An Open Love Letter to Sydney Dance Floors

Siona Singletary

We’ve been reminiscing about the times we’ve had together.

About suburban and metro adventures, about air guitar, ecstatic fist pumping and off-beat shuffles. Ours was and always will be an unashamedly public and mutual display of affection. 

You’ve shown up for us, helped us forget about things, helped us remember things. Brought old friends and new friends together, sparked loving relationships and just been fun to be around. Helping us grow and then sometimes helping us shrink back into a younger, uninhibited version of ourselves that needed to find a voice but didn’t know how. 

We stayed up late together, even when we had important things to do the next day. We’ve sung songs together at the tops of our lungs. We’ve used you as a platform to share our secrets, cry our eyes out and laugh too hard at things that weren’t really that funny at all.

But recently you’ve been ostracised. You’re a dirty word right now, even in the shiniest, swankiest of venues. For some of us you’re dangerously close to being forgotten, but don’t worry. Although we haven’t spoken in a while we want you to know that we’re thinking of you, in fact we think about you more than you realise. Know now and forever, no one will ever love you more than we do.

So, here’s to you, our love, our dance floor. In arenas, in bars, in clubs, at festivals and on tops of tables. We can’t wait to reunite again, and in the meantime, here’s to the people. The people who make it happen for us. Those people who toil and bust a gut for weeks to give us minutes of pure rapture. Here’s to the stage directors, the lighting virtuosos, the promoters, the artists, and DJs. Here’s to the videographers and photographers who capture it all to give us a second rush of love and endorphins one week later. Without these people, our dance floors would be nothing. 



Alex & Ricky Cooper – Festival Organisers

“People need music, and we’re sure that with time the industry will start to bounce back, whether it will ever be the same again, no one knows. There are a lot of factors that could assist with a full recovery, but for us the main thing has to be a reduction in the regulations currently in place. That’s not to say these aren’t necessary at the moment – it’s just that a huge part of the magic of the dance floor is about escaping the ordinary and the pressures we all face in day-to-day life. Attending a music festival should mean you can forget yourself and leave your responsibilities at the door. When there are rules on top of rules, a lot of this feeling of freedom is lost. In Australia especially, there are already a huge number of regulations to adhere to and boxes to tick, and adding more to this list would make it almost impossible to create the moments that make Return to Rio so weird and wonderful.

Not knowing when we’ll even be allowed to put on an event makes it impossible to work on solid plans, so we’re spending a lot of time brainstorming and dreaming about future Rio events and collaborations, both in Australia and overseas. Our energetic toddler also keeps us very busy, and we’re trying to keep our spirits up by focusing on the things we don’t normally have as much time for – walking on the beach, listening to old music, cooking, reading books and spending time with family,  rather than the things we can’t do at the moment.”



     Photo: @clicky_jaman


Jacqui Cunningham – Event Promoter & DJ

“I think things will start to regenerate once restrictions ease and this will happen in a big surge. After this boom, I don’t think things will go back to “normal” per se – a new normal will begin to evolve. Times of social isolation throughout history have produced important and groundbreaking works. I’m really excited to see what this might look like for us.

The industry as a whole has taken a huge blow, it gives me hope to see such resilience and dedication from the people who have been affected the most. Through online streaming, seated events, virtual club experiences and more. It’s been inspiring to see such innovation, it keeps me hopeful that this won’t last forever!”


Photo: @clicky_jaman


Dave Stuart & Renae Treak (Trinity) – DJs and Event Promoters

Renae: “Before COVID hit Australia, I was probably the busiest I’ve ever been, with back to back techno DJ gigs in February and March. Around the same time I also finished writing an album under my electro alias Phax Machine with Boro Stojanovski, and we were planning a summer tour in 2020/2021. 

 I’ve been performing consistently for 20 years and this has been the only time I’ve had a break from music. Instead of getting on the live stream bandwagon, I decided to spend this time having quality time with family and also launch a new real estate business ‘Treak Real Estate’”. 

