The History of Fursuit Dancing and Dancing in the Furry Fandom
If you have been to a furry convention in recent years, or explored furry videos on YouTube, it is more than likely that you have seen fursuiters dancing. And most likely they were doing so at one of the fandom’s most popular events, the Fursuit Dance Competition! But how did this come to be? When did folks in heavy swaths of fur draped over their bodies and bulky heads impairing their vision decide that one of the premiere convention events for furries should be a Dance Competition? To answer that question, we must go back to the beginning. It’s 1989, the first ever furry convention, Confurence 0 is taking place in Costa Mesa, California. The main panel room has a small audio booth and raised stage. Rod O'Riley is at the DJ booth, playing a mix of current hits and popular songs alongside favorite Disney songs. And in walks Hilda the Bambioid, one of the first ever fursuiters! In this wonderful video, we get a glimpse into furry history as we watch Hilda shaking her tail and grooving around while an audience looks on and captures photos and videos.
Now, for many of you, I am sure you’re not surprised. After all, humans love to dance, even if they don’t consider themselves ‘dancers’. We are taught the wonders of music and wiggling around to it from infancy. So of course, when someone wears a fun costume, dancing just seems right, especially when the music is very danceable! But dancing at furry conventions would become much more than a spur of the moment thing.
Let’s fast forward to 1993, and Confurence 4. At this point the furry convention staple known as the talent or variety show was established. Right off the bat, fursuiters would enter the event to show off their fursuits, and some dance to a song. In this video we see Sajhar Weasel dancing to the 1991 Hip Hop track, “Pop Goes the Weasel” by 3rd Bass.
This concept of a fursuiter entering the Variety Show and doing a dance routine (be it freestyle or choreographed) would quickly gain popularity. It was almost impossible to go to a variety show at a furry convention and not see at least one act like this. As the 90s melded into the early 00s, something else was gaining great popularity: boy bands and girl groups who incorporated choreographed group dance routines into their music videos. This idea of a group of friends coming together to do a choreographed dance routine certainly brushed off on furries as we started to see more group dance entries in variety shows. In this video we see the incredible YappyFox, Yahooey, KuddlePup, Pacer Fox and Kodi Wolf performing a group dance to “Larger Than Life” by the Backstreet Boys at Mephit Fur Meet 2001.
But of course, many people enjoy dancing regardless of whether they're wearing a costume. So something else that became common at furry conventions in the 1990s and early 2000s was nightly dances! Many furries of the early days had grown up with clubs. The 1970s had brought with it Disco, and underground clubs thrived off of it. All people, regardless of gender, sexuality, and race, gathered at these clubs as a safe space to be themselves and let loose. The 1980s kept rolling on with the clubs playing the most popular dance music of the day, with the House genre rising to popularity. And soon, with the 1990s, the concept of rave culture was born.
Furry conventions of the 1990s and 2000s would throw their own raves with DJs from the fandom sharing their talents for all to enjoy. Fursuiters and non-suiters alike would descend upon the dance floor, typically in the main events room, and dance their tails off all night long. Nobody would judge you since everyone was just there to have fun. You could dance any way you like, any style you like. And people would learn from each other as they saw different dance styles on display. It should be noted as well that, for many furries who were shy or bullied in school and didn’t attend school dances, this was a really important way to let loose and be comfortable having fun together with others.
This next video is from Further Confusion 2004. As you can see, although the cameras and lasers have gotten better thanks to the evolution of technology, it really does look just like raves at furry conventions nowadays!
Here is another video of an early furry convention rave, this time at Anthrocon 2004. Here we can clearly see the rave influence on the early 2000s with glow sticks and poi spinning and trip pants galore!
Fursuiters were having a lot of fun entering the talent shows and variety shows at various conventions and doing solo or group dance routines and hitting the dance floor every night to groove and boogie. But there were starting to be enough folks with a strong enough interest in dance that they really started to want a specific event all about dancing. And so in 2008, at Furry Weekend Atlanta, a new event was scheduled for the Main Ballroom. The first ever Fursuit Dance Competition!
