How to dance emo

A beloved L.A.-based emo dance party returns to Chicago

Photograph: Jasmine Denisse

Celebrate the past, present and future of emo at Emo Nite LA, coming to Subterranean on Friday, April 1.


Ahead of their April 1 stop in Chicago, Emo Nite co-founder Morgan Freed told Time Out one of his least favorite things is when outlets previewing their events lead with “put on your eyeliner and swoop your hair.” 

Needless to say, we will not be doing that. 

Although the nationally- (and internationally!) touring parties celebrate a musical genre that has spanned nearly 40 years, to call Emo Nite a throwback night—something solely focused on giving fans an opportunity to relive their glory days—would be missing the full picture. The party, which comes to Subterranean in Wicker Park this Friday, celebrates the genre’s present and future as well as its history. 

“We want to grow what the definition of emo actually means,” Emo Nite co-founder T. J. Petracca says. “You could be 18 now and find music that you love that was made 20 years ago; you could be 40 years old and find music you love that was made now. We just want everybody to be included and to have an awesome, safe time.” 

Petracca and Freed launched Emo Nite in Los Angeles in 2014 to fill a void. They would pre-game for a night out by playing the emo and pop-punk artists they loved, and then go to a club or bar and hear EDM or Top 40 hits. Freed knew a bartender at The Short Stop, a neighborhood bar with a dance floor in Echo Park, and convinced him to let them create an emo playlist and control the music for the night. After packing the place, Freed and Petracca went big and invited a special guest for their third party—Blink-182 frontman Mark Hoppus. And Mark Hoppus came. Then came more cities, festivals and even an Emo Nite wedding. 

Although Emo Nite has become associated with exciting cameos from heavy-hitters like Dashboard Confessional, Avril Lavigne and Machine Gun Kelly, Petracca, Freed and their local partners work to find creative ways to surprise and delight partygoers. Remixing emo standards in fresh genres remains a favorite—Freed and Petracca brought L.A. mariachi outfit Mariachi Teocuiatlan to cover Blink-182 songs, and more recently, ‘90s country tribute band Chattahoochee led a packed crowd in a rousing sing-along of My Chemical Romance’s “Teenagers” at a Dallas party.

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A post shared by Emo Nite (@emonitela)

“We’ve really tried to make this a party that we’d want to go to ourselves and keep it not just nostalgic, but something that in 2022 we’d be fucking stoked to be at,” Petracca says.

Freed emphasizes the most important aspect of Emo Nite isn’t the big names or the special guests, but the communities that have stemmed from the parties all over the country and fostering that sense of togetherness. When Emo Nite began touring in 2015, Freed and Petracca went to cities where they “didn’t know a soul,” but over the years, they have built bonds and watch sustained communities bloom in these places.

“Whatever you do and wherever you’re at in life, it’s amazing how quickly and easily you make friends with people who also like this music,” Petracca says.

Freed and Petracca say the Chicago Emo Nite party is “one of our best ones." They praised Subterranean and their team as local partners, and say that the team plans to include Emo Nite programming on both levels of the venue in the future, with a focus on deeper-cut emo offerings downstairs and the more familiar mid-aughts pop-punk and emo upstairs. Chicagoland has been the epicenter of multiple emo waves, from the offspring of Champaign-Urbana Midwest emo pioneers Braid and American Football like Hey Mercedes, Cap’n Jazz and Owls to high-energy pop-punk juggernauts The Academy Is… and a little garage band from Wilmette called Fall Out Boy.  William Beckett of local icons The Academy Is… has made an appearance at Emo Nite Chicago in the past, and more recently, Plain White T’s frontman Tom Higgenson gave a surprise performance of their ubiquitous hit “Hey There Delilah” at the December 2021 show. Friday's show will also include a special guest, as Hawthorne Heights frontman J.T. Woodruff stops by for a DJ set.

Emo Nite Chicago takes place at 9pm on Friday, April 1 at Subterranean (2011 W North Ave). Tickets are $16 and can be purchased here, and $1 from every ticket supports the Living the Dream Foundation. As of February 28, Subterranean is still requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the show for entry.

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    Maxim Drukovsky

    Tectonic has experienced a roller coaster of popularity. Now the genre seems to be reborn.

    Fashion, like history, is cyclical. And it seems that with the advent of the Internet, it takes less and less time for the next repetitions: new trends constantly crowd out previous ones, close communication allows you to learn more about foreign or forgotten cultures, and huge amounts of content turn nostalgia into ongoing memories. You can share them, reflect on the past with other people and discover something new for the younger generation.

