On a chilly October day at 7 a.m. on Toronto’s Richmond Street, the sidewalk was empty save for the odd George Brown student heading to an early morning class or a drowsy dog owner taking their pet out for a pre-work walk. It was a quiet, typical day downtown, with the exception of the thumping bass ringing from the top level of a worn down autobody shop. Outside the unassuming venue, men and women were catching their breath, dressed in bright colours and animal prints, with skin adorned with glitter. This was Daybreaker, an early morning dance party that started in New York and has now found its way to cities around the globe. Daybreaker was launched by New York City-based founders Radha Agrawal and Matthew Brimer, who were disappointed by the state of party culture in the Big Apple.
“Matt and I were commiserating over how nightlife had gotten overrun by drugs, alcohol, mean bouncers and digital divides,” said Agrawal. “We wanted to get back to the basics of dancing and community.”
This notion of community is important to the founders, and thus at the center of the Daybreaker experience. Upon walking into Toronto’s recent Daybreaker event, each participant was greeted with a hug. After an hour of the event, a dance circle formed, where strangers and friends alike held hands and skipped happily amongst one another. As the event came to an end, we witnessed several participants swapping numbers, hoping to continue the connections they had made that morning. “I hope people walk away with a new friend and also challenge their comfort zone when it comes to meeting new people,” mused Agrawal. “I hope they walk away with a feeling of belonging and community.”
Aside from a fun way to start your day, the founders note that a morning dance party is an effective, energetic and communal way to stay fit. “Exercise has become such a lonely experience,” said Agrawal. “Everyone has their headphones in their ears and no one talks to each other at the gym. We have people coming to Daybreaker in groups, alone with teams and first dates, and it’s always a social experience which makes exercising so much more fun.”
Though the morning started with a sunrise yoga class, it was really the two hour dance party that made the event come to life. “Dancing is meditation in movement form,” explained Agrawal when asked about the activity’s significance. “There’s a lot of science that points to dancing as the only activity that releases all four chemicals in your brain in ways that alcohol or drugs don’t compare.” Indeed, events like Daybreaker draw attention to the fact that dancing has become so reliant on drinking in our culture, even though there are so many health benefits to the activity. “Dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins are released when you dance and connect in community, move your body, and feel safe doing so.”
Considering the binge drinking culture that runs rampant among university students and young people, it makes sense that the founders see tackling the student demographic as next step. “Our goal is to expand to college campuses and bring college kids incredible experiences that are sober and connected and show that there are other ways to party, meet people, and have a great time,” explained Agrawal. “There are other choices than getting black out drunk.” That said, a fitness movement which is gaining popularity as rapidly as Daybreaker has is sure to inherit some growing pains. “Our biggest challenge right now is keeping up with growth,” Agrawal told Real Style. “Our goal is for the whole world to be dancing together and realizing our beautiful interconnectedness while at the same time keeping the authenticity of the experience.”
Daybreaker plans to return to Toronto on December 7 for another session.