Audience participation mandatory: Leeds’ Stretchy Dance Supply want you to get your sweat on - Features - Mixmag

Audience participation mandatory: Leeds’ Stretchy Dance Supply want you to get your sweat on

Bringing together aerobics and rapid-fire dance music, Yorkshire's SDS has grown from the "best student house party" to an essential part of Leeds' underground scene

  • Words: Gemma Ross
  • 29 February 2024

Functions is our interview series profiling parties from across the world. Next up is Leeds' Stretchy Dance Supply

“The story of Stretchy Dance Supply begins as all Leeds promoter stories do: Students taking a house party dead seriously,” reminisces the team behind the Leeds-based club night. “It's a point of pride. Who can take it the furthest?”

Long before their breakout as solo artists, Ross Ross, Dubrunner, Breaka and Sourpuss had a mission to host the best house parties in Leeds. While studying at university, the foursome threw parties in "run-down mansions" on the outskirts of the city — growing in infamy for their knack for transforming rooms into tropical jungles or tinfoil space stations. “It was commonplace to have proper dub soundsystems, multiple rooms of DJs, bouncers on the door, and a NOS bar in the attic,” they recall.

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By 2018, the group were starting to throw events in fully-fledged venues around the city, based on the “Stretchy prototype” of Breaka’s university basement. With their parties picking up traction, they just needed a theme, a theme that would set them apart from the multitude of student knees-ups you’d find in Leeds at the time. The group took a punt at aerobics-based club workouts, bringing together adrenaline-pumping exercises with rapid-fire sounds spanning jungle, breaks, juke, Jersey club and everything in between — a slapstick pairing that seemed to just work.

After six years, Stretchy Dance Supply has brought speed demons from all over the world to Leeds, from Kush Jones and UNIIQU3 to Nikki Nair and Jossy Mitsu. Even with billings bigger than ever, Stretchy still aims to propel new talent from the Yorkshire area, providing a platform next to global artists in a bid to pay back to the local scene and dance music community.

In celebration of Stretchy Dance Supply’s sixth birthday this month, we chatted with Ross Ross, Dubrunner, Breaka and Sourpuss about their beloved venture. So pull up your socks, grab a dumbbell, and get your sweat on. This is the story of Stretchy Dance Supply.

How did Stretchy Dance Supply start?

The actual Stretchy Dance video comes from a Japanese morning routine called Radio Taiso, Ross did it every morning. We call it the Stretchy Dance because it has a cute piano soundtrack that guides you through the different stretches. We were all living together as students, and one night we put it on the projector in the living room whilst listening to Addison Groove's 'Footcrab’, and the idea just clicked. Coincidentally, the original Radio Taiso exercise video just about fits at half speed 132 BPM. Around that time, Ross Ross and Dubrunner were already running parties, so together with Breaka and Sourpuss we decided to start a new project.

Using the workout video style to design a poster and brand the project, we put on the first Stretchy Dance Supply party at Wharf Chambers in February 2018. No line-up, just residents and a local alt-comedy collective called Halli Galli acting as the hosts. There was a certain magic to those early days, we harnessed the house party energy and moved it into DIY venues like Wharf Chambers, Hyde Park Book Club and Assembly House. The residents would play with 10-minute gaps in between filled with surreal immersive performances from Halli Galli. Every set was a full restart and that's why we have all these silly jingles to get the crowd hyped, like: 'Stretchy Dance Supply, Audience Participation Mandatory'. We would tease the Radio Taiso projections slowly throughout the night and wait until the party was absolutely cooking to turn the projectors on full blast, there was no encouragement needed. Everyone went nuts.

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What does your booking process look like? Are there any particular artists you’ve got your eye on this year?

Stretchy prides itself on platforming new artists, we're always trying to bring new artists for Leeds debuts. We’ve aimed over the years to keep an open approach, to platform fresh new talent whilst respecting the heritage and lore of dance music. From drum 'n' bass originator DJ Flight to forward-thinking garage producers Stones Taro and Introspekt, to Jersey club pioneer UNIIQU3, it’s all music we love, from artists that we want to introduce our community to.

