I have often wondered why people in the dance community call their friends a “rave family.”

A quick search on Instagram with the hashtag #ravefam results in 99,593 posts, while #ravefamily provides a massive 155,530 “family” portraits. What is it about the dance community that makes people feel so close together, to the point where we grow to think of one another as our own blood? I had a chance to explore this when I found out that my usual group of friends wasn’t going to Escape this year.

I had never been, and it was something I really wanted to experience, so I decided to go on my own. I dressed up as Little Orphan Annie and made a totem in hopes of finding a #ravefamily who would adopt me.

When I first got into Escape, I walked around for a bit and almost forgot to hold up my totem. The venue was huge and so beautiful, it was easy to get lost in the wonder of it all.

Once I started holding my totem high and proud, I began to doubt my decision of coming alone. I felt really self-conscious. I could see people reading my totem as I walked past, and my visions of being welcomed with open arms by all seemed like fairy tale. Nobody stepped up and volunteered to take a shy, wide-eyed rave orphan under their wings!

“It’s a whole community of ravers coming together as a family to celebrate what makes them ‘weird’ to everywhere else.”

After the first couple of hours, with no one approaching me, a wave of doubt and anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks! I ended up finding a quiet corner to let out a few tears. In desperation, I texted the person who first got me interested in dance music and raves, asking if he was here and had a friend (or 10) that I could hang out with.

I wanted to fall apart when he replied that he wasn’t, but that he wanted me to have a good time for him. I told him my dilemma, and he responded with the best advice I think any solo raver should hear: “Stay positive. Be yourself. Go over and talk to people. Ask if you can hang around with them. People will be nice,” he assured. All I can say is he was the real MVP of my weekend. Without that reassurance, to be honest, I was ready to just go home, hide in my bed, and cuddle with my cat.

After a few more pep talks reminding me that people would like me if I just acted like myself, I looked at the Insomniac app and decided to venture to a stage. I stood toward the back and looked all around me. Instead of waiting for people to approach me, I decided to be proactive and approach them.

I saw a group of girls dancing together; one girl was dressed up as a cat. Since I am a huge cat fan, I decided to take a deep breath and just go and say hi. I went over and told them I was there by myself and asked if I could dance with them. They unequivocally said yes. As we were dancing, I was still kind of self-conscious when one of the girls named Marisa and I were talking about what made raves special to us.

“I always felt kind of weird,” she told me. “I think everyone here has felt that way. The great thing about raves is that it doesn’t matter. You can be whomever you want. I once went to a rave, and I wanted to dress up as a unicorn, and my friends all laughed. But when I showed up at the rave as a unicorn, everyone loved it!”

She really helped me relax and enjoy the rest of the experience. I can be self-conscious about my dance moves (or lack thereof), and she encouraged me to just go for it!

American author Richard Bach once said, “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” This, to me, describes every single person I met this weekend at Escape: Psycho Circus.

I went in search of a few people who might adopt me into their group, and I found that maybe it isn’t about squads or rave fams. It’s a whole community of ravers coming together as a family to celebrate what makes them “weird” to everywhere else.

Follow Ashlee Burke on Twitter | Instagram


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