Why No One’s Paying Attention To You (and Why That’s a GOOD Thing)


dancer B&W

“We have to take our shoes off”

“Won’t we slip over?”

“It looks like you just have to. Oh, and you pay on the way out. I guess it’s so that people can turn up late”

It was Monday night, I was stone cold sober, and about to dance for a solid hour in a room full of people.

In the pitch black.

No Lights No Lycra started five years ago, and has become an international phenomenon. A friend of mine told me about the Toronto chapter. She said she usually feels somewhat self-conscious dancing in clubs, but that this was the best. I asked if I could join her next time, and brought two extra friends along.

“Don’t you bump into people?” I asked.

“Well, there’s just enough light from the fire exit sign and the cracks above the doors, that you can see a little bit. But you do have to be careful.”

I felt weirdly nervous. Not so much about the dark, but about dancing in a room full of strangers at 7.15pm on a Monday night. No drink, no run-up. Just music on and GO.

They warned us that they were about to start, and the four of us assumed normal dancing positions: standing in a rough square, facing each other.

The lights went off – MAN it was dark – and Robyn’s Dancing On My Own started booming out.

I love this song – but also, Robyn does the kind of fun, unselfconscious dancing that felt appropriate in this setting. I tried to channel her.

Tried…but I still felt kind of bashful. I wafted my hands around. I shook my shoulders.

When I’m sober (which is quite a lot these days, given hoRobyn Dancingw little I’m able to drink without wanting to fall asleep) and initially on the dance-floor, I pretty much always start with “Mum At A Wedding”: elbows bent, hands in loose fists at my shoulders with palms facing forwards, creasing at the waist and tipping from side to side while bobbing. I tried throwing in some Robyn-style punches ahead and to the side, but I wasn’t quite feeling it (and I was a bit worried I’d hit someone) .


The song ended, and we all clapped and “Woo!”ed. The next one started, and I didn’t recognise it.

Something about the tune being unfamilar was somehow a little more liberating. Plus I was getting used to the fact that you REALLY couldn’t see anything. The odd suggestion of shapes, but that was it.

I started going for it a bit more. I tried some jumping, up and then from side-to-side, Kid at School Disco style. This was cool.

I decided to see how it would feel if I weren’t dancing with my friends, given that I couldn’t see them anyway. Putting my arms out in front of me so that I didn’t crash into anyone, I gingerly made my way to the other end of the room.

I didn’t like it as much. Partly, I was further away from the speaker. But mostly, I weirdly did want to be physically close to my friends, even though it was only intellectually that I knew they were near, I couldn’t see them.

The urge to grope around, find one of them and start talking was VERY strong (as in all things, I’m a bit of a chatty dancer). But on your way into No Light No Lycra, you’re encouraged to keep conversation to a minimum. I guess they want you to feel the liberation of not being noticed by anyone else as much as possible. So I kept my mouth shut and kept dancing.

Here’s what it reminded me of:

A few years ago, back in London, I used to go to something called “Mobile Clubbing”. This was a flashmob dance party with iPods. You’d get on the list, then a few days before, an email would go out, saying:


On the day, you’d go there with your iPod and some headphones.

You’d be looking at everyone else with headphones hanging off their necks, wondering, “Are they here for it too?”.

This is one that happened in the Tate Modern. The same people also did Pillow Fightclub. First rule of Pillow Fightclub? Tell everyone about Pillow Fightclub.

Then, when the big station clock turned to 6.42, you’d put in your earbuds, press play and…start dancing. There would be about 30 seconds when you’d worry that it was only you doing it. But then it would become clear that there were a few hundred people also dancing to their iPods, and you’d relax and get into it.

I found that, at Mobile Clubbing, my dance moves would be more over the top – because, when no one knows what you’re dancing to, they can’t judge you on how well you’re dancing. Depending on what you’re listening to, the dance moves you’re throwing could be AMAZING.

I used to tell people that it was “like all the camaraderie of dancing with your friends, but all the freedom of dancing alone in your bedroom”.

I wondered whether No Lights No Lycra would feel the same, but it was MORE than this.

As the music went on, I found I wasn’t just doing my most outlandish dance moves – I was doing dance moves I’ve never done before.

The music was (as I’d been promised) wildly eclectic. Pop then indie then 80s then afrobeat then rock then motown then dubstep.

I knew some of the songs – one unexpected effect was that I kept wanting to sing along loudly. After all, that’s what I’d do if I was dancing along to the radio in my kitchen.

But most of them, I didn’t know. Usually if I was dancing, this would be a HUGE bummer. But weirdly here, it was better for it. Somehow it gave me license to do ANYTHING I WANTED to the music.

