Shuffle circles are synonymous with the current incarnation of electronic music festivals. When traversing the crowd in the hot summer heat, you’re guaranteed to find a large radius of people who have backed up to create a zone for talented individuals to cut loose and demonstrate their footwork skill. On the cusp of summer 2016, I caught one of these groups huddled at the back of the crowd during the Labour Day edition of Electric Island, Toronto’s undisputed king of summer techno parties. Caught off guard by choreographed partners dancing and a some branding thanks to a gigantic banner, I went home distinctly remembering the name of this troupe, Zionify.
Zionify’s social media accounts refer to the brand as a “Next Generation Melbourne Shuffle Team,” a surprisingly accurate title. embracing electronic music cultures’ fondness for social media and flashy graphics, Zionify’s team of contributing shufflers each have their own nickname, style and attitude that is pushed to the forefront of their their videos with some major viral intentions. Sabrina, Ahmad, Ela, Sam, Ghazi, and Marcin each share skilled shuffle videos backed by groovy house music to their own social media feeds, but their current goal is to combine their efforts in one spot under the Zionify banner. I spoke with Ahmad, the craftsman behind much of the troupe’s branding and video content, to get the lowdown on how this crew came together and their brand new party series. On January 27th, Zionify takes over College Street’s Tiger Bar filled with catchy techno music and a judgement-free crowd. They hope to foster an environment for beginner shufflers and experts to unite and learn together.
TRC: When the traditional millennial electronic music fan might be more caught up with being image conscious than just letting loose, how does a brand like Zionify try to get more people out on the dance floor rather than just kicking back in a booth?
Ahmad: We wanted to create a brand that is all about finding something you love, and doing it unconditionally. ‘Zion’ means heaven on earth and to ‘Zionify’ your mind is finding your place of happiness. Everyone has something they love doing whether it be dancing, singing, drawing, racing, etc. and we believe you should find your Zion and do what you love.
The Zionify dancers love shuffling, as it is one of our favourite hobbies. When we are in the shuffle circle dancing, we completely zone out and are in our state of Zion; our heaven on earth. Our crew always tries to encourage other dancers to break out of their comfort zone and let the music take over. We try our best to provide a judgement free zone in our shuffle circles where anyone can feel free to express themselves via dance.
Zionify Meetup ~ Bud Light Digital Dreams Festival
TRC: How did your meeting of minds and this campaign itself get going in the first place
Ahmad: Zionify was officially created in May 2016. A couple of us were friends before this and would always go out to events together. We were always excited to show off our new dance moves we’ve been working on week to week. We would even get together every now and then and make little videos for the Toronto Rockers Union group. One day we decided to make it official and represent a new movement at events. We went searching for others that share the same passion as us and connected with them. We brainstormed ideas together and wanted something more meaningful than a traditional dance crew. Eventually Zionify was born and we’ve been repping it at every major event since.
TRC: What are your long term goals for the troupe? I’m sure you have something up your sleeve planned for this summer’s festival season.
Ahmad: We have really big plans for Zionify in the near future. We eventually want to go worldwide and express our brand as a movement – but for now, we will be spreading it across Canada. Zionify will be hosting our shuffle circles at every major festival this year. We encourage everyone of all styles and experience levels to come out and express themselves alongside us. We will also be shooting and coming out with professional after movies for these events and sharing them all over our social media. We hope to get our brand out there even more this festival season and share our love for dancing with others.
TRC: North America-wide, what other teams such as yourselves do you see coming together at major festivals?
Ahmad: We had many inspirations when forming our crew, since we definitely aren’t the first shuffle crew to form in North America or worldwide. The creation of shuffle crews has been happening for a long time; some groups formed even as far back as 2007. These crews similar to us, meet and practice together and attend major events and festivals as well. To name a few crews, there is FTS shufflers of Cali, New Empire Shufflers of NYC, God’s Mighty Heroes of Cali, Official Star 67 of Cali, and Sofla shufflers of Florida. Two of our crew members actually belong to some of these international shuffle crews as well which we are very proud of. We are happy to be putting Toronto on the map in terms of the shuffle scene and hope to continue to push the boundaries of this ever growing dance scene.
TRC: Tell me a bit about how you aim to bring the element of shuffling and cutting shapes to a club event like your BOUNCE series.
Ahmad: We have been to many club events over the past couple years and they are very different from festivals. [Club event attendees] don’t share the same love for shuffling as [festival attendees] do. There isn’t much room, and people tend to get annoyed with shufflers everywhere. Zionify wants to create our own club event where shuffling is encouraged and dancers don’t have to feel intimidated by others. We want to create a judgement free zone where people can come to practice their dance moves, learn new moves, and meet and connect with other shufflers. That is why BOUNCE was born.
With help from James of Dirty Talk, an up and coming music producer, artist and fashion designer, we were able to host an event where dancers could do exactly that and reach their state of Zion. Our first event was super successful in that we were able to reach so many shufflers and share the dancefloor together. This time around, we’d love to reach even more people, regardless of experience level or ability to shuffle. We would love for more people to explore this revolution in dance music, and reach their state of Zion too!