Four Old-School House Dancing Moves For Protesting NYC’s Cabaret Law
A NYC DJ Shares His Signature House Dancing Moves
When it comes to New York’s clubbing history, DJ Ali Coleman has seen it all. The 51-year-old New Jersey native, a resident DJ with the local electronic music crew House Coalition, started throwing house parties in the ‘70s and has been involved in the city’s nightlife ever since.
A few years after Coleman moved to New York in 1994, mayor Rudy Giuliani began an anti-nightlife crusade that nearly eradicated the city’s party scene. His main tool was the Cabaret Law, which requires clubs to have a permit to allow more than two people to dance at a time.
“The city task force would always wait until the height of the party to raid it,” remembers Coleman. “They would show up at 1 or 2 AM and disturb the party, knowing it would be hard for us to get that energy back. We tried to keep it going, but clubs started closing.”
Efforts to repeal the law started in the 90s, but Coleman didn’t join the fight until 2006, when a judge refused to overturn the regulation because he didn’t consider dancing at a party an expression of speech. Having spent over two decades dancing, DJing, and promoting house music-focused parties at clubs and bars across the city, Coleman couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“I probably started dancing in the womb. The first time I danced publicly, I was five years old, in my kindergarten talent show—I did dances I learned on Soul Train. I grew up in an entertainment family, so dancing is in my heart,” he says. “So for someone to say that dancing is not an art form? No way.”
About ten years ago, he joined a handful of artists, DJs, and promoters to bring multiple lawsuits against the Cabaret Law to New York courts, but none of their efforts were successful. This year, this is finally starting to change, thanks to an inter-generational collaboration among members of Brooklyn’s music community, who have gotten the attention of several NYC city council members. “I love that the Bushwick scene is so young… and they’re having so much more success than we ever did,” Coleman says. “This time, I can feel it—together we’re gonna make this change.”
In anticipation of BOOM’s Let NYC Dance panel and party on August 25 at Secret Project Robot, Coleman shared a few of his signature house dancing moves, forged from decades on the dancefloor. “Other people came up with the names [of the moves],” he says. “I just danced.”
- The Ali Spin
“This is the move that I’m most known for in the NYC club scene. It started when I was going out in 1991, and I had unique moves that no one else was doing. I could spin for up to 30 minutes. People looked at me and asked, ‘how can you do that for so long without getting dizzy or bumping into people?’ And that became the Ali Spin.”
- The Ali Hop
“I did the hop move starting in the late ‘70s at an outdoor party—I probably saw it in some ‘50s movie and modified it. A few years later we started seeing a dance that was similar, the Cowboy Hop. All my friends were like, ‘Ali, we remembered you did that first, and now they’re doing it.’ But it’s not so much that people are copying, it’s that we all found each other, found our tribe.”
- The Ali Crouch
“This one I don’t do as often anymore. I started doing it in the ‘80s and modified it in the ‘90s. Back then, I could dance from 11PM to noon the next day, spinning half the time, getting down in the crouch and walking around the whole club. Now I’m in my 50s and I dance for a few hours.”
- The Ali Spin Hop
“I added a hop to my spin in the late 90’s or early 2000’s. But that’s about it for signature moves – the rest is all just hips shaking, arms in the air, happy smiling face stuff. I don’t do choreography or set steps. I just like to dance and move with the music.”