“It is okay to dance alone”

How The Roop’s 2021 Eurovision Entry might encourage us to practice self love and find comfort in isolation.


Writing and illustration by Berenika Murray.

“Ok, I feel the rhythm. Something’s going on here. The music flows through my veins.”


The Roop, a Lithuanian Pop Rock band, were one of the many musicians that came back with a bang in the rescheduled 2021 Eurovision Song Contest. Their initial entry, “On Fire” was a huge fan favourite, and has since gathered over ten million views (at the time of writing). So it was no surprise when their 2021 song, “Discoteque”, was an absolute bop and surpassed “On Fire” with roughly thirteen million views. In the grand final held in Rotterdam, The UK awarded Lithuania the maximum of 12 points, both judges and jury enamored by the performance. Overall, they placed eighth, an admirable score given the incredibly close competition this year. To give an example, four countries all received 0 points from the public, while the top two had just 25 points between them.


“There’s no one here and I don’t care, I feel it’s safe to dance alone.”


The Roop seemed to capture a sense of joy and ridiculousness onstage that connected with many Europeans. Their big smiles, bright yellow outfits and often ‘silly’ dance moves gave us a welcome break from the doom and gloom, inviting us to dance. But “Discoteque” doesn’t shy away from the pandemic either. It was clearly inspired by the collective experience of being in isolation, and the familiar struggle to find ways of staying sane and having fun despite the lockdown. With the recent relaxation of social distancing rules in Scotland, and clubs reopening, it’s worth looking at the message in this song and what we might have learned since Spring 2020.


“Let’s discotheque right at my home. It is okay to dance alone. I got the moves, it's gonna blow.”


Don’t get me wrong, I am aware of how cringe-worthy a large portion of the Covid-related content on TV has been. In defense of the entertainment industry, this was all new and unexpected. However, so many of the attempts at making light of a devastating situation have left me as a viewer feeling uncomfortable and empty. Therefore, I was nervous when it was announced that the 2021 Eurovision song contest would go ahead. Although I had to ease myself into the sight of mask-less spectators clustered together, I found it incredibly exciting to be watching the contest again. It’s like when you haven’t been outside in days, and then you go out to grab some milk and suddenly remember how blue the sky is or how fresh the air feels. The organisers also added a feature which allowed “virtual clapping”, so performers could hear a piece of the 183 million at-home viewers. This on top of the contest being many performers' first live show in over a year created an incredible atmosphere and experience for the audience. It was as if I was in the arena, the lights flashing around me... despite sitting alone on a couch eating pretzels.


“By dancing on my own, I’m healing wounded soul.”


So, contrary to my expectations of cringe and discomfort, The Roop were one of the many musicians to successfully incorporate messages of love and peace into their acts. Of course, any fans of Eurovision will know this is commonplace, but it felt especially impactful within the current context. Certainly, as I watched the band perform on the stage in Rotterdam, I realised I was tapping my foot and bopping my head unconsciously. Their act is contagious; they don’t just use their lyrics to let you know it’s safe to dance, they invite you to join them. After winning a popular Eurovision blog’s award for ‘Best Choreography’, lead vocalist Vaidotas Valiukevicius said the choreo was inspired by their childhood heroes such as David Bowie and Freddie Mercury and the idea of freedom. One of the most notable dance moves was the ‘finger dance’, seen when the camera zooms in on Valiukevicius as he spread apart his fingers in time to the music. Even my often stony-faced dad told me later that he had let out a chuckle at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.


“I need to get up, and put my hands up.”


As well as uplifting Europeans in the three-minute song, the group are passionate about various social causes. Valiukevičius is vegan, ensuring their merchandise was all cruelty-free and sustainably made. As a photographer, I was particularly excited about the way the merchandise was shot, full of colour, laughter and dancing. The lead vocalist said this about the photographs:


“The theme for the pictures was skewed mirror room effect, which used to excite us in theme parks. During the photoshoot, there’s a lot of laughter, joy, and improv.”


The website then reads:


“The Roop merchandise does not limit movement; thus, wearing them is an excellent opportunity to dance, while the group constantly reminds everyone that dance is the best therapy. It is scientifically proven that movement and dance have a positive impact on mental health, no matter the age.”


And they’re not wrong! In a study conducted by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, people who danced had a 46% lower chance of developing heart disease. However, even excluding the benefits of exercise on overall health, dancing is typically more accessible than other forms of movement. We can usually dance without needing access to structured classes, just a bit of any music will do, and it is so heavily linked with socialisation and good times that we may even find ourselves dancing by accident. Although it is exciting to watch professional dancers flip and move their bodies across a stage, it is also so important to be reminded that any movement (whether it is a head bop or wiggle or ‘finger dance’) is dancing, and should therefore be encouraged.


“Let’s discotheque right at my home. It is okay to dance alone. I got the moves, it's gonna blow.”


The Eurovision Song Contest 2021 gave myself and countless others, an escape from everyday pandemic life, and a renewed sense of optimism and joy. Listening to The Roop, and many of the other performers, the overall message was clear. Be yourself, keep going, and dance! I sincerely hope that life begins to get easier over the coming months, and that dancing plays a role in healing a world that has been through so much suffering. Perhaps by speaking out for others that are not being heard and by practising self-love, things will get better.


“Thank you, stay unique Europe!”


Berenika Murray

Final Year Photography Student at Edinburgh College of Art

Website: www.berenikamurray.com

Instagram: photograberry_

Facebook: Berenika Murray Photo



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