On a Brooklyn street dotted with auto repair garages, a line of young women wearing black ruffled dresses, black chokers, little black backpacks and Doc Martens waited in the cold outside a club called Quantum on Friday night. They were united in their fandom for the Netflix series “Wednesday” and their adoration for the show’s macabre protagonist, Wednesday Addams.
The club, which is beside the Gowanus Expressway, was hosting an Addams Family-themed party dedicated to the dance that Wednesday performs in the show’s fourth episode at a prom-like event at Nevermore Academy, a boarding school for outcasts, vampires and werewolves. The angular dance is characterized by unpredictable arm flails and head jerks, and executed to the 1981 psychobilly classic “Goo Goo Muck,” by the Cramps. It has inspired endless fans to post bedroom tributes on TikTok.
Jenna Ortega, the 20-year-old former Disney star who plays Wednesday, choreographed the moves herself by studying footage of goths dancing at clubs in the 1980s and borrowing ideas from performers like Bob Fosse, Siouxsie Sioux, Lene Lovich and Denis Lavant.
She has also cited the gyrations of Lisa Loring, who played Wednesday in the 1960s TV series “The Addams Family.” The New York Times dance critic Gia Kourlas has written of Ortega’s performance: “It’s the defiant dance of a nonconformist. It’s a celebration of weird.”
As the club filled up with Wednesdays, there was a sense of anticipation in the crowd: At midnight, on an elevated runway, there would be a contest to determine which Wednesday had mastered the dance best.
A big screen behind the D.J. booth showed clips of the old black-and-white TV series, the Addams Family movies from the 1990s and the Netflix show. The event’s organizer (an outfit called Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger Presents) had promoted the party with a program that promised a playlist of “sad girl bops,” which ended up meaning songs by Lana Del Rey and My Chemical Romance. On the stage, the hip-hop artist Sl!ck performed a Wednesday-inspired rap.
The Quantum dance floor became a fashion runway for all manner of Wednesday Addams costume interpretations: outfits featured black-and-white socks, polka dot shirts, leather coats, metal skull earrings, thick-soled boots with silver spider buckles and brothel creepers. But there were a few spots of color in the crowd, in the form of fans dressed as Enid Sinclair, Wednesday’s jovial roommate, who wears floral skirts, pink sweaters and berets.
Between dances, fans reflected on Ms. Ortega’s performance, as well as why a character conceived in the 1930s by the New Yorker cartoonist Charles Addams is now thriving as a mascot for the weird almost 90 years later.
“What Wednesday’s dance represents is that it’s not about trying to prove you’re different,” said Melanie Allen-Harrison, 32, who wore a dark baggy coat and a silver pendant necklace. “It’s about knowing that you are and owning that.”
Ariella Van Cooten, 31, a middle-school teacher who had dyed her hair pink and green, said: “Now it’s cool to be goth because of the show. People used to look at me funny because I shopped at Hot Topic.” She added, “I think Wednesday has endured as a character because she’s not afraid to be bold, even if that means drinking poison.”
The D.J., Cip Cipriano, who wore a Wednesday Addams muscle shirt, said: “I was a gay guido from Yonkers who had to move to San Francisco. We’re drawn to Wednesday because so many of us know what it feels like to be an outcast. And not only is Wednesday a black sheep, she’s the black sheep of the Addams Family.”
Finally, midnight arrived, and the Wednesday dance contest was at hand.
Six contestants climbed onto the stage. The reverb guitar twang of “Goo Goo Muck” began to thunder through the club’s loudspeakers. As the crowd cheered, the contestants mimicked Ms. Ortega’s moves while imitating her character’s signature cold stare.
In the final round, water guns were given to audience members so that they could douse the contestants in red paint — a homage to the scene following Ms. Ortega’s dance, in which some local teenagers stage a cruel prank on the Nevermore students by pumping a blood-like liquid into the school’s sprinkler system.
The winner was picked democratically: whoever received the loudest applause. It was Jeffrey Pelayo, a 23-year-old fashion stylist who had dressed up as Wednesday’s father, Gomez Addams. He was wearing a blazer and tie, and his smudged pencil mustache was drawn in mascara. He was given a tiara and a drink ticket as his prize.
As night waned into early morning at the club, the Wednesday crowd began to thin out and the staff diverted its attention to customers who wanted to slam shots and party to hits by Kesha and Katy Perry. The dance floor, in other words, turned into the kind of scene that Wednesday Addams would despise. Bombarding the stage, a gang of college girls screamed along to the lyrics of Rihanna’s “We Found Love” while a couple of guys loitered at the bar building up their liquid courage.
And yet, as the club devolved into a fratty spectacle, a pair of last-call Wednesdays were dancing hard in a dark corner of the floor, stomping their boots and moshing around in circles, their little black backpacks bobbing up and down. They moved with defiance, dancing strangely without a care.