This week we look at the time, effort and money that goes into making an event look the business.
Part of what separates clubbing in Ibiza from the rest of the world is the emphasis placed on production. On the island, concept is king. The amount of time, effort and money you're willing to invest in making your venue reflect the vibe of your party is just as important as the DJs you book. Elrow and ENTER. are two of the circuit's boldest ventures, in strikingly contrasting ways. We went behind the scenes at both parties, and spoke to Juan Arnau, founder and head promoter of Elrow, to find out what goes into giving the people that idiosyncratic Ibiza experience.
Elrow started life in Barcelona in 2010, set up as a daytime party with a difference: revellers were expected to wake up and attend, rather than roll through from the night before. Part of the reason for this, as Juan Arnau explains, "was to encourage the customers to play an active role in the party. We spent money on inflatable toys and party props, though of course people still treated the first few events as an afterparty. But as soon as they realised how active and fun an environment it was, they decided to conserve their energy and wake up instead."
In three years Elrow has gone from spending €2/300 on lilos and blow-up hammers, to investing €50,000 in production, actors and performers for a 7-8,000 capacity event at El Poble Espanyol earlier this year.
Inflatable toys? €50k on production? For anyone unfamiliar with the party, it offers a totally unconventional take on clubbing: "We're not trying to compete with the big clubs. Rather than spend 20 or 30 grand on a DJ that next week is going to be playing at the other big venue in town, we'd prefer to spend that money on production and give the customer a unique experience. Our main objective, as a family involved in the world of nocturnal entertainment since 1942, has always been to ensure people have a good time. We want you to leave smiling and happy."
In 2012, Elrow started its first residency abroad, setting up for the season at Vista Club in Ibiza. Following a successful debut, the team returned, manning Saturday nights. Each event has a specific theme, from the Balkans, to the '80s, to the Wild West, with the club then decorated accordingly. Each event takes several weeks of preparation: "Two or three weeks before the party a team of seven or eight will start building the larger sets and stages and then three days before the actual show, a team of 15 sets about completing whatever else needs doing. Thursday and Friday in the workshop and then Saturday setting it all up in Vista Club."
How many people are involved per production? "At Vista, some 60-70 form part of the performance every week. Within that you have 30 street actors and another 30 that belong to theatre companies. Plus, there are three people working in the office and another 15 making decorations and costumes. All the costumes are hand-made. We don't rent a thing. We make everything and keep it all. We have two sowing rooms, carpenters, painters, all involved in the process. On average, each event costs €15,000."
So how is the party? In short, incredibly fun. The theatrical elements and decoration are sublime, both thought out and put together with an acute attention to detail. You are presented with constant visual stimulation, and actively encouraged to join in. Colourful, jubilant and carefree, it's the quintessential adult's playground.
Richie Hawtin's ENTER., with its dark, stripped-back minimalism, pursues a very different aesthetic. From the posters through to the PR team, the party carries a strong conceptual focus on a single black dot. From the moment you walk into Space on a Thursday night, you'll find the dot on walls, floors and ceilings, evoking a jet-black, futuristic intensity. The Discoteca is purposefully under lit, transforming all performers and dancers into silhouettes. Behind the DJ booth is the party's flagship, imposing dot. Unlike Elrow, which pushes its music to the sidelines, ENTER. is all about the symbiosis of sound and production. As you stand listening to slick, thumping techno in the dark, you feel transported.
ENTER. Mind, which houses the party's more experimental acts, is bathed in a dense mist, accentuating the effect of the avant-garde sounds and adding to the overall sense of atmosphere. Outside in the Sake Bar, you're met with more of a warm, yellow glow, as Japanese lanterns hang and bartenders in kimonos serve premium sake cocktails. Like Elrow, the attention to detail is striking. In an environment as clinical and sprawling as Space, ENTER. gives the club a real sense of character.
Behind the scenes: Jenniffer Luciana Gertman
Born and raised in Miami, Jenniffer Luciana Gertman has been dancing ever since she was a little girl. Scouted by Pacha while working in her hometown, she spent years dancing exclusively for the iconic brand around the world. This year, however, she has decided to go solo, working freelance for the first time. We caught up with her to get the lowdown on living the life of one of the island's emblematic figures.
Tell us about your relationship with Ibiza. What led you to become a professional club dancer?
I've been on the island for 12 years. The first four I stayed only the summers and the following eight I lived here all year round. I was dancing in Miami, where I'm originally from, and the director of entertainment from Pacha came and told me, "Hey, I'm taking you to Ibiza!" At the time, I was like, "What? I don't eat pizza!" [laughs]. I had no idea about the island at all. After some time spent working at Pacha Ibiza, I was sent to dance for all the other Pachas around the world. I travelled for a while, but now I'm back home where I belong.
And you still work for Pacha?
I do, but this is actually my first year as a freelance dancer. Before I was dancing six nights a week in Pacha, which was great, but it was time for a change. Now I dance for Music On at Amnesia and Used + Abused at Ushuaia as well. I love it. I thought I'd seen everything Ibiza had to offer, but this year has opened me up to so many new experiences.
Tell us about a standard nights work in a club.
