DANCE: Q&A with ‘Loftkid’ Luis Vargas
ARTISTICALLY SPEAKING: Q&A with ‘LOFTKID’ LUIS VARGAS
Some people are the life of the party without even trying. And, if you’re ever in the company of ‘Loftkid’ Luis Vargas, that goes without saying. He has played a key role in the New York Dance Parade since its start, dedicating much time, money and energy to the event and House Coalition. “Underground dance culture has been in my life literally since childhood,” he explains in the following interview with Tania Fuentez Media. “When a crowd of people together howls, screams, smiles, cries, opens or closes its eyes at the same time during a favorite song, everyone in the crowd feels the joy of that moment together.”
NOTE: The 2012 New York Dance Parade will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 19, along Broadway to the East Village. To register for the Dance Parade and House Coalition, visit http://danceparade.org/wp/
TFM: This year marks the sixth annual Dance Parade in New York, which attracts thousands of participants representing all cultures and styles of dance. How long have you been involved with the event and why?
I have been involved since the very first Dance Parade parade. It is the biggest and loudest way I know to express myself through art. What we as dancers do is art to us, even if right now we are not protected as artists by freedom of expression laws. Dancing is how I create.
TFM: Over the years, what challenges have you faced and overcome while volunteering in the Dance Parade and organizing the House Coalition, which usually has one of the most lively floats? What lessons have you learned along the way? How can we make things better?
The funding is always the most challenging part of making the House Coalition happen. I want to produce a full-spectrum experience, but to do so gets very expensive, so sometimes I have to do some juggling. I have gone into debt many times, but the Parade appreciates us and my efforts and they really try to help us a lot.
TFM: “Not everybody understands House music,” says a popular 90s House track … what does House music mean in your life? Does the name “Loft Kid” sum it up best? What are some of your earliest memories of NYC dance culture?
Dancing is an incredible driving force in my life, mainly because I like the freedom it gives me. Dancing frees me of life’s many, many challenges, if only for just a few hours; at the same time, dancing celebrates the fact that we are indeed alive. The joy of the dance floor is participating in and with a community that physically expresses its love for a musical moment at the same time. When a crowd of people together howls, screams, smiles, cries, opens or closes its eyes at the same time during a favorite song, everyone in the crowd feels the joy of that moment together.
Underground dance culture has been in my life literally since childhood. I have the fortune of having a mother who met the right people during one of the most dynamic eras in New York City history, among whom David Mancuso. She became a member of The Loft and went religiously during the late 70s and early 80s. The first time I ever went to The Loft, I was with my younger brother; at the time he was 5, and I was 8. The Loft was true night life, decorated for the dark hours like no other place — with an ocean of balloons. David built a class-A sound system that to this day I try to replicate. The Loft was also David’s lovely living room, and it always felt that way. You could be yourself there, or if you chose, someone else. David’s was a vacation from Life into Imagination, a Wonka Factory full of wonders and delights. I really didn’t understand until later, when I was 10 or 11 and discovered the artist inside me. That day, the dancer sprang to life, and I have been “that guy” ever since. “Loft Kid” Luis is “that guy.”
TFM: Describe what you cherish most about the Dance Parade and the role music and dance play in our society. Is there any way to effectively address and eliminate outdated NYC cabaret laws?
I am a very expressive person. I am a dancer, largely because I cannot be any other way. Dancing is both my medium and my art form—and I am both my medium and my art when I dance. The Parade gives our community and me a platform on which to showcase our media, our art and ourselves. By giving nightclub dancers a place in the sun, the Parade takes away some of the fear and stigma that people wrongly associate with nightlife in NYC, and shows everyone that we night clubbers are really not scary aliens. The Parade literally sheds light on the subject of dance in general, and allows us to share the joy of dancing with the parade-goers. We do the House Coalition float every year so that one day—one day soon, I hope, people will stop criminalizing the act of social dancing. The laws that govern social dancing were designed specifically to socially segregate people of different ethnicities and prevent them from fraternizing because the powers-that-were felt it was unseemly, dangerous and immoral. It seems ridiculous that in this present day and age such laws be still on the books, yet they are, and for a reason.
Whenever someone in power needs to stir up controversy and garner praise or votes under the guise of “quality-of-life” defense, he or she can cite the cabaret laws and enforce them. As a result, many small businessmen and bar/lounge owners are very reluctant, even scared, to allow their patrons to dance. The ultimate effect of this law is even worse, because people who only sit around while getting intoxicated will be much more drunk than a group of people who have been moving around and metabolizing the alcohol they consume. People who have been dancing are thus far less likely to cause fatal accidents behind the wheel or create the kinds of “quality-of-life” situations that spawn the complaints that lead to the misapplication and misenforcement of ill-conceived laws that should have long ago been abolished, much the same way as legally segregated schools and voting rights for men only.
TFM: Cowbells, tambourines, and whistles are just a few instruments you’ve been known to bring to a party. Why do you carry accouterments like these to parties with you?
In most every way, I am larger than life. The instruments help me express the passion that I have for this culture and its activities in terms that fit my stature, figuratively and physically. Like salt and pepper to the dinner table, I think I bring a little more flavor to the party experience.
TFM: Greatest influences (musically, spiritually, etc.)?
My mother and my family coming from relatively poor background. We learned to make a lot out of a little. David Mancuso and his philosophy of what a party should be in terms of dedication to very best possible production avail to us; Ramtha School of Enlightenment with the rediscovering of the creator that lives in me; Larry Levan; Nina Simone; Stevie Wonder; Pink Floyd; James Brown; Prince; U2; Bob Marley; the list of artists is endless. I believe we are all gods, and that God’s powers live in each of us. We choose to be creators or non-creators. I am a creator. Special thanks to Josie (Mom) Kip, Lori Caval and Nuit for all your support.
New York Dance Parade 2012: http://danceparade.org/wp/
Dance Parade 2012 photos on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ajournalist/