Eleven young Soulies, five questions on Northern Soul
For three years now, Elaine and her team have been hosting monthly Northern Soul dance sessions, to get a troop of young dancers ready for the high-energy dance scenes of Northern Soul the Film.
We attended one of the sessions and dragged some of the dancers away from the dance floor, and asked them each about what they like about Northern Soul, and what it’s like to be part of today’s generation of ‘soulies’.
Here is what they told us.
1. What did you think when you first saw other people dancing to northern soul music before you became involved?
‘I watched a clip on YouTube on people dancing at the Wigan Casino just before I went to audition for the project. Growing up on Merseyside myself, I was totally shocked seeing so many white Northerners dancing with such style and rhythm; and that so many Northerners had taste in quality Black American music. Initially I saw a lot of parallels with break-dancing, with all the acrobatics and quick footwork. When I set off to the audition for Northern Soul the Film, I was excited about diving into this world of Northern Soul, but at the same time I was a bit scared by the standard I was going to have to show I could hit on the floor!’
Rob Baker Ashton
‘The first time I saw people dancing to Northern Soul music I was amazingly intrigued. I remember very clearly, a woman on the dance floor in what can only be described as a trance. She had her eyes closed as she glided around the floor in an effortless way, feeling every beat & lyric as if it was the only thing that mattered in life, like this is what her life was for, to be transported to another level by this music. I wanted to know how she found this part of herself - as it was obvious this was a very special scene to be a part of.’
‘I remember watching the quick steps and the spins and being amazed by how effortless they were making it look. Everything seemed so quick, controlled and passionate. It was the passion that drew me in. I wanted to be where they were, feel what it was that they were feeling just for a second!’
2. What is it that you love about Northern Soul music?
‘It's old music forgotten by America and rediscovered by teens in the north of England, each song feels like a hidden treasure, and any one of the songs could have been the next big thing if they had only been promoted in their time.
‘Northern soul music is so deep and emotional compared to many other genres, which almost appear superficial in comparison. You can really feel the pain
and anguish in the voices of the singers, which I feel is often lost in popular music these days. People can relate to so many of the lyrics and are able to escape from the monotony of everyday life through the music. But it is so special because of what it means to so many people, in the experiences they have shared and the ones that will be shared because of it in the future!’
‘It's the fact that this music brings people together. And for a night it doesn't really matter who you are or where you have come from to be at this one place. Once the tunes are on, be it your favourite tune or just one you dig, it's like everything past the dance-floor and outside the walls don't matter or even exist. The beauty of Northern Soul music is the fact that there is a mutual understanding between the followers and listeners. It resonates with their lives. It's as if the voice from the speakers are singing to them, you and me. And to find something like that in contemporary music or music-genres is getting more and more rare.’
3. Tell us about the feeling you get when you’re dancing to Northern Soul.
‘It is exciting to be dancing many acrobatic moves but we do it, often with little space. And so for this reason, the dance floor itself breathes. Spaces appear during breaks for people to perform their floor moves, there's like an understanding between everyone - an awareness - everyone in their own moment, but everyone as one dance floor. It's very beautiful.’
‘The dance floor is an ace place - there's no fucking around. When your favourite song is on, no one will come and start talking to you - I hate that. On a Northern Soul dance floor people are there to dance. ‘
‘There is an indescribable sense of being at one with every other person who's dancing. Like an army; if you are up then you are in it with all your energy, and not one person there is saying any different.’
‘When a record is playing, everyone is so individually captivated by the music, but at the same time, they appear to be moving as one-sensing those around them and feeding off one another’s love and passion for the record. It is such an amazing feeling when the rhythm of the floor is pounding in time with the music; the energy radiating from the dance floor is just electric!’
4. What does it feel like to be part of the Northern Soul scene?
‘I feel I am now 'living' the Northern Soul experience. Having now been with the rest of the dance team for 2 1/2 years, I have learnt so much! The songs are on my ipod, not just for practising but because the lyrics have now moved me so much, that I generally enjoy the style of music so. I feel free and just love the atmosphere we have managed to create when we dance together. At times I feel like I am in Wigan at the Soul club, as we all get into our breaks in the music to do our tricks. NO ACTING, SIMPLY LIVING. ‘
‘Northern Soul allows me to be myself with complete confidence. It gives me an invincibility and pride that can't be broken. Whilst it's a completely personal experience, where I feel like I'm totally on my own and independent, there's a feeling of unrelenting support from everyone around you. It gives you an instant connection to someone else.’
5. Why did you personally get involved in the film? And now you have the experience of Northern Soul music & dancing, are your reasons for staying involved different in anyway?
Rob Baker Ashton
‘I never realised how much it would take over our lives. Never being much of a dancer, (I grew up in mosh pits where the only footwork needed was to try & keep standing) I have never been comfortable on the dance floor until now. I now look forward to getting on it, and when that special song comes on, it's a feeling of pure joy. And so my reasons for being involved are now very different than they were at the beginning. I feel like we have found something very special; great music I can relate to & really enjoy; a group of people I consider to be very close friends who I look forward to spending my time with; and a project I will gladly do anything to help become the massive success that we all know it will be.’
‘My involvement in the film developed very naturally, and though acting and dancing is something which I had never even considered before hand, I am a person who believes we all have it in us to accomplish anything we put our minds to, despite any levels of self doubt and its important to try your best at whatever comes your way. And now I am knee deep, wading in soul, dancing and; all the people involved. I don't know what my reasons for continuing are exactly but I know for sure I can't let go. I want to give everything I can to help make this an incredible film.’
‘You have to know the premise inside out and back to front. You have to learn every song, every dance move, every bit of history. Meet the people who were there and hear their stories. I wouldn't say my reasons have changed for being involved in the project for a long time. There is still a lot more for all of us to learn. All I will say is there is no way of getting out now. It’s an addiction. It’s gone from being a job to being a personal passion. We choose to go to northern gigs, and listen to the music. Some of the team have been involved for nearly three years now and no one makes you stay. We stay because we love every time that phone goes and we have to do something for the film - and I know when it comes to filming, it will by far be the best film I probably ever make.’