Quite an original social experiment, indeed!

by Tim Anderson (timothyanderson2005@gmail.com)

The most memorable events are often the most random, unplanned, and unexpected ones.

Undoubtedly the most amusing event I have witnessed in 2007 occurred in a club called Turbinehallen in Copenhagen the other night, which myself and a friend were there to witness. Our presence there had been quite accidental – we misread the name of the club we had been advised to go to by another friend (by SMS) thinking it was this one. In fact, it was not, but no matter. This chance error resulted in us witnessing what I can only describe as one of the most profound social experiments I have ever unwittingly been a part of. Fortunately, my camera phone did the job, so I captured a few of the moments as events unfolded.

It happened like this:

Emerging from the washroom and passing the small stage where people had been dancing, I noticed a rather conspicuous individual was on a small platform on stage, a single spotlight shining on him. Perhaps approaching 40 years old, wearing large sunglasses, bright red trousers and a blue tank top from which his fairly significant pot belly hung out just slightly, he was not exactly inconspicuous. Oh, he also maintained quite a scowl of a facial expression. He had adopted a particular ‘dance’, one where he held one hand in front of his stomach, and the other out to his side – while not moving his feet one bit. People quickly surrounded him, in the way they would a street performer in a public square.

I returned to where my friend was, a distance away from the stage, and pointed this fellow out – she hadn’t noticed him until this point. We found it odd, but carried on not paying much attention to him. The music, it should be noted, had changed to a rhythmic and unchanging barrage of electronic growling. After a few minutes, we realised he wasn’t going anywhere, as did many others. A few people began to take the ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ approach, and started dancing on the small stage behind him. Unfortunately, owing to his commanding presence in the spotlight and the nature of the repetitive and unchanging music , it quickly proved impossible to continue for more than about a minute, so these attempts quickly faded away – leaving him on stage as the lone dancer.

Now the mood of a few people (the average age in the place was between 19-22, I would judge) began to change. This individual was becoming an intrusive presence – they wanted to dance. A few people seemed to be finding his presence not quite to their taste and began approaching him. Some tried talking to him, which failed, then others began trying to push him away. His stance was unchanging, and he continued to maintain his position – swaying his body slightly, with his arms lock in place in a sort of ‘dancing-like’ posture, his feet still unmoving.

'why did you punch my boyfriend, I mean, just because he punched you first...'

Now a few people were becoming quite provoked. A couple of guys came up behind him and pulled his trousers down to his feet. He pulled them back up again, and continued dancing. This left them unsatisfied and they approached him again, this time trying to shove him. When they did, he shoved back, immediately resuming his dancing position. One fellow tried to punch him and was promptly punched right back. Another girl came up and began shouting angrily in his ear. No reaction.

...some beer for you tank top, sir?

Finally a few people started spraying him with beer. He was still surrounded with people as a street performer would be, it should be noted. Somebody got the idea of turning off the single spotlight that was shining on him, as the ceiling was quite low and the power cord could easily be reached. So they did – but he just continued dancing, oblivious. And the music continued, unchanging.

After a few seconds, another member of the audience plugged the spotlight back in. This act changed the dynamic of the crowd somewhat. Now those who were provoked by him could see that, in fact, he did have support in the audience – not everybody was against him some seemed to imagine must be the case.

At this point my friend and I found our attention was rapt. We simply couldn’t believe this individual had manage to provoke so many aggressive acts out of those in attendence – he still hadn’t even moved a centimetre from the spot he was standing. It was a club, and he was dancing – albeit in his peculiar manner.

After a few minutes, those wanting to see him disappear regained some courage, and beer began to get dumped on him in increasing quantities – sometimes from a distance, and sometimes by people who would walk right up to him and pour it over his head. His tanktop was soaked.

Finally, after what I would judge to be somewhere between 20 to 30 minutes, the music at last stopped, he gave a wave to the crowd, which in turn gave him a hearty cheer, and then he disappeared. Two security guards of the club quickly removed the platform upon which he had been standing – confirming indeed that this had all been a planned event.

We simply couldn’t believe the anger that bubbled up out of a number of individuals over the course of his ‘routine’. If it hadn’t been all so damn fascinating to observe, it would have been outright disturbing. Well, okay, it was that too.

What can I say, the kids are alright, some of them just don't always get it...

1 Response to "Quite an original social experiment, indeed!"

  1. Mark says:

    Ha. Deadly. Trust the danes to go and bully the poor pot bellied performer. I'd love to see it tried in other countries. I would've imagined that everyone would mimic him.

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