It varies. There are some clubs where you'll only dance three or four sets of fifteen minutes a night. That's how I started, but now I'm doing twenty or thirty minutes sets, between five and seven times a night. It also depends on the music. Sometimes the music is so good you just want to keep dancing. Also, in some clubs, where you don't just go from the dressing room to the stage, you're expected to be on the dance floor all night, interacting with people and representing the party. You never really sit down. It's better like that.
Is it a lucrative career-choice? Roughly how much can a dancer expect to earn per night?
There's no set rate. Each dancer is paid according to their experience and where they've worked before. If you were discovered as the diamond in the rough in some dive, then you're going to begin earning less. But if you've come from a prestigious club, then you'll enter at a higher rate. Plus, different clubs hold varying degrees of standing in the dancing world. For example, six years dancing at Amnesia could only equate to one year at Pacha. It's a status thing. And more recently the parties and even the DJs themselves have started to influence this. Essentially, it means that people dancing in the same club are all paid different amounts.
Are dancers expected to dance to music they might not like—or are shifts assigned based on musical preference?
No, sometimes you have to dance to music you really hate. What's more, some DJs get pissed off if you take the attention away from them. You'd never notice it, but they're not satisfied with everyone in the club listening to them, they want everyone to be watching them, too. As a result, I've been in situations where I can feel the DJ trying to make it hard for me to dance, by playing the hardest, noisiest tracks. But for me, just because the music is bad, doesn't mean I'm going to dance bad. You've got to suck the good out of the songs and make it look sexy.
This year you've danced at Amnesia for the first time. How does the experience compare to Pacha?
It's very different. At Pacha you dance alone on a podium. At Music On I dance on the platform in the middle of the Terrace with two other girls. I lead the other two and so have to try and incorporate them into what I'm doing, whilst still maintaining that dominant position. It becomes much more of a performance. There's also a lot more interaction with the DJ. Sometimes I'm there staring at them, waiting for them to push and pull me with the music, it's much more intense than anything at Pacha. I like it.
I saw you at Music On on Friday. You guys were up there for a long time.
This is what I mean! In Pacha I'm used to a flat 20/25 minutes, but here, it's all about not breaking the vibe, so I was told to keep going. Sometimes I can be there for 30/40 minutes without even noticing, I'm that into it.
Which is your favourite club to dance at in Ibiza and why?
They all have their good and bad bits. At Space the best place is in the Terrace, literally on the DJ booth. There you really feel the energy of the DJ and have a full view of the crowd. It's intimate. In Pacha one of the best spots to dance is in the Global Room. It doesn't get a lot of attention but the stage is so big, for what is quite an intimate space. Also, you have to command the entire area—it's a challenge. I don't have a favourite club, more just favourite positions within all the clubs.
What is the hardest thing about being a dancer?
Dealing with the crowd. You're face to face with people who are really excited, having the time of their lives and often drunk and intoxicated. If someone grabs the heel of your shoe, or touches your leg, you have to be able to toe the line between telling them the correct way to behave, whilst not killing their buzz or angering them. To put it one way, you've gotta tell someone not to do a fucked up thing, whilst they're fucked up. As a dancer, you just can't flip out. That's the bottom line. You're representing the club and yourself, and no matter how much you might want to give some idiot a slap, you can't. Exercising and maintaining that control is tough.
This week on the island
By the time Nick Curly assumed his position around 11.30 PM there was a strong dance floor presence, with the focus now trained firmly on the music. Tasked with pushing the party to its climax, the Cécille man laid down busy, rhythmic tech house, keeping fists pumping and bodies gyrating, before dipping into classic US sounds to close. The groovy thrust of Simon Baker's "Blue Lights" went down particularly well. All in all, Sasha's absence went by largely unnoticed, suggesting that Never Say Never has evolved into more than just his venture. It's now a quality party in its own right, offering Ibiza a distinctive and, rarest of all, intimate experience.
Carried by the powerhouse vocals of his two female accomplices, Rodgers dropped into "Spacer" by Sheila & Black Devotion. From there the band segued into jams by Sister Sledge, Duran Duran and David Bowie. As the opening bars of "Le Freak" sounded out, cries of "oh my god" could be heard spreading around the dance floor. While I can't claim to have been quite as excited, it did feel almost cathartic to engage in a proper collective singalong, so used have we all become to nodding our heads and bopping along in continuous, silent approval. Closing with an extended version of "Good Times"—a track that seemingly never loses its charm—hoards of fans joined Chic on stage for one last dance. In the context of Ibiza, there could be no better pre-club lubricant.
Gathering for their first all-resident affair in several weeks, Rossko opened up with plenty of punchy urgency, before delving into deeper, more ethereal territory as Siragusa's entrance approached. Siragusa immediately injected some bounce into the music, moving with dexterity between one low-slung, tumbling bassline and the next. For those yet to see him in action, do—he's a real talent. Classic samples from Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone and Donna Summer added flourishes of familiarity to his set. Playing to a Sankeys basement with just the right amount of people, it was one of the more enjoyable outings I've had this season. If you're yet to visit Fuse, don't bother waiting for your favourite guest to drop by—I guarantee the residents are just as good.
ENTER. - Igor Rubnik
Sasha - James Chapman
Used + Abused - Roberto Castaño
Cocoon - Phrank.net
Carl Cox: The Party Unites - Nel G Photograph
All others - Tasya Menaker