The format for the event would be simple. They’d open signups for fursuiters interested in competing, and they would have a judging panel watch the event along with the audience and select a top 3. The event saw 11 fursuiters and one Beetlejuice lay it all out on the dance floor to see who would be crowned the first ever Fursuit Dance Competition winner. Every dancer was called up, one at a time, and allowed to perform the song they had selected for the audience and judges. There were ten solo acts and one duet. There were three judges: Jibba, Vincent, and Tilt Longtail. The winners were announced as Foxglove (1st Place), Neo PanTyger (2nd Place), and Duke the Dancing Dog (3rd Place). This video is of the last act, Foxglove and the medals ceremony. If you would like to watch the entire competition, Spike Pap has every performance on his YouTube channel.
This event was a roaring success, and both the fandom’s dancers and the audience wanted more. Other conventions quickly picked up on the success of this event and people’s desire for more. As we can see below, though slow at first, dance competitions at furry conventions took off like a rocket after a few years, and today, it’s harder to find a furry convention without a dance competition than one with! This video is a great highlight reel from the Anthrocon 2010 Dance Competition, where we can already see the expansion of styles and technicality in the performers. And many of these dancers happen to be dancers you love today in suits you may not recognize!
2008 - FWA, Anthrocon
2009 - FWA, Anthrocon, Rainfurrest
2010 - Further Confusion, FWA, Anthrocon, Rainfurrest
2011 - Further Confusion, Furry Fiesta, FWA, Confuzzled, Anthrocon, Cesfur, Megaplex, Rocky Mountain Fur Con, Eurofurence, Rainfurrest, Midwest FurFest
In 2011 we see the first spike in competitions, but just three years later, in 2014, over 30 furry conventions were hosting dance competitions of some sort! 2014 also saw a huge boom in interest in participating in the events. Once there were more than 20 people interested in participating in these events, preliminaries would be required to ensure that the finals could run in their allotted time slot. Typically the preliminaries would happen on the Friday or Saturday of the convention, with the finals occurring on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. These preliminaries would occur typically in a panel room and have a set of prelims judges separate from the finals judges. The prelims judges would watch everyone’s routine or a freestyle to a random song (sometimes 40 to over 100 people trying out for just ~20 slots!) and then get together to determine who would be in the finals. Many conventions began having the dance comp organizer or even a small team become official staff of the convention due to the amount of work required to make the event happen. The Fursuit Dance Competition Finals became one of, if not the, largest events at furry conventions, with the audience sometimes lining up an hour or more before the doors opened to get the best seat. Remember that Anthrocon 2010 video you watched just before this? Here’s a video from twelve years later at Anthrocon 2022!
Fursuit Dance Competitions also had a massive impact on the global furry fandom, not just the American furry fandom. As early as 2011 we saw three European conventions with dance competitions. Here is a video from the 2011 Eurofurence Dance Competition of participants Kiyo and Zakari. This video also showcases one of the early couples duo performances that would go on to inspire many others.
But fursuit dance competitions are not the only major dancing events at conventions anymore. Remember that 2011 spike in Dance Comp popularity? That was paired with a spike in general interest in dance as a serious hobby in the furry fandom. Television was inspiring thousands across the world by having major TV Shows such as So You Think You Can Dance and America's Best Dance Crew rise to fame in the late 00s. In the furry fandom, a group of friends with a passion for dance had the idea to create the first ever furry dance crew. In 2010, they did just that. Last Fur One was founded by Ronnie, Atsu and Mozee. The three spent a lot of time together at Anthrocon 2010 dancing and chatting. They decided it was time for the furry fandom to have its first official dance crew and start organizing events. The crew would kick off with Ronnie, Atsu, Mozee, Doryuu, Phor, Kwik, V, Remix, Flipsta and Aoi as the original members. Here we see a cool video they’d film in 2012 showing off everyone’s styles at the time.
Last Fur One would start off by hosting dance workshops at furry conventions, teaching folks the foundation of different styles. They hosted one at Anthrocon 2011 and then at Anthrocon 2012. In addition to the workshop at Anthrocon 2012, they would host an event that would explode in popularity just like the dance competition had: Floor Wars! Ronnie was inspired by the BBoy Battles outside of the fandom he had attended, one of them having been named Floor Wars. He thought the name had an amazing ring to it and would certainly be an eye catching name on the convention programming schedule. Last Fur One also really wanted an event at furry conventions that would allow nonsuiters to participate as well as fursuiters. Before I delve further into the history of Last Fur One’s Floor Wars event, it should be noted that a few conventions had hosted or been home to a battle event before. Further Confusion 2011 decided to do a three way dance battle with their top 3 finalists in their dance competition called “Suit & Shred”.
