Well before she was spinning records to get New Orleans dives dancing, Ann Glaviano was working to create the sort of parties she wanted to attend.
The DJ who has spent the last seven years sharing ‘60s tunes with appreciative audiences at her Heatwave parties got her start in the scene thanks to DJs Kristen Aul and Matt Uhlman, the duo behind New Orleans’ legendary and long-running Mod Nite parties.
Glaviano was such a fan of the style of ‘50s and ‘60s music on offer (and enthusiastically dancing to the same), that Kristen and Matt began bringing her in as a “ringer” when they were booked to play for corporate events. Kristen and Matt provided the music and Ann was tasked with being the catalyst that got the dancefloor going.
“[Kristen] was a really good friend to me in general and her night felt like a really safe place to go out and dance to like all my favorite songs,” Glaviano explained. “They would get booked for these gigs where they would bring in dance floor ringers. They would bring in people to get the dance floor started at these like institutional events like galas or whatever. So that had been kind of the focus of my going out life.”
When Glaviano moved away from home to go to grad school, there was a hole in her life where this night used to be. She searched around her new home in Columbus, Ohio for something similar to Mod Nite and found it wanting.
“It had just been this really important, happy place for me and then I moved to Columbus and I’m super homesick,” she said. “I really want to go out dancing, and everything that’s available is just not the stuff that I’m into. So, after eight months of thinking about it, I was like ‘well, I could just do it. I could just start a night up here.’”
Glaviano said she had to overcome a few mental blocks to get to the point where she’d be ready to DJ. First, she checked around the city, making absolutely sure that no one had cornered the market on Motown and moving ‘60s pop.
“I thought someone else in Columbus must already be doing it,” she said. “And I’m l Googling ‘Mod nite Columbus, Soul music Columbus’ like ‘Surely, someone is covering this.’”
Once she realized that no one else was throwing the sort of parties she wanted to attend, Glaviano had to psych herself up enough to think that she could be the type of person who deejays.
“I was really reluctant to start it because I had never deejayed before,” she said. “I didn’t have records. I didn’t even really know how to operate a turntable. I didn’t feel like I had encyclopedic music knowledge. And I also didn’t feel cool enough. The stance of a DJ is very presumptuous. Like you stand in a room and go ‘I will pick ALL the music and you will like it. You’re all going to be satisfied.’”
Glaviano said that she was struck by a deceptively simple realization that allowed her to get over her own self-awareness.
“What I realized was all you have to do is just do the thing, even if you feel like you don’t have the attributes required to do it,” she said “If you do it, you are by definition the kind of person who does it…Even if I’m not cool and even if I don’t have encyclopedic music knowledge and even if I don’t have records, I will be the kind of person who will be a DJ.”
With that hurdle out of the way, Glaviano recruited a vinyl-inclined punk friend and a drummer from a Motown cover band that she met by chance while doing bar trivia. That drummer gave the night its name.
“I never met this guy for all I know he could have been an axe murderer.,” Glaviano said, while explaining that he jumped at the chance to be involved in a throwback night. “He was like ‘Can we call it Heatwave?’ He’d been thinking bout doing it for a long time.”
The night was a hit and Glaviano brought it with her when she returned home. While Glaviano is the head of a long-running and much-loved party which has two successful nights a month at Twelve Mile Limit and Okay Bar, she is always striving to make her space better. She stresses that Heatwave has a “pro-consent, anti-asshole” dance floor and has pushed for years to ensure that her party is always moving toward being a safer space for people to unwind. Her nights feature posters that encourage people to report any harassment and declare that the party is meant to be a safe space.
“Men will often come up to me and say ‘Did something happen?’ And it’s like “No, it’s always happening.’ It happens at every bar, every night in every city.” she said. “Women come up and shake my hand.”
Glaviano knows full well that a poster isn’t enough to stop a problem as persistent as dance floor harassment, and she’s attempted to make sure that everyone who walks into her party knows the stance of Heatwave.
“This guy like jerked off in front of my safe space poster while looking at me,” she said of one particularly horrific incident. “I don’t think he knew that he was in front of my safe space poster, but if you ever needed a sign that your safe space poster isn’t by itself enough…”
To that end, Glaviano has occasionally taken jarring steps to ensure that the whole room was on the same page.
“I got on the mic at midnight, peak dance floor time, and said ‘Listen, we’re going to practice consent in dancing.’ So you can use your mouth, use your language, use your words and you can say ‘would you like to dance with me?’ And you can also say ‘No, thank you’ and all of these are okay. No matter what the person says we can all still have a nice time. So, I’m going to put on a song and you can go up and ask people to dance, and no matter the outcome, everyone is ok.”
Glaviano stresses that she doesn’t want the party to be seen as anti-sex, anti-physicality or somehow fuddy duddy. She just wants the entire room to be riding the same wave and that’s not possible “if half of the room is running from the other half of the room.”
“Deejaying is a form of energy work. It’s very witchy. I feel like songs are little potions or spells. They have their own qualities that induce a certain reaction,” she explained. “Everyone comes in and they’re all having their own individual experiences. And I get them all on the same vibe. So instead of 30 people all having their own experiences it’s 30 people who are all kind of locked into like one experience. And then once they are all locked in, it’s just taking the energy and ratcheting it up so that we’re all on this like ride together.”
And Glaviano doesn’t want the fear of harassment to keep people from enjoying the ride.
“For four hours, in this one bar once a month can we just not have have to worry about this? Can we just have four hours?” she asked. “And the answer is no, but we’re chipping away at it very slowly.”