The faint blue of night was dissipating, and the first trickle of morning rush-hour traffic on Florida Avenue NW was morphing into a full-on jam, but a line of 20-somethings in spandex, tutus and shimmery flash tattoos was already filing into the Shaw nightclub Flash. They had come to rave before breakfast.
On Wednesday, Daybreaker, one of the first in a spate of early-morning dance parties popping up around the globe, held its first Washington party. It went precisely the way you’d expect in a city known better for its nerdiness than for its dance moves.
It was only slightly less awkward than an eighth-grade dance.
More than 200 Type A’s arrived for the 6 a.m. dance party, toting their yoga mats for the pre-dance yoga session, along with a few shy folk who seemed to cling permanently to the walls. One dancing couple did lunges in time to the beat. The few hands waving in the air never seemed to be without a phone to record it all, because if it’s not Snapchatted, it’s as if it never happened.
“Everyone’s sober,” marveled Rob Jackson, 23, who works for the Corporate Executive Board, “but they’re just doing their thing.”
At least it was a chance to shed inhibitions — well, except for one.
“Can I not be quoted?” asked one earnest guy sporting a bobbing crab-claw headband. He had his job and all to think about.
But the human resources department probably wouldn’t mind if you went to Daybreaker, which promises that the only jolt you’ll get is an adrenaline high. Since its 2013 founding in New York, the event has eschewed alcohol and drugs. (Instead, the bartenders were slinging locally pressed green juice and vitality-promising chia drinks and replenishing a stockpile of Kind bars.)
“To be honest, I don’t really go to clubs,” said Kelly Pierson, 26, of Adams Morgan. She had spent the night before rock climbing, and she said she felt a little sick Wednesday morning. But having already spent the $25 on admission, she put on her workout clothes and headed over . Unlike going out at night, she said, “instead of being exhausted, I feel energized and awake.”
The Daybreaker parties, which are planned ahead to remain consistent from city to city, don’t leave much to chance. Yoga is a staple, as is the green juice. But the vibe is often determined, explains co-founder Radha Agrawal, by “the nuance of the city.” San Franciscans like to come in costume. The Los Angeles edition attracts professional dancers, juice cleansers and yoginis. New York is more professional. And if D.C. is, well, D.C., Jackson and others argued that the inaugural Daybreaker attracted the city’s more outgoing denizens.
“It’s just the happiest, most positive people you can put in a room,” says Tim Patch, Daybreaker’s man on the ground in the District. The Washington event, he says, sold out within two days of its announcement through the party’s e-mail blasts. (Organizers say they hope to host the party once a month.)
Daybreakers aren’t necessarily against going out at night, or alcohol. “We’re all, like, normal people,” says Patch.
Er, though perhaps slightly more self-congratulatory. “Maybe we’re more conscientious about our bodies,” he adds.
“Guys, girls, everybody in here is in tip-top shape right now,” concurs Abbay Misganaw, 24, a musician who says he hopes to co-host the next D.C. Daybreaker.
Agrawal, 36, and her business partner, Matthew Brimer, 28, arrived at the idea for a morning dance party over late-night falafel in New York’s original hipster neighborhood, Williamsburg. Curious animals known as social entrepreneurs, they are always looking out for business opportunities that double as paradigm shifts.
“I’ve always been inspired by solving cultural and community problems,” says Agrawal, a sprite with a Skrillex haircut and vertigo-inducing platform shoes. Her other projects include Thinx (tagline: “Period panties for modern women”) and Super Sprowtz (a “children’s entertainment movement”). Daybreaker (“a tribal dance party experience”), she says, “was an audacious idea that could fall on its face, or it could maybe be the next yoga, the next spin class.”
Still, it’s not paying the bills, the pair confesses. “The events are not wildly profitable. It’s a labor of love,” Brimer says.
“It’s our side hustle,” Agrawal adds with a laugh.
As the bodies began to clear out of Flash, you could see why their hustle seems to be thriving. There were no sticky slicks of squandered rail whiskey and Coke, nor the putrid whiff of vomit. That invasive and handsy species known as the creeper, who grinds up against total strangers at clubs until physically batted away? At Daybreaker, the only thing felt was that dude’s palpable absence.
Beyond that, after a few hours inside Flash, the unblinking sobriety of Wednesday morning felt a lot like the haze of Friday night. Thumping beats spilled from the speakers. Lights zipped across the walls. Glamazons clad in sparkling bras gyrated inside glowing hula hoops. And from somewhere beyond the DJ booth, a godlike voice demanded dancing.
Ah, a reminder of the elephant in the room: It was almost 9 a.m. Time to go to work.