    One of the main examples of such online nostalgia for Russian-speaking users for several years now has been the era of the end of the 2000s - the images were as vivid as possible, and the Internet has not yet captured the minds of everyone around, but has retained most of the culture. In addition to the obvious emo, many are calling for the “return from 2007” of the tectonics, which was then danced at every turn. And it seems that he is really returning: the memories have grown into a new wave of interest.

    TJ figured out the history of the genre, remembered its successes and failures, and also found out how dance is perceived now. In preparing this material, the editors used an interview with the Singa public on VKontakte with Alexander Baruzdin, one of the organizers of the Tecktonik Killer parties. At the same time, we talked with dancers and ordinary people who became interested in tectonics at the peak of its popularity.

    • The origins of tectonics and the path to world success;
    • Impact on youth culture in Russia and the CIS;
    • Love quickly changed to hate;
    • And hatred - for nostalgia, which returned the dance to the trends.

    In fact, "Tektonik" is not a dance style, but a trademark. In the wake of popularity, almost no one attached any importance to this, and many people “out of context” are still convinced of the only correct name for the genre. Nevertheless, professional choreographers point out that the same dance is rightly called "electro-dance", while "Tecktonik" is, albeit directly related, but still a commercial brand.

    Electro dance originated in techno clubs and was inspired by jumpstyle. Unlike the jump, the emphasis in the new style was on the hands, adding elements from wog and breakdance - the legs performed mostly only small rhythmic movements. The genre began to emerge at the very beginning of the 2000s in Belgium, but soon ended up in neighboring France, where it became most widespread and became an international phenomenon.

    The dance turned into a tectonik in 2001, when the former banker Alexander Baruzdin, who has Russian roots, and his dancer boyfriend Cyril Blanc began organizing Tecktonik Killer parties at the Metropol club in Paris. The couple got tired of "the same type of clubs with boring tracks" and decided to make their own events with different musical genres. “It's a clash of styles that inspired us. Like tectonic plates, they are always in motion. Every time they meet, there is a powerful surge of energy! ”, - this is how Baruzdin explained the name in an interview with the dancer and admin of the Signa public Timofey Smirnov.

    Alexander Baruzdin (right)

    The parties were held monthly and were very popular: not only thousands of visitors, but also well-known DJs in the industry, regularly gathered at them. Gradually, a recognizable style of tectonics was formed - both dance and cultural. Most of the guests were wearing neon t-shirts and accessories, skinny jeans, fingerless gloves, chunky mohawks and chunky flats. From the underground, the tectonist moved to the streets of Paris.

    In 2002, the organizers registered "Tecktonik" as a trademark. According to Baruzdin, it was DJ David Guetta who advised him to copyright the parties. The original idea was to maintain the quality of the Tecktonik Killer events and prevent copycats from spreading in the wake of popularity. However, over the course of several years, interest in tectonics continued to grow - and the subculture turned into a full-fledged brand.

    We started the night with electro house, after midnight the heavier music came from Belgium with jumpstyle, then we added hardstyle from Holland (sometimes seasoned with hardcore from Germany). And around six in the morning, in order to calm the guests a little, they returned to minimalistic electronic music.

    Alexander Baruzdin

    Until the mid-2000s, tectonics developed mainly in France, where it became a national treasure: young people repeated movements in clubs and on the streets, parties were covered in non-core media, and BBC journalists even named the dance "new cancan". At the same time, the founders of the brand began to make money on it, releasing clothes, jewelry and energy drinks with a signature eagle on the logo.

    With the spread of the Internet and the first video hosting, tectonics became known all over the world. Hundreds of videos with dances in different locations, training videos and live performances appeared on YouTube and the French Dailymotion. One of the main events for the subculture was the Technoparade in Paris in 2007: according to the organizers, up to 500 thousand participants visited it - many of them repeated the movements that have already become cult. Videos from the parade went viral online and have racked up hundreds of thousands of views.

    While the dance was spreading in Europe, the CIS countries and the former French colonies of Africa, Baruzdin and Blanc made the brand international. They no longer limited themselves to merch, but collaborated with famous musicians and released music collections on their own label. In addition, the brand founded the dance group Eklesiast Team - they performed at Techtonik Killer parties in different countries, participated in battles and promoted the genre.

    Tecktonik Killer party posters

    Dance was taught in fitness clubs, a brand store and a barbershop appeared in Paris, and large companies around the world collaborated with the brand - from clothing and cosmetics manufacturers to technology corporations. In 2008, for example, the rhythm game Tecktonik World Tour was released on the Nintendo DS portable console, and Sony Ericsson promoted one of the phones in the Walkman music line with the help of tectonics.

