In response to Lauren Cramer
Chloe Turner, Goldsmiths, University of London
The short film Icy Lake (Wills Glasspiegel, 2014) documents the complex history of the dance floor anthem “Icy Lake,” by New York-based house duo Dat Oven. The film opens with DJ/Producer Total Freedom rediscovering the track on YouTube in 2013 by chance at the end of an obscure video: “it was intriguing because it was a more beat up looking recording that anything I had seen.” Through a combination of New York City dance floor footage from the Palladium 1997 & Club Escuelita 2014, interviews with ballroom DJs, photographers and hosts, the film charts how the track communicates across time.
One of the clips is shaky video footage of Junior Vasquez dropping in the “Icy Lake” track as part of the final ArenA party at the Palladium nightclub, on 31st August 1997. Later in the film, ArenA host and performer Kevin Aviance reflects on that evening, whilst being interviewed at Mother Juan Aviance’s 50th Birthday party in 2014:
What I remember at the closing night was the disco ball being brought down to the floor. And looking inside the disco ball, and seeing all my girlfriends who had died. I can see them, I can feel them, I can talk to them, they wave to me … I know it sounds really crazy but its the only time I can see those people again.1
In the clip, backed up against the wall of the club, house music half drowning out the conversation, Aviance theorises a past dance floor, as they stand illuminated by flecks of light, on a dance floor in their present. Through Aviance’s reflections we could theorise the disco ball then as bending not only the light through its many glittering mirrors, but refracting the past into many futures. The wistful “they wave to me” can be read as more than longing, as an invitation to a queer visuality where we must "squint, strain our vision and force it to see otherwise.”2
The glitched-sounding “Icy Lake” includes a periodic electronic click which the narrator described as “out of space and out of time,” a sound that five years later became synonymous with Grime music. As the otherworldly track overlays the multiple different clubs that people are interviewed on, it carries Kevin’s projections of the waving lost girlfriends onto future dance floors.
Reflecting on Black gay time and disco, Jafari Allens speaks of dancing with apparitions as a “temporality of time collapsed … an excessive temporality spread out broadly behind us and in front of us.”3 As Aviance, described in previous queer performance studies as a figure that “channels worlds,” resurrects lost girlfriends through the glittering disco ball, “Icy Lake” relays this “energy of these future pasts, that did not come to be” spilling into the overlapping presents that Kevin, Total Freedom and we the viewers experience.4 I consider that it’s the combination of the cut together 1997 & 2014 video footage and glitched “Icy Lake” track that imagines an audiovisual frequency for Kevin’s lost girlfriends to leak across time.
In whatever time the next disco ball I dance under is, I hope they wave to me too.
Allen, Jafari, There’s a Disco Ball Between Us: A Theory of Black Gay Life. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2022.
Keeling, Kara, “Looking After the Future: On Queer and Decolonial Temporalities,” October 30, 2019. https://wissenderkuenste.de/texte/ausgabe8/looking-after-the-future-on-queer-and-decolonial-temporalities-2/.
Muñoz, José Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York: New York University Press, 2009.
THUMP. “Watch ‘Icy Lake’ An Investigation Into One Of Nightlife's Notorious Dance Tracks.” Vice, May 6, 2014. https://www.vice.com/en/article/ez5nge/watch-icy-lake-an-investigation-into-one-of-nightlifes-most-notorious-dance-tracks.