Written by Steve Weinstein
The collective dance experience takes on an entirely new meaning at Burning Man. The annual tribal event takes place in Northern Nevada’s Black Rock Desert 100 miles north of Reno in the days surrounding Labor Day. Despite the difficulty getting to, and staying in, the campsite, nearly 50,000 people participate. The easy way to typify Burning Man is as a vestige of the hippie era, a place for remnant Deadheads to get their groove on. That would be simplistic — and incorrect. It is indeed radical, and its roots hark back to the ‘60s. But it is as up to date as a Lady Gaga stadium concert. What makes Burning Man so unique is its circumstances, its guiding ethos, and the way the organizers have been able to keep true to the original vision. Anyone with a ticket is welcome. Instead of cash, participants “gift” each other to meet their needs, which can be great. Despite the emphasis on dancing, this is not a typical Circuit party weekend, nor for those who need their creature comforts — like running water, functional toilets or electricity. The environment is extremely harsh, the location about as remote as possible in the Lower 48. Clothes are optional and usually filthy anyway. Despite these obstacles, I’ve spoken to gay men from around the country who return every year. For them, this is the collective dance experience that transcends categories like gay-straight or young-old. The ritual burning of the giant wooden effigy on Saturday night symbolizes the transcendence of earthly things. This is the essence of Burning Man: an ecstatic embrace of the tribal roots of participatory dancing.
Andy Pischalnikoff is a professional photographer who has been shooting Burning Man for five years, this year as a member of the official documentation team. Visit http://www.idesignpix.com for more of his work.