With dance music's huge spike in popularity, along with festival leader Insomniac's focus on theatrical performances, the desire to be a Gogo at an EDM show is greater than ever.
Yet I always wondered, what is it really like to be a Gogo? How did they get there? What does it take? And of course, what are all the juicy details of working in the music industry, dancing next to the biggest DJs in the world?
I sat down with Adriana Sigala, the lead dancer at Bassmnt nightclub (open at the time of interview) and a Gogo for Insomniac Events. Turns out, she was the right person to talk to. From keeping her dancing a secret, to having a near-death experience on stage, and even getting hired for sketchy gigs, these are just a few of her wild tales.
Here's Adriana's story of what it's really like to be a Gogo dancer in 2015:
Molly Reports: Is dancing your only job at the moment?
Adriana: Right now I'm the lead dancer at Bassmnt so I manage the Gogo team. I do everyone's schedule and pick the outfits. I also work with Insomniac Events. I do all the festivals with them as well as the photoshoots for the merch.
Sometimes, we'll have one or two little eight counts just to have something to start out with. At the beginning, it might be a little empty in there and it's kind of awkward, so you look over at the other girl and have something planned so you're not just wiggling your arms and whatever... [laughs].
I'll do a live audition, so instead of having them come when the club is closed, I'll throw them up on stage on a Friday or Saturday night. I always like to do it live because if you can't do it on the spot, then you won't be able to do it when it's your time.
How did you get involved with Insomniac?I was living in Florida at the time and I sent in an application to audition. I didn't realize the audition was in Chicago though, so they told me "Ok, the audition is in 2 days," and I went into panic mode - thinking dammit, I won't be able to go. So I went to work at the Hookah Lounge and asked for the weekend off. They told me no. So I said, "Ok, then I quit. I need my paycheck." So I quit my job, sold my stereo, all this stuff, and bought a one-way ticket to Chicago. And I made the cut. I've been with them ever since. You kind of have to go on a whim if you want to do it.
Tell me a bit about your background; how did you get into dancing?
I've been dancing my whole life since I was little. I did ballet when I was small, and hip-hop, cheerleading, gymnastics. I got into Gogo when I was 17. Now I'm 22.
What was your first gig?
My first show was in Salt Lake for a company called KI Events. Super small show, and it was Klauus and Showtek when Showtek was still super hardstyle. So it was nuts, because I had no idea at the time about what type of music I would be dancing to.
Wow, I don't know if I could dance to Hardstyle!
Yeah, it was definitely a thrown-into-the-deep-end type of thing. I guess it worked!
Do you have to work out / train a lot to not get tired?
Oh my god, yes, endurance is a huge part of it. You don't think that 15 minute sets are a lot, but when you're up there, the lights are in your face, it's hot in there, you're constantly moving, it's like working out. We do 15 minute sets and 15 minute breaks, with each girl dancing 4 sets total.
In the beginning I was pretty nervous; I was about to do the macarena [laughs]; I didn't know what I was doing. But now I'm not. You gain this confidence, the more you do it; you kind of zone out. The most fun that I have is when you get to people-watch. But that can also get intimidating, because when it's not that crowded, people are just staring at you like, "Do something. Impress me."
What is it really like being on stage? Do you notice guys and girls staring at you?
If you do pay attention to the people, there's always going to be some catty girl snickering in the corner with her girlfriend, but at the end of the day you're like "well.. I'm up here, so.." You just got to have tough skin, and not let it phase you.
With Insomniac, it takes me a second to catch my breath because when you walk up on stage there's literally 70,000 people in front of you, just at one stage. I have 10 minutes to do something crazy without catching on fire!
You have to dodge the fire?
Yes, on stage they have X's so you know where to stand. There's lots of fire fountains and stuff around you, so you just stay on your X.
The guys actually aren't as bad as you'd think. It's only when you're walking around that they sometimes try to corner me to get me a drink or hit on me.
What are the negative things about being a Gogo?
Probably the stereotype that they are all super airheads, ditzy, slutty girls. And they're not. A lot of my Gogo friends are in super committed relationships or going to college; they're awesome people. But it's the worst because when I go somewhere and mention I dance, people ask if I'm a stripper. I tell them no, I'm a Gogo, and they say, "well, that's the same thing".
Nothing bad about strippers, but it is a completely different thing.
What does your family think about Gogo-ing?
In the beginning they were super not down. I come from a big religious Mexican family, so they weren't cool with it, but now that they know I'm working with big festival producers like Insomniac they are ok with it. My mom and my grandma love the pictures.
How did you tell your family?
At first I told my grandparents to sign a release for a TV show that I was filming because I was a minor. In reality, it was a form for me to dance in the club, since I was 17. I told them, no, no, don't read it. I was doing it for a while before they knew I was dancing. I think eventually they saw a picture of me online on a club website.
What about dating guys while you Gogo? Do they care?