Our booking process is super mixed, we check line-ups from across the world to see who is playing alongside our favourite household UK names in different countries, we scour internet radio for DJs we haven’t yet come across, checking for new releases from lesser-known artists and labels and, most importantly, using our network on the ground in Leeds for future talent. For our next party at Wharf Chambers, we gained access to the Leeds BPM Society’s Open Decks sign-up sheets and listened through all the mixes on there. Every party line-up starts with a shit-hot new DJ and a few gifted young locals running support. This is how you grow a community and scene organically.

How did you celebrate your sixth birthday?

For our sixth birthday, we hosted Cologne’s finest DJ sweet6teen for her first time in Yorkshire, going back to back with a longtime friend of Club Fitness, Papa Nugs. Supported by local heroes Niamh, Shiraz and Flash Mitra (if you don’t know, then get to know!).

We thought we’d bring one of our old pranks back from a previous party - we printed 50 face masks of each headliner and passed them around the crowd once they started playing. We’ve done loads of parties in Wire now, and love bringing in some old skool silliness now and again. Big love to the team at Wire, they’ve always been incredibly supportive of us!

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What has changed at Stretchy Dance Supply in those six years? And how has it aged alongside the scene in Leeds?

We’ve taken Stretchy from humble beginnings right up to running parties in Leeds, London, and Berlin - it feels amazing to still be doing this after all these years. Leeds is an amazing city and we feel so privileged to have spent time developing our craft as promoters and DJs there, surrounded by so much talent and opportunity. We’ve always had really supportive fans and Stretchy regulars who still show up after all these years. Pre-COVID, there was a real fierce energy in the city for parties, but unfortunately, Leeds is really struggling at the moment. We’re still optimistic for the future because we can see how many exciting new artists and events are rising up every year.

That being said, these last few years we’ve found it harder to continue running small DIY parties with a reduction in ticket sales across the board, parties like ours which have smaller profit/loss margins are struggling to stay afloat. Sometimes it feels really tough. When you couple that with so many venue closures over the years, for example recently Sheaf St and The Tetley having closed their doors, we wonder what the landscape for independent artists and spaces in the UK will look like if nothing is done. No Space Left To Play has started a local campaign to raise awareness and protest the negative impacts that ongoing large-scale commercial development is having on independent creative spaces in Leeds - we’re running out of spaces to Stretch in!

Do you have any particular favourite memories from Stretchy Dance Supply nights over the years?

We’ve had some absolute killer moments over the years! Too many to mention, but here are a few:

SHERELLE and Fauzia blasting DJ Rashad. Halli Galli absolutely covering Wharf Chambers in 20kg of baking flour (and getting a big telling off by the poor bar staff who had to clean it up, sorry again!). Hosting a room at Subdub’s 25th birthday and realising half of our line-up were younger than Subdub itself. Djrum doing up multi-deck vinyl wizardry with a balloon modeller making kooky balloon headgear for the audience. Doing stage takeovers at Outlook and Leeds Festival, some of our biggest productions. And, of course, powering up our 6-metre inflatable mascot ‘Stretch Jones’ before doors open.

Special mention to Breaka’s 2019 track ‘Get Your Sweat On’ which samples an interview recorded in the smoking area at one of our earlier Stretchy parties:Yeah I wanna get my sweat on again man, next time I’m gonna bring the proper gear real talk, 'cos you know it’s serious in there. The aerobics is fuckin' peak in there. Too hot to do it properly, but fuck it!”

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You mostly host club nights in Leeds, but you’ve also branched out to places like London and Berlin - what inspired your decision to move elsewhere?

After we finished university, half of us stayed in Leeds and the other half went down to London. It made a lot of sense to branch out into the city we grew up in! We’re still finding our feet in London and so far we’ve had a few great nights in Dalston Den, Loki, and Carpet Shop. We’re always keen to collaborate and love to take Stretchy to new places, so when Darwin asked us to host the afters for her infamous REEF party at Berghain it was a no-brainer, out to the marathon crew who stretched with us until 6:PM the next day!

What’s next for Stretchy Dance Supply?

In 2024, we’re planning new collaborations, visiting new venues and even new cities, plus looking to add new faces to the team. The specifics I’m afraid are highly confidential.

Stretchy Dance Supply returns to Wharf Chambers with Bunney, Joe PG, and Lotus Phaze on March 15. Grab your tickets here.

Gemma Ross is Mixmag's Assistant Editor, follow her on Twitter

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