Collective effervescence in dancing all night at the club

An overview of the unique experience of the nightclub dance floor hints at Durkheim’s idea of collective effervescence:

Photo by Mauru00edcio Mascaro on

“I feel one with the crowd of energy and lose my sense of self. I don’t feel myself as expressing anything in particular on the dance floor, I’m doing the opposite—I’m just being present in the moment, dancing, being a part of the greater whole of the night. I’m able to do this because I become engulfed in the intense sensations from the music, lights, and the energies that reverberate from the rest of those dancing,” said Jason Friedlander, another dance floor patron from Manila, Philippines. 

For Friedlander, dance floors are a place where differences dissipate, conflict seizes, and equality reigns. 

“On the dance floor socio-economic hierarchies are leveled and each becomes equally subject to the wonders of melody and rhythm. Unlike other communities fostered through sports teams or most organized religions, the cult of music is neither founded on conflict nor opposition, but on harmony.”

Get caught up in the music, the crowd, and dancing and the group on the dance floor is melded together through the common activity and energy.

Is such an experience available to anyone who joins the dance floor? How much do the conditions of the club/venue and the particular participants shape the collective effervescence?

Claim: nightclubs closing due to new Millenial social patterns

The number of nightclubs in the UK has declined in the last decade and here is one possible reason why:

Even famous London dance-music clubs such as Turnmills, Bagley’s and The End have succumbed to a process that has seen the UK’s total portfolio of nightclubs shrink by almost half from 3,144 in 2005 to 1,733 a decade later.

The statistic from the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) is a signal not just of the effect of the smoking ban and the imposition of student loans but of a fundamental shift in the way a new generation chooses to spend its entertainment budget…

A night out at a pop-up restaurant or a secret cinema feels more adventurous than yet another club night, which will only drain finances needed for that ambitious summer holiday trip. According to Yakob, nightclubbing has become for many young people a “couple of times a year” experience, hearing the best DJs on the best sound systems…

Twice a year punters aren’t going to pay a nightclub’s bills. But even for some dedicated music fans, the lure of a night of House music could be reduced by their long hours of listening to playlists on a premium streaming service during daily commutes. The UK is among Spotify’s strongest markets. Felim McGrath, analyst at market research company GlobalWebIndex, says: “In years gone by you would go to a nightclub at the weekend to discover music played by a top DJ. Now you can do that online via a curated playlist.”

While this isn’t good news for the nightclub economy, the social ramifications are interesting. For pre-teens to young adults, music is often an essential part of the social experience. It is part of creating an identity, burn off steam and/or transgress boundaries, and unite with other people. All of this can be done with music online – it just takes different forms. For example, instead of going to nightclubs or as many concerts, users can post in forums and comment sections about their favorite artists. Instead of interacting with strangers (who may share the same music interests) at venues, the music is now more privatized as users can select what they want wherever they want. Like many experiences with the web, users get more choice in more places but lose embodied experiences with others.

At the worst, in the future no one will emerge from their headphones and personalized experiences. At the best, perhaps the music listened to and discussed online can lead to new kinds of unique experiences outside of the typical nightclub and concert experiences.