I am told that Furry Weekend Atlanta and Rainfurrest 2010 both had battle events of some sort, but I am still working on tracking down confirmation of that and/or any videos or photos. There is much to the story of dance in the furry fandom that will not be covered in this first article, so I will most certainly be writing a follow-up next year. Last Fur One’s Floor Wars would be a bracket style 1v1 dance battle event. Dancers would be randomized into a bracket and take turns dancing against each other to random songs, making this a battle of freestyle capabilities. It was held in a panel room, the audience consisting mostly of other dancers and their friends, close together around the floor. This environment naturally lent itself to a more intimate dance experience and louder hype as everyone basically lost themselves in the music and dance. In this video we see the final battle between ReyRey and Toay.
Let’s go over a quick history of how Last Fur One’s Floor Wars grew as an event and changed the styles up over the years to keep people interested!
2012 - Anthrocon, MFF
2013 - FWA, Anthrocon, MFF 2014 - FWA, Anthrocon, MFF 2015 - FWA, Anthrocon, MFF
2016 - What The Fur, FurTheMore, FWA, Anthrocon, Megaplex, Eurofurence, MFF
Similar to the Dance Comps, it only took a few years of the events occurring at the biggest conventions, for the event to explode in size and just like the Dance Comps it would continue to do so.
MFF 2012 was the first time there was a Fursuit Division, which would become common thereafter.
2013 the growth was clear and insane to see. MFF 2013 the format was changed for the first time, being 2v2 battles of two suiters vs two suiters or two non suiters vs two non suiters.
FWA 2014 was the first Floor Wars in the Main Ballroom at a con.
Anthrocon 2014 had different battle formats for the suiters and non suiters; suiters were 1v1 and non suiters were 2v2.
MFF 2014 was the first “Pokémon” Style event (FWA 2022 would do this again). The concept of this event is that it started as 2v2 battles but each battle, the winning team could ‘capture’ one the participants from the losing team and keep them till the end of the event, with teams ending up as 4v4.
MFF 2016 was the first 3v3 event with at least one required in fursuit.
Anthrocon 2019 was the first Fursuiter paired with NonSuiter 2v2 style.
MFF 2019 was Bring Your Own Crew Battles. (Min 2, Max 5)
MFF 2021 was the first Seven to Smoke style event.
Eventually, like the Fursuit Dance Comp, nearly every convention would adopt their own version of ‘Floor Wars.’ But Last Fur One asked that only events their crew ran be called ‘Floor Wars’ just to make sure it was clear which events they ran. It is pretty wild to imagine that the first Floor Wars was in a panel room with a handful of participants, and now it requires prelims just like the dance competition and takes place in the Main Ballroom of the largest furry convention. Check out this video from Anthrocon 2019.
Furries proved that they are the masters of innovation yet again when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020. Furries turned to digital events to still safely get together during quarantine. Some furry conventions hosted digital conventions complete with DJ sets and online dance competitions where participants would record routines at home and send them in to be judged. We even saw the advent of Furry Dance Competitions in VRChat, with folks sporting furry avatars in the virtual world and full body trackers at home, showing off full on dance routines and being judged in the virtual space! We can thank Eurofurence and their hard working team at VirtualFurence for that awesome new idea! They hosted this virtual event in 2020 and 2021.
And now, here we are today. The overwhelming majority of furry conventions host nightly dances and have some sort of dance competition and/or battle style dance event. There are many online dance competitions/dance battles that happen on an annual, biannual or even quarterly basis. More and more dance crews are forming and stepping up to the plate to host the competitions, battles and workshops. It’s pretty incredible to see the evolution of dance in our wonderful fuzzy community. What else could the future hold? Only time will tell. For now, keep on shaking those fuzz butts!
Credits: Thank you to all the dancers that let me interview them so I could refine the exact timeline of events. Thank you to all of the fandom's videographers that captures these memories for us all to enjoy in the future. Especially to Prancing Skiltaire, Big Blue Fox, Yappy Fox, Antimon, Kijani Lion, Spike Papp, Labrusky, Last Fur One, Kalen Starfire, Anthrocon and Keks whose videos are linked in this article. Thank you to Kavaeric and Rictor Rat for the Header and Footer photos respectively. Thank you to every furry who brought the furry dancing scene to where it is today. You positively impacted the lives of so many, and brought so many smiles to thousands of furries all over the world!