Save the Last Dance


By Steve Weinstein

Last November, Circuit Noize magazine, the bible of the party crowd, became simply Noize. That one-word omission reflected a profound change in the scene. Publisher Steve Ceplenski says he wants to bring in 'more festivals and art shows surrounding an event'daytime parties. There are very few of the traditional circuit parties anymore,' he laments.

After 20 years of prominence, the yearly calendar of gay dance parties known as the 'circuit' is facing middle age, as are its most passionate adherents. Many of the parties that made up the base of the circuit have fallen by the wayside, victims of falling attendance, lack of interest, and bad business decisions, while many of the survivors are barely hanging on. Although a handful of regular events, most notably New York City's Alegria, have risen up in recent years, their relevance to young gay men is debatable. Where an earlier generation saw the drug-fueled all-night dances as liberating, those in their 20s are as likely to view them as archaic throwbacks that bear little relationship to the way they live their lives. 'The younger kids don't want or need to follow in the footsteps of their older brothers,' says Tom Beaulieu, owner of Rise, a Boston nightclub. 'They meet online and fit into the mainstream culturally.'

At 25, Justin Ocean, editor of New York City's Next Magazine, says his friends 'are more comfortable and accepted by straight friends. They don't need the circuit to be free and have that whole communal experience.' Nor do they accept the cult of the gym-built body. 'They're more comfortable with how they look,' Ocean says. 'They don't need to be rock-hard to feel attractive.'

Instead, they're riding the wave of gay cruises, which have exploded in popularity'although with a dance (or two) every night and most days, many consider such cruises to be floating circuit parties. But for the same price as a three-day party weekend onshore, you can buy seven days at sea. 'The production values and DJ selection rival that of many major circuit events,' says Miami club promoter Hilton Wolman.