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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Inside Daybreaker, S.F.'s Sober Pre-Dawn Dance Party

Posted By on Tue, Dec 22, 2015 at 10:30 AM

click to enlarge DANIEL LEE
  • Daniel Lee
I’ve always fundamentally disagreed with the concept of early morning — in my opinion, humans were not meant to rise before the sun, which is why beds are extra comfy when you have to get out of one.

Yet here I was in the Macy’s event center in Union Square learning the dance moves to Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)" at 6:30 in the morning. I've got a MammaChia smoothie in one hand and bottle of mango-flavored coconut water in the other, a flashing Macy's-branded rave stick poking out of my back pocket. The reason for my early rising is Daybreaker, a New York-based movement that brings pre-dawn sober dance parties to cities across the globe.

click to enlarge DANIEL LEE
  • Daniel Lee
I wasn't totally sure what to expect when I signed up to attend. Daybreaker's Facebook page describes the concept as, "cultivating a community that values camaraderie, self-expression, wellness, immediacy … and mischief. About going to work with our brows slightly dewed from moving our bodies with reckless abandon, sans alcohol but with so much spirit, surrounded by the most amazing people we know." On paper, it seemed like something I could really get behind, since I love to dance and am not a big drinker.

I was greeted with hugs as I made my way into the building, a fine way for anyone to start their day. It set the mood for what was to come, foreshadowing the openness and warmth with which Daybreakers treat one another. Sometimes it can take some work for me to be physically affectionate, so I appreciated them setting the tone straight off the bat — it laid the groundwork for getting comfortable later on.

click to enlarge DANIEL LEE
  • Daniel Lee
As skeptical as I am about the early morning, it was totally worth it to get energized by the PopStar Booty Camp dance lesson, which was only the first part of what was in store. I stood towards the back, people dressed as a Christmas tree and a dreidel behind me, and moved my hands and hips in synchronicity with my fellow A.M. partiers. Handsome men in tuxedos wound their way through the crowd handing out towels to the sweaty masses, intermittently shaking their booties along with us. Once we nailed all the moves, truly appreciating what Queen Bey accomplishes on stage, it was time for the real party to start.

By 7:30 a.m., the entirety of the Daybreaker crowd had arrived, immediately getting down to the bass-y beat permeating the room, a mosaic of ugly Christmas sweaters peppering the space with ironic holiday cheer (per the theme). This was no high school wallflower situation. This was clearly a haven for people who are compelled to groove, people who throw abandon to the wind and let their funky selves free. The connection between strangers was palpable, everyone getting down to the beat with a smile on their face while shaking it with new friends.

The music was invigorating, the DJ bumping a deep electronic beat that made it impossible not to move. My favorite part was when the bonafide brass band popped out and played along with the EDM for the duration, like some kind of psychedelic symphony.

click to enlarge DANIEL LEE
  • Daniel Lee
I had heard whispers of a bro-y vibe at Daybreaker but there was no pretense in this room, although there were bros. There were also burners, young professionals, furries, senior citizens, and everyone in between, so it's safe to say that this shindig was for anyone who wanted to celebrate being alive, labels be damned.

To me it felt a lot like what's implied when talking nostalgically about the San Francisco of the past. Weird, passionate people who aren't afraid to do something because it feels good, not because they'll earn anything in particular from doing so. Strange parties at strange times because life's too short to sleep in every day. It was refreshing being surrounded and included by people who value living in the moment. Plus all that dancing is a good workout, all before I would normally wake up.

I left there with a spring in my step, opting to walk to my office near the Ferry building instead of taking MUNI two stops. I felt energized and optimistic, ready to take on the day, which happened to be the final day of a job I had been with for over two years. I couldn't think of a better beginning to that end.  

It's safe to say that Daybreaker has made a morning person out of me. 


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Ali Wunderman

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