With the familiar squeal of tenor sax, a crowd of hundreds cheered in anticipation. “Pack it up, pack it in. Let me begin,” a chorus of millennials eagerly rapped along, before throwing up their hands and catapulting themselves fervently in the air as 90s hit “Jump Around” demands.
The ability to maintain a consistent space between feet and floor for all 3:35 minutes of the House of Pain tune is a laudable feat for the average dancer, but made even more so when considering the circumstances: It was 7 AM on a Tuesday, and we were already 1.5 hours into the party.
The 90s dance session was all thanks to Daybreaker, an early morning traveling dance party that pops up around Los Angeles and dozens of other cities across the globe—from Seattle to London. L.A.’s August installment took place at NeueHouse, a work and creative space, located in the heart of Hollywood.
Daybreaker events omit the booze and party drugs (which many find necessary to gather the courage to dance in public). Instead it offers up caffeinated beverages and asks its fans to get high on exercise and dance.
In my very unscientific survey, I found a fairly even split of attendees who had no post-sweat dance sesh plans and those were expected to be fully functional human beings. Some were booking it straight to Burbank for studio jobs, while others planned a leisurely breakfast before working on some “personal projects,” which supposedly were not naps.
But who are these non-napping people, fully equipped with 90s t-shirts and willingly waking before dawn to dance without the promise of mind-altering drugs? Here’s what I found out…
The Gym Rats
Early risers started off the event with some fairly low-key yoga—totally manageable even for people like me who haven’t done downward facing dog in about 3 years. (Bonus: the final pose of shavasana—that’s the one where you lay down and don’t move—segued into a growing crescendo of Spice Girls’ “Wannabe.”)
But the promise of even gentle exercise made the venture more palatable for some. A 26-year- old friendly redhead told me she’s used to waking up before 6am to workout before heading off to her job in TV marketing. Throwing on a sparkly headband and spandex (which looked a bit more 80s than 90s to me) and finishing yoga off with a dance party helps shake-up the workout routine.
“If I could do this everyday, I would be down,” glitter headband girl told me.
Although the yoga teacher mused, “maybe some of you were born in the 90s, maybe some of you were even born in the 80s” in a tone that suggested he definitely was not born in the 1980s, many attendees (self-included) were in fact 80s babies. The late 20s and 30-somethings remembered the hey-day of MTV, the failed teachings of D.A.R.E., and the baggy clothes beloved by grunge rockers.
Daybreaker provided an opportunity for those who came of age in the 90s to break out their TLC t-shirts, matching tracksuits, and smiley face patterned ensembles, all while dancing to the Beastie Boys, Vanilla Ice, Blackstreet, and a thankfully edited down version of the Macerana .
The scrunchie game was on point, and I can’t remember the last time I saw that many people with flannel button downs tied around their waists.
Those on a Quest for Cool
“This is something we don’t have in Paris,” a 30-year- old French woman told me of why she came to the dance party. It was her second time at a Daybreaker event and she brought along a friend who was visiting from the homeland as evidence that L.A. has a thing or two to show the City of Lights.
(Note: Daybreaker has plans to throw a Parisian party, but the U.S. can take credit for inventing it.)
Although I spoke with a few people who were Daybreaker virgins, many had returned for their second or third installments. A 27-year- old social media marketing beauty told me she’d attended “maybe 20?” Daybreaker events. The regulars were generally well-coiffed, bright-faced, and seemingly unaffected by the early hours. They partied the hardest and the longest, with the crowd opening up effortlessly to showcase dancers whose moves were a bit more advanced than the running man.
The ‘I’ll Try Anything Once’ Peeps
“Why drag yourself out of bed for a 5:30 AM dance party? Well why not?” That was the resounding response I found from Daybreaker attendees, and the logic I used to convince myself to attend. Sure, the only other time they’d been awake at 5:30 in the morning was when they’d been partying late the night before. But getting up early, and being part of something that was pretty universally accepted as special, was worth the 3pm crash you were likely to encounter while attempting to speak to your boss.
As for me, I danced until I was too tired to move, signed my name as “Same” on not one but TWO office emails, took a 20-minute power nap in my car on my lunch break, and fell asleep at 930pm later that evening. But like every person I met at Daybreaker, I’d say it was worth it.
Feature by Samantha Cowan
Photos via Daybreaker