to the organisers.

"The ‘no dickheads’ policy is pretty much unspoken," Ms Sampson said.

But if you do feel the need to wear Lycra, you better get in quickly, before they start policing.

"We don’t have a spandex sniffer dog or anything… not yet," Ms Nelson said.

No Lights No Lycra costs $5 and takes place every Tuesday night from 7.30-9pm, at Corroboree Park Hall on Paterson St in Ainslie. For more info go to