Here are some of the dance moves I enjoyed that night:

Scissor Arms
Aerobics Twist
Running In A Wind Tunnel
Air Guitar
Wax On – Wax Off
Dancer In Background Of A 1960s TV Show
Jiggedy Feet
Sexy Seduction Dance
Deeply UNsexy Repulsion Dance
Broken Robot
Rapper Rapping Onstage At Music Festival
Bum Semi-Circle
Molly Ringwald In Breakfast Club
Hand On The post Ballerina Pole Dancer
Quick Jumps In Attempt To Jiggle Everything Of Mine That Jiggles
Horsey Hands

and, my personal favourite,

Phil Collins Live Aid Drum Solo

At one point, they played Pitbull’s Fireball, and when he sings,

We’re taking it, we’re taking it, we’re taking it down
We’re taking it, we’re taking it, we’re taking it down

I – of course – started taking it down. I was just bending my knees, but then through the half-light, it looked like I could see someone else actually on the floor
– I thought, “all-RIGHT!!!”, and n
ext thing I know, my hands are propping me up, flat behind me, legs out in front, knees bent and I’m bouncing up and down, parallel to the floor.

(Though only of course untilIt makes me so happy that there are so many storm troopers on Flickr (which is where I get all my pics from)

We’re bringing it, we’re bringing it, we’re bringing it back
We’re bringing it, we’re bringing it, we’re bringing it back)

Everytime someone came in the front door or went to the washrooms, light would flood in.

The first time it happened, all of us who had our hands up IMMEDIATELY thrust them down. I kind of liked it – the idea that people who usually wouldn’t be caught dead waving their arms around felt free to do that here.

From time to time, my eyes would get used to the light – and it felt less fun. When this happened, I longed for someone to open one of those doors to come in or out. The minute they did, I’d stare at the light, hoping that my pupils would contract and make the ensuing darkness even blacker.

Finally, they shouted out that it was the last song, and put on Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. We flung ourselves around for the final time. As it faded out, we cheered – and they finally switched on the light.

Blinking, I staggered to the closest friend and we gave each other a massive hug. It felt like a momentous occasion.

Shaking my head, I said, “I did dance moves I’ve never done before!”

She looked at me. “I did dance moves that weren’t dance moves”.

The quote says, “Dance like there’s nobody watching you

This is much easier when nobody IS watching you.

The thing is, I really think that, most of the time when you’re dancing, nobody is watching you. Or if they are, it’s because they already like you – as my granny used to say when we worried about a zit (and, please imagine the thick Russian accent for this one):

“If they’re that close, they’re looking in your eyes”

(TWEET THIS here!)

There’s a phenomenon called The Spotlight Effect. This is the fact that, because we’re each the centre of our own universe, we constantly over-estimate how much attention everyone else is paying to us. This is particularly noticeable when we’re doing something atypical

…like, say, outlandish dancing.

Or going alone to a Christmas party or networking event.

Or, maybe, act like a dork in front of someone you want to impress.

No Lights No Lycra shows us that, when we’re not freaking out about other people’s judgement, we have a lot more fun.

(Tweet this HERE!)


The Spotlight Effect shows us that we don’t need to freak out about other people’s judgement – because they probably haven’t even noticed us.

So next time you’re out – let yourself off the hook a little. If you spend some of the evening standing alone – don’t worry, no one’s noticing!

If you want to dance but there aren’t many others doing it – just go ahead!

If you end up doing something a bit outlandish – whether that’s an eighties drummer-inspired move, or accidental spitting while you talk – chill out. It’s really not a big deal. No one will have noticed.

Or if they have, they’re probably looking in your eyes.


Now: your best dance move. Please try and describe it in the comments below.

Find out about Toronto’s No Lights No Lycra event on Facebook HERE.

And you can see if there’s a NLNL show in your city/country HERE.

Thanks so much for reading! If you’ve enjoyed this, feel free to share it using one of the buttons below (or floating – dancing? – on the left).

You rule,

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha



PS want to know my best-ever client secret – and get even more advice, tips, plus stories that I won’t put on the internet? Come and join the Yes Yes Family – it’s free! Just pop your details in below:

photo credits: rawbin underwater, RJ Schmidt,tom chance, JD Hancock, ericskiff, all via Compfight cc


  • Natasha

    Reply Reply December 6, 2014

    That must have been the most amazing experience…. And a lot more fun than the eating-in-the-pitch-dark restaurants that everyone was writing about a couple of years back! :-)))

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply December 6, 2014

      I actually did that once in London! And really loved it. But this *was WAY more fun! :)

  • Ryan Stevens (@ohh_n)

    Reply Reply December 17, 2014

    Would love to see something like this in Halifax! This sounds like a blast. :) Best dance move? Jazz hands.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply December 17, 2014

      Ooh, i LOVE Jazz Hands!

      (Also, you should start a No Lights No Lycra in Halifax! I think anyone can if you ask them…)

      Thanks, Ryan!

  • Janiele

    Reply Reply January 7, 2015

    Hey Marsha…followed some awesome breadcrumbs from Sean Croxton to The Art of Charm (specifically your podcast) and now this awesome article…loving it! Your article and the reference to the Spotlight Effect reminds me of what a dear friend of mine always says, “it’s all about you, but it ain’t all about you, but it’s all about you”. This was the fuel I needed to finalize my first Youtube video….(nail bitting and teeth nashing subsided). You rock! Looking forward to exploring more of your fun world of networking….be well! -Janiele

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply February 3, 2015

      HOORAY! Well done on your first youtube video, that’s awesome! May there be many more!

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