Christie Aucamp-Schutte is the creator of Free Dance Party and one of our city’s last bastions against total impromptu dance suppression. Whenever she can, Christie takes to the streets with her trusty speaker and starts cutting shapes, encouraging all those around her to join the party.
During Vivid Sydney Christie made the news when one of her innocent Free Dance Parties were shut down by the police, a rather potent metaphor for the wider state of the city’s nightlife. However just days later she returned, partnering with Coca-Cola on the launch of their upcoming energy drink for a bigger party than she’d ever thrown. Luckily this time was a raging success; nothing got shut down, guarana was flowing, and folks from all over the world danced as one.
With another successful night in her back pocket and many more to come, we caught up with Christie for a chat.
“I AM THE LORD OF THE DANCE SAID HE”: Meet Christie Aucamp-Schutte, the woman bringing Free Dance Party to Sydney no matter who tries to stop her.
HAPPY: Can you tell us a bit about how Free Dance Party kicked off?
CHRISTIE: FDP began as a social experiment documentary for film school. I was inspired by the FREE HUGS movement. The idea came from a moment when I was watching a busker in the city and I wanted to dance to the music but felt too awkward. In that moment I knew that other people wanted to dance too but the fear of rejection held me back. I knew at a party or at a club it just takes one person to start the dance floor, so I wanted to see if I could replicate it on the street. We are so stiff in Sydney and Australia, we just don’t have that dance culture, I’d like to change that, loosen people up.
HAPPY: I love that you’re doing this in Sydney, considering the current climate it’s kind of badass. Is there an element of rebellion in it for you?
CHRISTIE: I’m pretty petrified of authority but after being shut down multiple times it’s really gotten to me how disenfranchised we have become from our own public spaces. There is a rule for everything in this city and it’s bled our culture dry. To busk you need a permit, public liability insurance, a designated area which 20 other buskers are waiting in line for and a curfew of 9pm. Why do I need a permit to dance? Think about how ridiculous that is. I used to think it was normal, but slowly I started to change my thinking.
I make sure wherever I dance is far away from other buskers, in a large safe area away from cars and in a non residential area. People argue that we are not the only city that has these rules but it doesn’t matter what other cities do. In Sydney, one of the safest cities in the world, there is no good reason that harmless fun should be restricted by rangers and policemen on a power trip.
HAPPY: Given your event that got shut down recently, will you treat things any differently if the police try to shut down another Free Dance Party?
CHRISTIE: Next time I’ll ask them why I’m being shut down and make them tell the crowd their reason.
HAPPY: How did the last event go down? Looks like it was actually allowed to keep going this time…
CHRISTIE: Well the big boys at Coke came in and made sure this one wasn’t going to get shut down. It felt great to dance for once without the fear of being shut down. It was beautiful to be honest. We had families dancing and even an old lady with a walking frame dancing.
HAPPY: Did a strong supply of energy drinks help keep the feet moving?
CHRISTIE: Totes mgotes you bet it did.
HAPPY: Are there more parties planned? Or is it more of a spur of the moment thing each time?
CHRISTIE: I have been dancing more frequently because of VIVID but I try to go out every other week. It’s a big procession lugging the speaker around so I need to reserve a whole night or day for it.
HAPPY: Aside from showing up with 100 mates, is there any way we can support Free Dance Party?
CHRISTIE: Please don’t mind my disgusting self promotion here but you can share my videos to spread the message. If you happen to see me dancing, don’t just video, try join in ;)
HAPPY: Will do! Thanks for the chat.