Dave: “If we are looking at nightclubs, bars and festivals, the only way for the music industry in Australia, and especially Sydney to fully recover is to not only have support from all levels of Government, State, local and federal; but also from the media and general public as well. So that it is seen as something that actually needs and deserves assistance to recover. We need some easing of restrictions around licencing, operating hours, government grants etc. But alas Australia’s collective view on electronic music and after dark entertainment is [..] something that accompanies getting drunk & wasted and isn’t something of cultural significance. If you compare Sydney to Europe, which is a futile exercise at best, you’ll see how differently music, especially electronic, is viewed, there it is considered as a valid and valuable career and not just a “pastime”.

I don’t know if hopeful is a word I’d use myself, I don’t hold much hope for the future, but I do plan to make the best out of whatever situation we find ourselves in. Pushing electronic music in Sydney is a constant struggle, we’ve gone through venue closures, over policing, a massive social change away from the debuatry of clubbing and into “healthy living lifestyles”, the recent lockouts for the last 5 years, and now COVID. In a way it just feels like another battle to fight, and we’ll get through it somehow, as long as there’s music and people who want to dance, we’ll be there somehow.”


Photo: @clicky_jaman


Jack Toohey & Patrick Rohl – Videographers and Business Owners

“The government, state and federal need to acknowledge and support the arts and entertainment industries as more than just a luxury and as a cornerstone of society. According to the Australia Council – cultural activity contributes $50 billion to Australia’s GDP. Aside from the economic contribution, we have all leant on the arts in these trying times, consuming more content than ever and should all be able to acknowledge how important entertainment and culture is to the national psyche as well as our own individual mental health. We hope this will lead to higher engagement than ever. That’s a very exciting prospect.”

As much as COVID-19 has added a lot of stress to our lives in business. In some ways it was a welcome break from a nonstop slog since starting the business in early 2016. It gave us time to decompress and refocus on our priorities both in business and in our personal lives.” 


Photo: @clicky_jaman


Tom Lowndes (Hot Dub Time Machine) – DJ and Radio Host

“I think this thing is going to leave mental scars on all of us. I have heaps of photos of me hugging my crowd, being surrounded by sweaty strangers, all touching me. I used to look at those photos with a lot of fondness and pride, but it looks weird to me now. After every gig I used to go and hug the front and often jump over the barrier to hug people and pose for photos. I can’t imagine being comfortable with that again any time soon.” 

I have two awesome young daughters, so my life is always busy. But this year has shown me yet again that I need to be working, creating and focussed or I can get very depressed very fast and become a pretty shit dad. Early on, I immediately threw myself into live-streaming, but once the first lock-down started to ease, the audience dropped and it felt like it was becoming less relevant. So I stopped and really had to face life with an empty diary and it was very tough. I was drinking too much and not taking care of my mental health and couldn’t get out of a downward spiral. But with my family’s help I started doing the right things and got back on track. I now have a weekly radio show and are feeling good.” 


Photo: @clicky_jaman


Pat Stevenson – Photographer

“I think it’s going to be quite a struggle for the industry as a whole to recover to the former glory days (pre-lockout), lockouts really changed the scene as we knew it and COVID dealt a final death blow.

Fortunately there’s a lot of people who love dance music, the scene and the people who are involved, it’s a strong community (even with clubs shut) and I think we will be able to come back pretty strong, I’ve DJ’d a couple of times since bars have reopened and people are ITCHING for a dance, can you even imagine how wild it will be when you’re legally allowed to dance with people in close proximity?

I’ve taken this down time to work on my book, it will focus on 10 years of music, culture and late night tales from around Australia primarily featuring the Sydney nightlife, I have so many images that I haven’t shared before that are super juicy and ooze of nostalgia and I can’t wait to release it on the world.

I’m keeping hopeful by listening to new music that talented Australian producers are putting out, I think the time that producers have to spend in their studios will be very fruitful for the Australian Electronic Music and Live Music scene, I think we will see a huge resurgence in solid music that will then feed into huge club and live shows in the coming years, you can’t keep Aussies away from a good rinse on the dance floor.”



