public dance spaces that aren’t


flinders st dance card.jpg
this picture of a dance card comes from a site i found when doing some research on the history of swing dancing in melbourne.

the original card was found under the floorboards of the melbourne exhibition building. it’s such a nice thought – evidence that the exhibition hall and the flinders street station were dance spaces. now they’re all about static exhibition and the display of massed public movement, respectively.

ur. seems exhibition buildings and railway stations have more and more in common the more you think about them.

…both public spaces, but access to the exhibiiton hall is usually mediated by whatever exhibition is on – be it devoted to weddings, chocolate or motorbikes – and access to the flinders street dance hall is nigh on impossible.
my first year in melbourne i was keen on discovering my city.

…it’s funny how you get over exploring a city when it becomes your home town. i remember the absolute thrill of riding trams – the way i would feel just all-over happy and smiley sitting on the tram, just Being In My New City…

but back to the story. i was keen on exploring new things. the exhibition building dominates the city end of nicholson street. i’d been to the new museum, and i quite like its design. i also quite like the way it clashes so seriously with the old exhibition building, but i hadn’t gotten into the exhibition building yet. so one day, with some time to kill before a dance class i just boulder-dashed my way into a wedding exhibition without paying. i remember winding my way through stupid cake and dress and ribbon and florist stalls, trying to get some sort of long-range perspecitive on the building. it’s a sort of cross – four wings with a central bit.
it’s big.
it’s got a nice floor.
i like the thought of it filled with people dancing like nuts.
rather than filled with giddy brides and mother-in-laws and groooms and father-in-laws and bride’s maids and best men to be.
the dance hall in the flinders street station is far harder to get access to. it’s almost mythical in the melbourne swing community. it’s supposed to be huge and wonderful, a sprung floor. yet unbookable, denied by heritage listings or jealous transport authority. and there hasn’t been a lindy hop – swing dance – event in the exhibition building since lindy’s revival. there are always rumours that someone’s planning a huge extravaganza dance event in there. but i’m not so sure it’d come off. even if just one wing was used. a sound tekkie mate of mine reckons it’d be impossible to do the sound on properly. the ceilings are so high – i can imagine the music just flying up there and getting lost, all those dancers wandering about, desperately trying to find 1. hah.
i read somewhere recently that connex, who run the trains here since it was privatised, want to give the old station back to the government, get them to keep it up. but that the government aren’t keen.
i’m not sure who i’m rooting for.
and i like the thought of the flinders street railway station as a giant white elephant. well, a giant yellow elephant. i’m not even sure if that’s a true story.

but still.

i still stare up at it as i pass, wondering where exactly the dance hall was.
and i’m always on the look out for old dance halls in melbourne. cab drivers are the best source. and nannas on the bus.

but none of them are lindy hoppers. i’ve yet to meet a real, live lindy hopper. they were jitterbuggers if anything. guess it’s too long ago now – it was the 30s. and i suspect that lindy was never really here in australia.
what a thought. it facinates me…