“‘We can’t live without Daybreaker.’” Radha Agrawal, the CEO of the effervescent morning dance party Daybreaker, heard this refrain over and over from fans around the world as governments shuttered gatherings to stop the spread of COVID-19.
So a week after they were forced to shut down their international in-person events, Agrawal and her team took the whole thing online.
“Especially now, when people are really dealing with isolation and loneliness, [Daybreaker] is more important than ever,” Agrawal says.
Now, Daybreaker LIVE happens every Saturday morning at 11AM EST (in North America). Participants get dressed up in the theme of the week, log on for a body-moving group activity, then dance “together” to a rad DJ via an interactive Zoom chat. Tickets are available on Eventbrite.
And just like the in-person Daybreaker events, Daybreaker LIVE is full of endless colour, sound, and positivity, with vibrant illustrations, seamless real-time community engagement, and days (yes, literal days) of sound checks, ensuring their hi-fi audio sounds crisp and clear.
“We decided to just say, ‘Let’s dance it out. Let’s stop sitting down and watching TV or endless static Zoom calls,” Agrawal says. “Real loneliness and depression lives in your body, you know, not your mind, so [happiness] starts with that mind-body connection.”
It’s Saturday morning and everything is…well, it’s the same as the day before. You’re home and your house is quiet and you may still be a little sleepy. (What even is time during isolation, anyway?) But then you log on for Daybreaker LIVE… and everything changes.
A chat opens up, filled with hundreds of positive, happy comments from around the world: Hi from Italy! San Francisco! Brazil! Themed music fills the air, and an animation of a psychedelic TV makes you feel like you’re truly waiting for something one-of-a-kind to start.
The music crescendos and Radha pops up on screen, her never-ending energy palpable even through the internet, and you feel like she’s right there in your room, giving that energy to you. A professional dancer takes you through an hour of positivity-inspiring movement and the video feed switches between person after person, household after lively household, everyone working through the same moves, sharing the same experience.
The DJ takes over and spins joyful hits. Kids dance with their parents, disco balls twirl in living rooms while roommates groove, digital Zoom backgrounds and costumes match the event’s designated theme. You might all be in your rooms alone, but you’re all joined together through this energetic, synchronised expression.
Daybreaker LIVE creates a strong connection between dancers using what Agrawal calls “participatory moments.” These little bits of connective joy encourage participants to do more than just show up and dance away the blues.
As emcee, Agrawal will ask participants to hold up signs with where they’re from, or photos of the first person they want to hug when isolation is over, or instruct them through a choreographed dance that everyone can do together. “My role as the emcee is really not so much as a [traditional] emcee, but more as a facilitator,” she says, “[I] make sure that everybody is having a great time and feeling connected, and I’m moving the experience from one performer to another.”
But will grooving in your living room give you the same sunny energy as rocking out at a club with hundreds of fellow dancers? Actually, it might.
“A lot of studies are coming out about how virtual events, if done and facilitated correctly, can still inspire the same intimacy or similar intimacy than IRL [events],” says Agrawal. “It still releases that oxytocin [and] serotonin, and [gives you] that sense of shared community experience that you see from an IRL event.”
Daybreaker LIVE is more than a chance for isolated free spirits to move their bodies to good music. It’s a way for people to connect through something exuberant and carefree, forming connections across boundaries and borders.
And it’s not just Daybreaker: Nightclubs and cultural institutions across America are bringing their live parties online. Brooklyn’s consent-first night club House of Yes! proves that New York City always gives you an excuse to dress up, even during isolation. They’re taking their colourful themed dance nights and drag shows virtual, encouraging participants to wear as stunning of an outfit as they’d wear in person.
Dance party WERD. pumped their techno and house beats every Saturday night for 12 years in San Francisco — until COVID-19. Now, they’re live streaming their DJ sets with high-quality audio, raising money to support their small team who has been put out of work while connecting their congregants through the internet.
And Jai Ho!, a national organisation that hosts Bollywood dance parties and workshops across the country, is live streaming three virtual events every week: A dance class, a virtual party, and a Monday morning DJ set. People of all ages and dance levels are welcome to log on and experience Bollywood culture and music, wherever they are in the world. For free.
Although these club nights might be well-known to people in their home cities, if you’re not nearby, you’d never get to experience their energy on a normal day. Virtual events let anyone join in, dance, connect, and get wild — often for a very affordable price. It’s the silver lining of COVID-19.
It may have been born of necessity, but Agrawal says Daybreaker LIVE will be a permanent fixture, connecting people from around the world, no matter what’s happening in their hometowns. “That’s been honestly the most tearful and goosebumps-giving [thing] … the solidarity of the whole globe coming together,” she says. “Yeah, the Olympics are canceled but like, this is our Olympics.”