In which we dance in the #HotlineBlingBooth so you don't have to
The faint echos of Hotline Bling can be heard immediately upon entering the ACC: the Hotline Bling Booth awaits.
The booth is a makeshift version of the setting of Drake’s now infamous music video for his hit single. A white cube lit by fluorescent lights in alternating colours, it’s been set up for the Raptors’ “Drake Night,” and fans are invited to come and dance in the booth until tip off.
Earlier in the day I had eagerly rounded up a group of friends to visit the booth for obligatory Instagram shots; we traded Snapchats of our turtleneck-clad selves back and forth in eager anticipation. Yet, it was not to be. In order to file a story by the end of the day I had to visit the booth earlier than originally planned. Still, I wasn’t worried. Turtleneck squad or no, what could be more fun than a group of strangers dad-dancing in happy harmony?
Arriving at the ACC I follow the unmistakable Drake-beats, and round a corner to find myself confronted with the booth in question. At this point, three truths presented themselves with terrible clarity:
1. There are a couple dozen people milling about in the area, observing the booth.
2. No one is in the line for the booth.
3. This is going to be deeply, truly awkward.
The booth is only accessible via a sectioned-off line. People are being herded into said line by chipper ACC employees, who explain that you are only allowed in the booth in small groups, and that you have to take off your shoes so as not to damage the space. Once in the booth, you can choose to be recorded for a Vine on the Raptors website.
After overhearing the rules explained, I confer with an employee to make sure I properly understand the situation. Then, like most of the 20 or so odd people in the area, I proceed to lurk by the booth to see if anyone will try it.
Eventually a line of a dozen or so people forms. I watch as a couple nervously grinds in the space without making eye contact, and a group of suit-wearing finance bros attempts the signature Drake shimmy-shake. A woman with actual dance skills steps into the booth; the line thins dramatically.
I text my editor to make sure it is absolutely necessary that I personally enter the booth, and receive confirmation that it is. At this point, everyone has left the line and is standing in ominous silence around the peripheries. Resigned to my fate, I take off my shoes.
“You’re going to do it?!” asks a particularly enthusiastic employee. I confirm that I am, and listen apprehensively as the process is explained to me. “What’s the easiest Drake dance move?” I inquire, attempting nonchalance and achieving barely veiled panic. “Probably the cha-cha,” she says sympathetically, and proceeds to do a flawless demonstration of the move in question. “Throw in a couple of phone-signs, you’re good.”
When I don’t immediately respond to this suggestion, but instead assume a noticeably green pallor, she suggests, “Jim* here could dance with you, if you want!” (*In my anxious state I forgot his name as soon as it was given, but I like to think he looked like a Jim.) “No!” I say quickly. “I’m doing this for work,” I add, to no one in particular. Jim looks at me with the pity only those made to watch awkward strangers dance publicly can know.
Handing over my phone, I proceed to do my best cha-cha for the camera. “You look great!” says Jim. Jim is a dirty, dirty liar.
The woman taking the photo wanders away from the booth to encourage more onlookers to join in. Bracing myself, I ask to see the photos.
They’re bad yes, but more importantly I don’t appear to be doing the Drake-dance at all, but rather seem to be offering up a “surf’s up!” style hand gesture. “What’s a more recognizable move?” I ask. “Probably the card shuffle.” I make my way back to the booth for a second attempt.
“Keep going!” says another man, also holding a phone. I close my eyes and attempt to “live in the moment,” cursing the absent turtleneck squad, non-participatory onlookers, and my general lack of rhythm.
As I make my way out of the booth in a daze, the man with the second phone informs me that my dancing has been made into a Vine which I—and anyone else who so desires—can access on the Raptors website. A mere 15 minutes later, I receive a text linking me to the Vine from a friend. “Your dad under-bite is particularly on point,” she writes; she is not wrong.