www.ambiente.us  NOVEMBER | NOVIEMBRE 2008

A Sound of One’s Own:  DJ Alyson Calagna’s Doctrine of the Dance Floor
by Steve Ralls

The author Virginia Woolf once posited that literature must surely be the most challenging of all the arts.  The
writer, she observed, is tasked with painting the landscape of a life – with a beginning, a middle and some
form of conclusion – using a paintbrush with no colors.  The landscape of experience, Woolf said, was far
more easily constructed with the palette of the painter.

Imagine if, instead of mere words, Woolf had
been limited to just drums and a sex-coated
groove.

It’s a quandary DJ Alyson Calagna knows well,
and has mastered as perfectly as Woolf’s
command of the word.  And just like her
literary counterpart, the  South Florida spin-
mistress also finds herself a successful female
artist amidst a field of colleagues who are
almost exclusively men.

Woolf may have found comfort in a “room of
one’s own,” but Calagna has found her own
sound in the DJ booth, and later this month,
she’ll be one of the headliner artists
commanding the dance at The White Party,
a benefit for Care Resource.

For Calagna, the doctrine of the dance floor
comes down to two things:  Truth and Self.

“My philosophy is pretty basic,” she told
Ambiente.  “Be true to yourself and your sound.
That has worked for me all these years . . . it’s
about [the] music.”

That mindset has guided the South Florida DJ for 15 years.  It’s a mantra that has formed over her years on
several continents and two of the most musically influential cities in the  United States .

“I grew up overseas for most of my childhood,” she said.  “I lived in  Dubai , and there I was influenced by the
ethnic drums, chants and rhythms.  Then I lived in  Aberdeen ,  Scotland for a bit, where I first discovered
House Music.  That piqued my interest at a young age, and I became infatuated by that European house
sound; I still am today.”

Later, Calagna’s family moved to  Louisiana , where she has played extensively, including at the city’s
Southern Decadence weekend, where she was scheduled to appear this past September until Hurricane
Gustav shelved those plans.

“When my family and I moved back to  Louisiana , the music was totally different,” she recalls.  “[There was]
lots of jazz, which is why I love the sound of brass so much.  Soul, Zydeco and country were always being
played, too.”

The landscape of sound continues to develop, and followed her to the Fort Lauderdale area, which she now
calls home.  But the music scene in other countries where she has played also serves as a compass
whenever she plays.

“There is always a different sound when you go from country to country,” she told me.  “For instance,  Brazil is
very fast-paced tribal, and in Toronto , I can play a bit for funky and electro fans.  The great thing about playing
in different counties is [that] you can adapt to what they like, all while staying true to yourself as well.”

As for  Miami , a city nearby her current home, she says it “is a huge part of the dance music scene.  There is
a vibe here that is like no other.  It’s the Latin influence; it’s sexy and has an energy that is indescribable.”

As Calagna’s profile has grown exponentially in the last few years, her resume has expanded to include a
broad array of events, including, just this year, stops in  Vancouver ,  Chicago ,  Detroit ,  San Antonio ,  Dallas
and  Washington ,  D.C.  On Labor Day Saturday – typically the slowest weekend of the year in the nation’s
capital - she packed in a full house at Town, a local dance club know for hosting some of the country’s top DJ
talent.

She is also a rarity among those who frequent the gay music and party scene:  A successful female DJ who
can bring men and women onto the dance floor together.  But Calagna isn’t one to play the gender card,
telling Ambiente that “I don’t think it’s about gender.”

Increasingly, she is seeing the gap between men’s and women’s musically inclined events narrowing,
though, and has played numerous women’s events across the country . . . and internationally.

“There actually is a women’s social event scene that is growing,” she says.  “For example, Aqua Girl Miami,
which is charity-based and attracts thousands of women from all over the country.  Cities like  Vancouver ,
Philly and  Atlanta have [also] created their own women’s weekends that are thriving and growing.”

It’s a different scene, she says, that requires a different sound . . . or DJ booth . . . of one’s own.

“I do see a different musical format for men and women,” she says, “in that the women tend to like more of
an open format or mainstream sound, and there are probably not as DJ-driven as the boys.”

“The boys,” indeed, have created a veritable hierarchy of DJ fame, dominated by men like DJ Abel,
Christopher Cox, Peter Rauhofer and Junior Vasquez.  Calagna, however, has been warmly welcomed into
the caste, and her star is quickly rising.  She has recently released, with DJ Brett Henrichsen, the CD
soundtrack to One Mighty Weekend 2008, now available from Masterbeat.  

In a scene where few musical artists explode onto the gay dance scene – with the possible exceptions of out
musicians like Ari Gold, Kevin Aviance and Madonna,  if you buy-in to her bisexuality – Calagna’s career is
driving her to new goals and new venues around the world.

But Calagna, like artists from Woolf and beyond, refuses labels.

“I think there are a lot of artistic careers where people can become pigeon-holed, but there are many people
that are happy and content focusing on just one genre,” she said in her interview with Ambiente.  “I think you
find this to be the case in the gay community because the circuit sound is so unique.  I do believe there are
many gay DJs, including myself, who are venturing successfully into the straight market on a national and
international level.”

“I would love to play more internationally,” she added.  “Amsterdam ,  Paris , Ibiza and  Sydney . . . that is the
goal.  I've also heard amazing things about the Atlantis Cruises; that would be awesome as well.”

With each new venue, city and experience, a new Calagna sound is born.  Chet Baker was playing as she sat
down to answer my questions for Ambiente, and she says that, “I listen to everything from chill-out to country.  
It all depends on what mood I’m in.”

“Music, music, music,” she said, starting to sound like that infamous Madonna hit, “I love all styles, shapes
and forms.”

“The elements and atmosphere and type of party predict how most DJs play,” she said.  “For instance, my
pool party sound will be much lighter, with more orchestration, than my after-hours, which is a darker, sexier
sound.”

More and more, the boys (and girls) who know sexier when they hear it, are forming a line at Calagna's door.

“My goal is to leave people inspired,” she told me.  “For me, dancing is a spiritual experience.  When I leave
the floor from an amazing night of music, I’m always inspired, whether its musically or sexually.  It’s the
inspiration that I live for, and I hope to give the same to the people who are on my floor.”

The floor, and the evening, are owned by Calagna alone.  A new queen rules the dance music nights, and
she has found a sound of her own.

For more information, including a calendar of upcoming events and free podcasts available through iTunes,
visit
www.djalysoncalagna.com.  And for tickets, event schedules and other details about The Winter Party,
click on
www.whiteparty.org



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