By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The line of people waiting to get into Cirque, the 18-and-up nightclub at the intersection of Harwood Street and Pacific Avenue, stretches more than a block, three or four people wide at every point. But the line, filled with night crawlers dressed in their going-out best, doesn't exist for any particular reason.
Well, no tangible reason, anyway: No celebrities are booked to be at the club, and no special party is lined up. It's just another Friday night at Cirque, which right now has the reputation of being the hottest Friday night hip-hop dance spot in town.
That's it, really.
But that's plenty. Because, an hour from now, when the line has shrunk to fewer than 10 still-patient entrants, the club, which can hold up to 1,800, will be almost filled, and everyone inside will be dancing.
More surprising, they'll all be dancing the same dance. It's a complicated array of moves that has come to be known as the Dallas Boogie, or more commonly as the D-Town Boogie, in which dancers sway their arms out before them, bend their knees, swivel their legs, shake their hips and shimmy their shoulders while leaning side to side—all essentially at the same time.
It's a move used pretty much all night, no matter the song.
The regional hits, the ones performed by artists who proudly call Dallas home, draw the biggest reactions from the crowd, with screams of "OHHHH!" and more effort poured into the carefully practiced dance moves as DJ Hustle, the club's resident Friday night party host, selects the evening's soundtrack.
It's been a big year—maybe the biggest ever—for Dallas hip-hop. More than a half-dozen songs from Dallas artists have landed on Billboard's Top 100 R&B/Hip-Hop Songs in 2008, and most of those hits are dance tracks—club-bangers that explicitly instruct dancers to do a certain move. For years, local rap artists have championed the phrase "Dallas got next" as a rallying cry for their fellow troops. But this year, with Dallas hip-hop songs now finally charting nationally, it's possible the slogan could be true—if the scene and its players can overcome a few hurdles by the time Dallas hip-hop has its moment in the national spotlight when the NBA All-Star Game comes to the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington in 2010.
Back at Cirque, the first hurdle facing any hip-hop scene—actively engaging an audience—appears to be cleared. It's difficult to move throughout the space, and the whole club is dancing. Even as they walk about the few less-trafficked areas of the club, patrons are still dancing as they amble about.
At 11:45 p.m., a sustained calm takes over the dance floor. Actually, it's not so much calm as repetitious, organized bedlam. The song playing over the club's sound system is Dallas artist Fat Pimp's "Rack Daddy," one of the biggest club and radio hits of the Dallas hip-hop scene's past year. The proof of that fact isn't so much in Nielsen Soundscan numbers or in Billboard magazine charts, though they're impressive, but in the reaction it draws.
As the rapper's voice comes out of the speakers, the crowd follows his shouted instructions dutifully, as if he's hidden somewhere, watching and taking notes on their efforts.
Throw you shoulders out! Fat's disembodied voice commands.
In unison, the dancers bop each shoulder in time with the beat.
The sea on the dance floor bends at its knees and hips so emphatically that the club's floor noticeably shakes.
I got 'em looking at me. Now watch me Rack Daddy!
The crowd continues following suit, only this time, without exact instruction, its members break off into various incarnations of the D-Town Boogie, as it will until the next chorus of "Rack Daddy" returns.
Do the Rack Daddy! Yeah!
It's incredible. The whole scene is so well-choreographed, even during these non-instructional parts, that it looks ripped straight out of a music video, or perhaps an impromptu song-and-dance number in a John Hughes movie.
All this for a song Fat Pimp admits a) was created as a joke, b) was written on a whim about the Duncanville billiard hall of the same name, and c) was just his attempt at slapping a name on the dance Dallas club-goers were already doing.
That's the first dirty secret about the Dallas dance tracks that have made Billboard's chart this year: Each of these dance songs is built around the same D-Town Boogie core with minor differences thrown in during the chorus. For Lil Wil's "My Dougie," dancers check their hair by sweeping hands over their heads and checking the hair by their ears; for Lil Shine's "Check Out My Lean," they bend forward at their hips; for Fat Pimp's "Rack Daddy," they dip at the knees; for B-Hamp's "Do The Ricky Bobby," they freeze and pretend to be wheeling around in a wheelchair; for Them GSpot Boyz's "Do Da Stanky Legg" they shake their behinds and shimmy one leg.
Each of these songs has been a relative overnight success—likely because they're all built from a foundation that's taken a couple years to create, blending smaller Dallas dance crazes and national dances that have crept into the mix.