Oh my god, it's awful. It's so bad. I dated this guy for a long time, and it was like pulling teeth. Every single time I worked a show, we would break up. "I don't trust you around this," he would say; "All these people are famous" etc. I told him, "Yeah, but I don't even see [the artists]. They don't even want us on stage half the time". So I just gave up after a while. Just being single, I'm making way more money than before when I had to worry about someone else whenever I took a gig.
Have you ever had a sketchy gig?I had one show in Florida and they hired us for a 21+ warehouse party. We got there, and there was foam everywhere but only like 3 people. I was like, what's going on? They said, don't worry girls, just hang out and have a drink. And I was like, I don't feel comfortable. It looked like it was just their friends that wanted two dancers to hang out with. They're like, wear this, which looked like a piece of dental floss. I was like I'm not wearing that, I'm out of here. Worst gig I've ever done in my life. They said that the guy didn't hand out the fliers, but I didn't even see one on the door. I think they just wanted girls to hang out.
Do Gogos usually have a drink before they dance, or other substances?
I don't let my girls drink at Bassmnt besides 1 or maybe 2 drinks. But if I can tell you're messed up, then you're in trouble.
With Insomniac, they have an absolutely strict zero tolerance policy. Which I like better, because when you're completely sober you get into the character more. I get super into it. If you're on any substance or have a drink, you're blacklisted from all their events with no pay. There would be nothing worse than trying to deal with some drunk girl on stage walk around with a kitty cat outfit around the pyros. That scares me.
Yes and no. I think it depends on the gig. Sometimes you'll go online and they just need 2 Gogos and they're like, heres the rate, email me. But sometimes... [pauses]... some people have a weird image thing. You can get worked if you get really wrapped into it. They'll be like, "I don't like your hair like that, change this." Or, "you should probably work out a little bit." And it sucks because some girls get super warped about it. Some events are looking for a skinny 5'10 blonde girl, and other events are looking for something else. And the girl realizes that's the only reason she gets turned down.
I think it should be a little more focused on how well they dance. You can make any girl gorgeous. If the skinny girl is tall and blonde but she just does the chicken dance, that's not going to work. [laughs]
Have you ever had an embarrassing moment on stage?
Hah, I'm sure there's a million. I did have a scary moment one time at EDC Orlando. It was my first year, I was so excited and dressed up like one of the monkeys. It was super hot in Florida, 90 degrees, humid and gross. The inside of the outfit was satin and the outside was just fur. So we go on stage and I'm all excited because Showtek is playing and they were the DJs at my first Gogo gig.
I start getting super into it and crawling around on stage. We were throwing bananas! I dove between my friend's legs and started pounding on my chest. I leaned back and realized I missed my mark - the X where I was supposed to stand was way in back of me. Suddenly the pyro went off, and I swear - the fire almost singed the face of the monkey mask on me. I jumped back and legitimately almost caught on fire on stage.
Well, I had to just walk back on my knuckles off stage and pretend like I wasn't about to have a heart attack because we still had 5 minutes on stage. You can't freak out because everyone can see you up there. I got off stage and the guy was like, "Are you Ok?!" I pretended I was fine, but I was terrified.
So it sounded like a lot of the dancing at EDC is improvised?
Definitely. They give you a character and a pep talk, because you have to get super into it from the moment you walk out those doors. This is who you are the whole weekend. So I'll always give my character a name and get super into it. I don't even speak. At Nocturnal, we were cats so we just meowed the whole time. I never said anything at all the entire weekend except meow.
So you're an actor?
Yep. It's way more of an acting thing than a Gogo thing. You get to take pictures with everyone and you go on rides. That's my favorite part, because the people are looking at you so weird. We had cat eye contacts and stuff like that.
Do you ever sneak in some actual words?
Yeah, a little bit sometimes. Because if I don't, the people on the ride next to me are uncomfortable or freaked out. I'm like, "It's ok! Your friends are right there! Let me sit with you," and they're like, "Oh, ok."
I'm the worst at planning, but with dancing, you can't be naive - you have to look ahead to your future. I'm not going to be 22 years old forever with this body, shakin' it in a monkey costume. But I love the music industry, and I got submerged into the business, so I'm looking into Artist Management. I'll take my time, but that's kind of why I got into managing the Gogo team at Bassmnt. I'm interested in being a tour manager as well; I'm running around all the time anyway so I might as well get paid for it.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a Gogo?Just practice. Don't half-ass it. If you want to do it, go take a class, or get your friend to take a class with you, whatever. Be passionate about it. Anybody can dance, but you want to be the one that's worth hiring again. You want them to say, "Oh my god she was incredible!", not just, "Yeah, she was ok."
It's way better to actually try for
something and get a rejection letter than not get it at all. Because
if I didn't go and sell everything to buy that plane ticket, then I
never would've known if I could get Insomniac. So take a class, be
smart... and don't catch on fire!