Nikita Miltiadou – Production Manager

“To get back to normal I think it’ll take the wider community realising what it takes to put on events! It’ll take people realising that entertainment does not happen in a vacuum and to appreciate the tens of thousands of Australian people that have chosen to push through a heap of uncertainty around job security, relationships, finance and often mental health issues to provide even the smallest of shows.

Music and the arts are always there when the wider community needs to come together, recovery will take the community being there for us. Aside from this, it would also help if the federal government would refrain from allowing the already underwhelming 250M support package to sit on a desk for 6 weeks post announcement.

While I’d rather it didn’t come to this, I believe that despite a lack of support the industry will do what it always has done and find a way forward. We’ll innovate and we’ll pioneer until music and live events are back in force, the truth is, we’re happy even if it is a thankless job. It’s people who are in it for the love of it who I work alongside that keep me optimistic that events will come back and in a big way. I’m simply hoping that with community and government support that we can minimise the very real impact this shutdown will have on people’s mental health and general wellbeing.

Other than that, I have a really cute 5 month old puppy called Alfred (Weimaraner) who keeps me busy and also just being with my partner at home – a novelty when you spend the majority of your time on the road!”


Photo: @clicky_jaman


Joey Da Rin (Young Franco) – Artist

“In the initial stages when New South Wales was in full lockdown it was a lot of writing music, zoom calls, big walks and picking up a new instrument (guitar). Since things have opened up a bit more in New South Wales I’ve been able to hang with friends, go to the local cafe to work and I joined an outdoor soccer team which has been so fun to fill up the weekends. I found that changing up my environment has been so important to keeping a good headspace. I think everyone has gone through a big lifestyle shift so to be able to keep normality to some degree is important.

I’ve been surrounding myself with good friends and people to lean on when it all feels a bit too heavy. The fact that people are more intune with social movements and making positive moves to help people in their community and in other communities around the world.”


Photo: @clicky_jaman


Leah Barnes (L.O.U) – DJ & Artist

“Well.. It’s been one of those moments where you just sit back and just say “wow” where do we even begin? It’s no secret that New South Wales has had the task of getting through some speed humps of late when it comes to the lockouts and then just as they’re lifted, COVID hits. I think what it shows predominantly is that our industry is resilient. For this industry to fully recover I believe that we need to start by supporting our local artists, the local promoters and small venues surrounding us. Whether it’s socially distant bottomless brunches, one on one DJ/production courses or live streams, we know that right now more than ever we need to band together as a community to support whatever we can to ensure the show goes on. That means, watching the live streams, buying merch, purchasing artists songs. 

We’ve seen some truly amazing things come from the time away from the shows. I know that once we are given the green light again, We’re going to have artists that have produced new music to share, Promoters who have fresh new ideas on how to bring extra elements to the shows and venues who have had the time for some renovations. More than ever people are going to appreciate their time at events after being away from it for so long. It’s like that saying, as cliché as it sounds, you don’t know how much you miss something until it’s gone. I think as an artist the thing keeping me productive and optimistic about the future of this industry and the future ahead, is as always –  the thought of people once again smiling on a dance floor and dancing until the early hours of the morning. That’s enough for me to keep hopeful and pushing through this time we’ve had away from it all.” 

Photo: @clicky_jaman


Dane Boulton – Lighting Designer

“The onset of the pandemic forced me to hit the brakes pretty hard after what had been an extended, extremely draining period. This time to breathe was at first unsettling and pretty mentally difficult as the empty calendar weeks rolled on but eventually offered a lot of perspective. […] What continues to keep me extremely busy and remains one of the most difficult parts of this whole journey is attempting to roadmap the next 6-12 months and make decisions to support whatever the hypothetical looks like. 

The art of the COVID “Pivot” by industry personnel has been inspiring and a great reminder of the resilience and drive of people in this game. Noticeable “Pivots” have included the production and sale of goods Including: bespoke isolation furniture, specialty coffee, industry specific tools and apparel, and virus PPE. 

Finally my unwavering love for music, the continued passion of fans, artists and industry people throughout this difficult time and the desire to experience and thrive in the concert atmosphere again keeps me hopeful and on track. I look forward to gracing the dance-floor again with the same energy as the most passionate of punters the first chance I get.”

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