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By Chuck Ansbacher | December 5, 2016 | Culture
Kick off your morning in style with Daybreaker, the pre-work dance party with a health-conscious twist.
Yoga meets an all-out dance party at Daybreaker, which is giving folks across New York a reason to get up with the early birds.
Picture this: The beat is thumping, the dance floor is packed, you’re sweating, smiling, euphoric as the sun starts to rise. It's morning, but you’re not at the tail end of an exhausting all-nighter—you’re kicking your day off with an epic, pre-work, thousand-person dance party.
This is Daybreaker, the wellness-meets-nightlife love child of entrepreneur best friends Radha Agrawal and Matthew Brimer, which is turning dance culture on its head in cities across the globe. Started in New York in 2013 and now in 15 cities and counting, Daybreaker is a completely sober experience meant to bring people together and get that blood pumping—starting with an hour of deep house yoga followed by a two-hour immersive, full-on rave.
“It started as a social experiment,” explains Agrawal, who worked on Wall Street and founded Super Sprowtz, a children’s multimedia nutrition education company, prior to launching Daybreaker. “Our friends were beginning to feel all this friction when they were going out at night—the mean bouncers, everyone on their cell phones, everyone on their stiletto heels and red lipstick and not really being themselves. I didn’t feel safe, and I was a version of myself that I don’t even know.”
She and Brimer decided that they wanted to strip all that away and just get back to the basics—dancing, sweating, and being together with your friends and community. Designating the parties as sober, morning-only events made all that possible.
But keeping them substance-free and pre-dawn wasn’t enough for Agrawal and Brimer. Even before the duo threw the first Daybreaker, they decided to define five core values that would guide them if and when they grew and expanded. Those values are: wellness, camaraderie, self-expression, mindfulness, and mischief. “These core values have remained very consistent over the last three years,” says Agrawal, “and I’m really proud of that.”
Mischief, she says, is the most important of the five values. “Our goal is to always find new, mischievous ways to wow our communities and inspire them to wake up and dance. If it’s the same place over and over again it gets boring.” And since New York is Daybreaker’s flagship market at close to 100,000 community members strong, the envelope must constantly be pushed. A good example is last year’s ugly holiday sweater party, where the crew took over Macy’s at Herald Square. “It’s one of my favorite New York moments,” recounts Agrawal. “Running around the departments for the fitness portion—doing nine floors of fitness group activities—then going down to the basement for a thousand-person dance party. They even had their Santa Claus come down and read The Night Before Christmas.”
While those core values have been with Daybreaker from the beginning, as the parties have grown into a full-blown movement, Agrawal has come to realize a greater purpose that they provide to their revelers: a sense of belonging. She cites studies that found one in four Americans as feeling deeply lonely and isolated as the underlying factor driving this desire for belonging. “New research has shown that not only does loneliness create emotional damage,” she explains, “but it’s also bad for your physical health. So having weak social ties is as harmful as being alcoholic, or twice as harmful as being obese.”
“The number of letters and emails I receive,” recounts Agrawal, “and the number of people who wait to talk to me after Daybreaker to be like ‘Hey, this has changed my life. I met my friends here. I met my community here. I didn’t know where to go. I found a sense of belonging here.’ It’s really what pushes me every single day.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JIM VONDRUSKA
May 3, 2017