Amid Toronto’s rave revival, DJ creates solo dance floor


Sarah Barrable-Tishauer aka DJ Me Time Boosts Dancefloor Transcendence at SummerWorks

Karl Skene

The one-on-one Portal performance explores the ritualistic experiences of raves.

Toronto is in the midst of a renegade rave revival. With severely restricted indoor nightclubs and the city in the throes of record heat, organized outdoor parties take place every weekend and, increasingly, further away from the city center.

The revelers play with the police, who will show up in small armies shining bright flashlights, scattering dancers and turning off public address systems.

Authorities seemed too concerned about the pandemic to quell loud outdoor parties last year, but they haven’t been this summer. And after video of a crowded rave at Riverdale Park went viral before Ontario even entered Stage 1 of the reopening plan, promoters tried to keep details off social media as much as possible. .

“You have to send a text for the address, things are happening under a bridge,” explains Sarah Barrable-Tishauer, aka DJ Me Time. “It’s really exciting for Toronto because we’ve been pretty straightforward. We aspire to get out of more typical places but, at the same time, I recognize how these spaces are more difficult to regulate. “

The Toronto music scene wanted to get away from the usual places, but this moment is not really euphoric.

“On the one hand, we are experiencing all this freedom and it’s exciting. I’m also really concerned about what that might mean for a fourth wave, ”she says. “We’re not quite out of the woods yet. “

As a result, a DIY party scene that focused on conversations about consent and creating a “safer space” now features a host of new security considerations, namely masking, distancing, and privacy. contact tracing.

As cities around the world require proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 tests to enter clubs, these policies are only beginning to roll out in Toronto – and only in the biggest concert halls.

For this reason, Barrable-Tishauer isn’t quite ready to return to party planning – indoors or out. Instead, she keeps the music alive through the One-on-One Experience Portal, a 15-minute interactive rave performance that’s part of this year’s SummerWorks Performance Festival.

“Portal is inspired by the fact that I view the pandemic as a portal,” she explains. “It was during this time that we witnessed major paradigm shifts that we never thought possible. I wanted to examine how we use this change to create the world we come back to.

Endless vibration search

Produced with a site-specific theater company Outside The March, the pop-up performance takes place this weekend at 76 Geary, the current headquarters of the Wildseed Center for Art and Activism affiliated with Black Lives Matter. People who went to late-night parties around 2015/2016 might also remember the space as 76A Geary.

When you arrive for your solo experience, a member of the Rave Institute in Barrable-Tishauer walks you through a clean room with cubed LED lighting (by designer Karl Skene). In the center is a camera that captures your image and renders it in a trippy animated form on a big screen.

A reassuring business-style voiceover asks you to move deliberately and slowly, triggering responsive animations. Everything seems very prescribed until a DJ Me Time sounding live hacks the system and turns up the volume.

She reminds you that dance music culture was born in black and queer communities, and that the dance floor has always been a space to shed the identities that society has assigned to us. Her storyline is personalized based on a quiz you’ve filled out beforehand, and she goes through it with a sense of urgency – the Rave Institute is about to take back control. But not until you’ve danced to a song you’ve chosen (in my case, Menergy by Patrick Cowley and Sylvester).

Portal plays like a satire of the underground delirium co-opted by wellness technology. It also seems timely in the way it connects to the dichotomy at play between bodily freedom and collective concern: you are alone, but manifest a group experience.

Barrable-Tishauer describes the Rave Institute as “an entity for cultivating human potential and social change through ritualistic rave experiences”. Portal is the first chapter in a multi-part ‘immersive rave opera saga’ that she intends to continue when large gatherings are safer.

It’s a cheeky, sci-fi materialization of her own research into the factors that enable human connection and joyful expression on the dance floor.

“We’re always looking for that intangible vibe,” says Barrable-Tishauer. “How do you create the circumstances that allow people to feel safe and secure to connect and express themselves? “

After all, if you can’t let your guard down, how are you going to let go of everyday stress and have a transcendent experience? Hence his name of DJ.

“When I’m around people, I get this feeling of being alone and with myself in a spiritual way even though I’m dancing in this group,” she explains. “I use the dance floor as this radical utopia where the ecstatic ritual of delirium can be used to create myths and solidify the values ​​of the community. I see the dance floor as more than a party.

Sarah Barrable-Tishauer aka DJ Me Time in bunny ears
Joshua Best

The safest space conversation

Before becoming a DJ, Barrable-Tishauer was best known for playing Liberty Van Zandt for nine seasons in the television series Degrassi: The Next Generation. She got into organizing events because, as a black woman, she says she wanted to throw parties that emphasized safety.

“I say ‘safer space’ and not ‘safe space’ because no space is really safe. We all have the capacity to harm and be injured, ”she explains. “It’s about putting as much intentionality as possible into an event and being able to respond if people need support.”

His Bass Witch and EveryBody parties were born out of a desire to create a thoughtful experience – from DJs and music to safety and the ‘patrol vibe’, a group of volunteers who wear brightly colored vests and help with de-escalation and to risk reduction.

Discussions about security and consent got particularly noisy when #MeToo was in the headlines. COVID-19 has added a new layer to those conversations on the Toronto rave scene, she says.

“We’ve all learned these new ways of talking about safety and understanding how we affect the safety of others,” says Barrable-Tishauer. “When I create events, I feel a sense of responsibility for what people are feeling. What if they don’t feel safe? Is there support on the ground? If you are just hosting an event where everything is going well, there are potential challenges. “

She is still a DJ and attends virtual events. Everyone is fed up with Zoom dance parties, but she still managed to have some transcendent experiences online this summer.

On August 7, she attended Deaf Spectrum’s online Crip Rave. For the first time, she saw the interpretation and subtitling of ASL music at a party. “People were commenting, ‘This is my first time going to a rave. They have never been accessible to me before, ”she says. “It’s a paradigm shift we could never have imagined.”

During the pandemic, she also created Brunch N Boogie, an online kitchen dance party that involved cooking a recipe while she was DJing. “I transformed our living room into a dance floor. I have a laser that lights a full size disco ball. Where we used to organize dinners, it is a club in its own right.

Now that lockdowns have eased and the vaccination rate is high, there is tension between those who are ready to let go and those who are not – or cannot for reasons of personal health. .

“There’s that excitement and desire to get back to clubs and rave spaces, but also the social anxiety of what it’s like to be close to other people,” she says. “The main thing that I hope people will remember [from this time] is that when we start to come out of it, people have to recognize their own agency to create a new world. More specifically within the rave scene, who do they want to support and what expectations do they have from event planners?

“This conversation has been going on for a long time. The roots of this music are found in the black underground culture, queer, centered on political values ​​”, she adds. “Somewhere along the way that got lost.”

What are his hopes for the future?

After the pandemic, she sees a new decentralization of the dance music scene away from the few clubs in Toronto: new DJs, new promoters and new spaces. And she is more focused on organizing events than on other queues.

“[Representation] can be symbolic. It’s done because it’s what you’re supposed to do, not what you think you should do, ”she says. “We have Women’s Night for International Women’s Day. But what does it really do all your other nights?

“I hope that all of the amazing talent in this city will create their own spaces rather than hope that we will be seen or represented,” she says. “I’m going to create the festival I want to go to.”


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