Art by Cleo Ding

The return of the dancefloor: Taylor’s Version

by Anja Flamer-Caldera

The dancefloor is finally back! But for one student, it was the helping hand of Taylor Swift that got her back in the groove of things. 

It’s the end of March 2021. Mahitha Ramanathan, a 21-year-old Sydney nightlife enthusiast, was one of many eagerly awaiting the day’s COVID update from Gladys. It is announced that almost all restrictions in NSW will be rolled back the following Monday. Most importantly for Mahitha, clubbing is back! 

On that day, it had been over a year since anyone had last stepped foot on a legal dancefloor. Nights out in the glorious city of Sydney had been a staple of their social lives, a highlight of their weekly routines, and an important outlet for overworked and exhausted students. Pubbing and clubbing had been outlawed, but students all over NSW were itching to get back in the groove of things with the coronavirus under control.

The absence of clubbing and its “youthful freedom” hit Mahitha hard.

“I’m a very extroverted person, and I feed off the energy of other people, so I really missed those environments where people could just totally let loose and dance like they’ve got no worries at all,” she said. 

When it finally came time for her to get back out on the dancefloor, Mahitha knew she had to go all out. Her group chat had been going off for days, with her and her friends trying to decide on the best place to party in post-COVID Sydney. And then, scrolling through Facebook events, she saw it: ‘Taylor Swift On Repeat’ at the Oxford Art Factory

Taylor Swift has been there for Mahitha through thick and thin, and the hardships of this past pandemic year were no different. 

“I’ve screamed and cried and danced to her alone in my bedroom,” she explained.  

“Her music is something I’ve used to narrate all the stages of my life. Her lyrics and stories and almost big sisterly advice resound so deep in my heart.”  

So, after many months of boredom, anxiety, and social distancing, Taylor Swift blasting in a club was the perfect support for Mahitha to get her “youthful freedom” back on track.

The tickets were bought, and before she knew it, she and a few of her friends were pumping old Taylor albums, doing their makeup and drinking cheap wine in preparation for a night that would remind them exactly why they loved and had missed, going out and dancing. 

“It was like bread and butter for us,” she said, “… a night filled with pure, unadulterated joy after such a long time… combined with our sweet, naive crooning of young Taylor Swift.” 

Being in a small space with people sharing a common passion for belting out Taylor Swift was electrifying for Mahitha. She described how she loved the feeling of “melting into the music with faceless people and letting [herself] be enveloped by the dizzying, colourful atmosphere”, one that you can only get on a club dancefloor. Add a dollop of Swift, and “It [feels] like pure serotonin,” she said.

“It was so special to be able to scream along to her music in a club with strangers that shared the same passion, excitement and bursting love like me.” 

Obviously, a Taylor Swift night is not everyone’s cup of tea. But nostalgic transportation back to simpler times through music like hers is enticing for Mahitha and many people like her. Back when we used iTunes gift cards to buy her new albums, Tumblr held the place that Tiktok now does, and where ‘pandemic’ was just a cool word for zombie apocalypses in movies. 

Hearing Taylor’s music playing reminded Mahitha of her younger years, and she was soaking up the pure, youthful happiness as she sang and danced along. For the first night in a long time, she forgot about how the past year of her life had essentially been lost. She forgot about growing old, missing out on being a young rowdy 20-year-old, and feeling alone. 

“I was back in an era of good vibes,” she said, “… and I was bringing them with me into the next phase of our lives in this new, post-pandemic world.” 

“I was back in my body, lost in the music of someone whose words I’ve found peace in for so long. And all I knew was joy.”  

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