    Sony Ericsson W380i promotional poster

    Release of the French edition of Mickey Mouse magazine

    One of the main markets for tectonics culture was Russia and the CIS countries, which joined the movement at the end of the 2000s. Local teenagers often mixed the French dance style with the emo subculture popular in the same years. The two trends shared commonalities, for example, in the elements of clothing, and videos with “dancing tectonics emo-boys” appeared on the network. Thus, the image of “youth-2007” was formed - the year that they demand to return at least from the middle of the tenths.

    Although the copyright for the brand also extended to Russia, this did not prevent the owners of outlets from selling pirated merchandise: T-shirts, backpacks, covers and other stationery were distributed both in markets and in stalls near schools - in some online shops still meet the echoes of the era. At the same time, real parties from French organizers were held in Moscow.

    As in France, in Russia the tectonist has become a cultural phenomenon that almost everyone has learned about. The dance was repeated in popular shows on federal channels, and regional media filmed reports from local discos and choreographic schools. French newspapers even wrote about teenagers from Kazakhstan who "keep up with the global trend and break the stereotypes from the movie" Borat "".

    The genre has become especially relevant for VKontakte: the social network, which is gaining popularity, has turned into a platform with hundreds of thematic groups with logos on avatars, dance videos and albums with “genre aesthetics”. Users almost no longer exchanged music and clips through push-button phones, it was enough to share content in a personal or on a wall. It was possible to learn about tectonics, learn movements and show oneself without leaving home - then it was something new and unusual.

    There are still thousands of abandoned communities about tectonics in the social network

    For some, dancing has become not just a temporary hobby, but also the start of a professional career. “In 2008, I didn’t have home Internet yet. A friend said that he found a video on the net with cool dances to electro house - we just hung out in clubs to this music. I remember this moment very well, when, sitting at work, I open one of the four downloaded videos and just fly away from emotions, ”said TJ choreographer and DJ Valek “Uforia” Grigoriev.

    Grigoriev said that at the end of the 10s, he and his fellow dancers were at their peak: they performed at various events, shot videos, taught other people - the demand for this was very high. March 2009years, 36 people came to their electro-dance training in a tiny hall at the same time. “This time was great, it influenced me a lot and helped to influence other people in the future,” added the choreographer.

    The popularity of the movement, and with it the brand, however, did not last long. Already at the beginning of the 10s, tectonics were at best forgotten, at worst they were criticized. Baruzdin explained this by the fact that in a few years everyone was tired of monotonous dances and electronic music. At the same time, he believes that they began to envy the success of the parties. “You will never be able to achieve absolute approval – this is normal, I have long come to terms with this,” he shared.

    In addition, the organizers were accused of trying to make money from the culture, which was formed spontaneously. In France, the brand "Tektonik" began to be deliberately ignored: "official" parties gathered far fewer guests, and the dance moved to the streets and to independent clubs. The term itself has become almost offensive to professional choreographers. They insisted that they were not dancing tectonics, but electro-dance, Milky Way, hardstyle or vertigo (more aggressive versions of the genre).

    In an interview with Signa in 2018, Baruzdin said that their parties somehow stood at the origins of electro-dance, and denying this is at least hypocritical. At the same time, he noted that he was very happy for the further development of the genre and modern dancers who rethink it: “I see crazy talents all over the world, I would like to visit different countries and see it all with my own eyes.

    The followers of the genre also got it: people got so fed up with it that they began to shoot parodies in social networks and make fun of teenagers in T-shirts with a branded eagle. Dancing and uploading videos has also become considered shameful. And if in some regions the subculture was supplanted by new trends, then in others it was possible to face bullying simply for being carried away by any movement.

    Tektonik was invented by a man who was walking through the forest, fighting off mosquitoes.


    Due to the sudden change of interests, the dancers involved in professional electro-dance have also suffered. Less people began to come to classes, and event organizers switched their attention to more relevant genres. However, many choreographers continued to develop the style - they tried new movements and styles of music, and the industry spilled back into the underground, where battles are regularly held today.

    “The development of dance followed the development of electronic music: if at first it was electro-house, then further complextro, dubstep, deep-house, thrash-electro and so on. It was a shame when our dance was called tectonics. I had to tell and prove to everyone what and how. But soon we formed a good style, more dynamic, structured and interesting for the viewer, albeit complex in appearance,” said choreographer Valek Grigoriev.

