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UEL academic's book makes huge impression on New York arts scene

UEL students

'Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor' receives widespread acclaim

University of East London (UEL) Professor Tim Lawrence’s Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor is creating quite a stir in the Big Apple.

The book, which was released in September by Duke University Press, has been featured in prestigious US publications including The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The Village Voice and Paper magazine

A whirlwind tour of the eastern United States included more than a dozen successful events. The highlight was a launch at the Museum of Modern Art, which attracted a sold-out crowd of 450 and featured a Lawrence-moderated panel of period luminaries such as Patty Astor and Fab Five Freddy.

In the UK, Professor Lawrence has been the subject of a lengthy feature in The Guardian, and Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor was a Times Higher Education book of the week. Professor Lawrence also appeared on Radio 1’s Gilles Peterson Worldwide.

The degree of attention has all been a bit of a shock for the cultural studies academic, who works in UEL’s School of Arts and Digital Industries and is co-director of its Centre for Cultural Studies Research.

“It’s a 600-page book about a pretty tight four-year period in the history of New York City that’s received only passing attention until now,” said Professor Lawrence. “It also describes a culture that didn’t ever really acquire a name. 

“It’s not an obvious attention grabber, but it’s been given prominent coverage in all of these important media outlets. The on-the-ground reception has also been remarkable. I’m delighted and slightly overwhelmed.”

Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor chronicles the New York party scene from 1980-1983, a period of ferocious inventiveness and creativity. It charts the sonic and social eruptions that took place in the city’s subterranean party venues, as well as the way its key figures cultivated breakthrough movements in art, performance, video and film. 

Lawrence’s research included interviews with DJs, party hosts, producers, musicians, artists and dancers.  

The book is the third in a series by Lawrence that includes Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-1979 and Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-1992. Both are published by Duke University Press.

A number of events events for Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor are taking place in the UK and Germany. A book tour on the US west coast is planned for 2017.

For more information, visit Professor Tim Lawrence’s website.