Gapfiller’s Dance-O-Mat, a relocatable urban dance floor, is one of the city’s most enduring post-quake place-making icons – a status cemented when the now King and Queen Consort, Charles and Camilla, cut some shapes on the floor when they visited the city in 2012. When the Dance-O-Mat needed a new home, GapFiller found the vacant space next to Paddy McNaughton’s Irish Pub on Manchester Street. The process of installing the dance floor was undertaken and soon, the washing machine discotheque was sending rhythms out across the city and limbs were moving (some more elegantly than others).
The Dance-O-Mat’s new setting was a typical Ōtautahi lot, vacant but for rocky shingle, weeds and bright graffiti painted on the surrounding walls. Now with support from GapFiller, Resene Paints, the Christchurch Hip Hop Summit and a range of artists, the paint covered walls have been given a facelift to match the Dance-O-Mat’s activation. The first addition was a simple black and white declaration of the site as a Gapfiller ‘Place of Play’ – part of the urban play initiative. The mural, completed by Nick Lowry and Bols, simply deploys the graphic Place of Play logo, designed by Ariki Creative, running along the upper section of the Northern wall, boldly declaring the site as a destination. The painting spanning 18 metres in length and starting more than three metres up the wall, was completed in just two days, and set the tone for further activations.
If the Place of Play mural served a practical purpose, the next wave of creative work was brighter and exemplified the Place of Play intentions. On the first weekend of October, the 2022 Christchurch Hip Hop Summit kicked off with graffiti jams – including at the Dance-O-Mat site, where a selection of local graffiti artists refreshed the walls with characters and pieces. The activity, bolstered by DJs playing music, drew sizeable crowds (and dancers), making the most of the (almost) summery weather. Across from the graffiti artists, members of Slap City decorated the dedicated paste-up wall (which already featured a bold ‘Dance-O-Mat’ painting in red and yellow by teethlikescrewdrivers) with paper-based additions big, small and everywhere in between.
The flurry of activity was a perfect introduction for a site that now celebrates various creative outlets, a new must-see destination in the heart of Ōtautahi. The Dance-O-Mat is back and it looks fantastic!