    The more time passed since the decline of the popularity of the tectonist, the more often he was remembered with warmth. This was superimposed on the general nostalgia for the end of the 2000s: although emo culture is more often associated with the meme phrase “give me back my 2007”, tectonics is also often mentioned in this context. In the twenties, the shameful hobby was transformed into a cultural code that unites thousands of people aged 25-30: they hardly strive to return the trend, but every now and then they reflect on the common past.

    The feeling of nostalgia is supported by modern online media, including recalling the tectonics. Familiar movements are ironically repeated by the stars who became famous thanks to the Internet - those who were not known to anyone ten years ago or were just starting their creative path. Morgenstern-level rappers dance tectonics at concerts and on Instagram stories, comedians use it in jokes and shoot whole humorous clips.

    The mood of the “generation 2007” is especially noticeable in social networks. Against the backdrop of thousands of abandoned communities about tectonics, new active publics appear, and millions of users watch re-uploaded dance videos. While some are limited only to memories, others are looking for elements of culture in the modern world and memorize new movements of the genre that has changed over the past ten years.

    With renewed vigor, Tektonik was reborn in TikTok: thanks to social network algorithms, almost any content can find its audience. Older users remember their youth, these videos come across to the new generation, who pick up the trend and dance non-ironically, and professional dancers, on the wave of interest, promote modern electro-dance. Thousands of videos were shot under the cult tracks of the genre, and videos under the tag #tectonik gained more than 70 million views.

    The most viral at the beginning of 2022 was the video of the user under the nickname lyatavi — he posted an old video on which a tectonian dances with a friend. And, although his previous videos had no more than a few thousand views, and the new one had neither a popular track nor thematic tags, in two weeks it gained more than 10 million views and 1.2 million likes.

    The video is accompanied by the caption “Ten years ago we would definitely have hit the rivers (tiktok recommendations feed - approx. TJ)” - but this is what happened now. Thousands of users in the comments praised the dancers, recalled their attempts to learn tectonics and asked for more archival recordings or even to film a new version of the same dance. Soon the author shared a series of videos from those times, but they did not become as viral.

    The author of the video is Vitaly Sanochkin, 29, from Novosibirsk. He told TJ that he made the video in 2010 when he was 17 and his friend in the foreground was 14. Even then we posted something on VKontakte - there were no other social networks yet - but it was more like a memory, ”the man shared.

    Vitaly first learned about tectonics at a school disco, and after he repeated some of the movements, a girl approached him and asked if he was dancing. From her, Vitaly learned that this is a new popular genre, and on the Internet he delved into the topic in more detail. He became interested in the history and culture of dance, began to learn new movements and full-fledged chords.

    I started to develop myself as a self-taught person – I didn’t rise to a very high level, but I still get high.

    Vitaliy Sanochkin

    Vitaliy was reminded of the old video by his friend, who also suggested putting it on tiktok. And before that, they almost never met tectonics on the social network, more often they came across videos with shuffle, another popular dance style in the 2000s. Although friends expected to get into the recommendations feed, they did not expect such success. Now they are even thinking of listening to the commentators and recording a remake of the video via video link - the second dancer has moved to St. Petersburg, so it is still difficult to meet live.

    The author of the video noted that 12 years ago, the tectonist caused mixed feelings in his environment: some did not understand the dance, while others liked something new and unusual. Now, in his opinion, the same attitude towards tiktok - some of Vitaly's friends consider him "childish fun." However, after the interest in the social network, many old acquaintances responded and supported the author.

    Now both Vitaly and his partner from the video work in the construction industry. He said that for ten years he tried different professions, but he had never been professionally connected with dancing. However, now Vitaly has decided to revive his passion and, perhaps, even influence the return of the genre to its former popularity. He has already posted several new dances on tiktok.

    Vitaly believes that the wave of shared memories on the net may be of interest to those who did not know about tectonics before: “For some it will be nostalgia, but for young people it will be a new trend that they have not caught.” A similar view is shared by the choreographer Valek Grigoriev, who told TJ about the development of the genre. According to him, electro-dance is now experiencing a "new boom": many teenagers come to the courses, ready to practice professionally or dance for themselves.

    At the same time, there are almost no older people who want to close the gestalts of youth in the classroom. “Many of the friends I danced with then are busy with family life, children and careers. For themselves, maybe they dance, but they don’t see prospects in this, ”the coach shared. He believes that the real interest is caused not only by a return to the past, but also by the development of the dance itself: "The new videos that we made for the tracks of those years show fresh and technically complex movements - this is a new look at old things.

    Learn more