It’s a Monday night at 6:30 p.m., and I’m sitting on a yoga mat in the middle of the dance floor at trendy Williamsburg club Verboten, a disco ball directly above my water bottle. Two 20-something women in patterned leggings and flowy tank tops, wrists packed with beaded bracelets, approach the DJ booth.
“You have to come to one of my dance parties,” the DJ tells them. “Everyone is dancing…and no one is wasted!” Cue confusion and/or eye rolling? Not quite. Their voices rise in excitement, making plans to attend.
Welcome to New York’s alternative club circuit, a scene where yogic breathing provides the heady happy feeling that leads to freedom on the dance floor and thumping bass is an avenue to feeling grounded, not gone. Where party-goers are on the prowl for meaningful connection instead of hook-ups and kombucha is way more popular than cocaine.
The merging of wellness and club culture in New York City has effectively exploded. Twice a month, revelers attend The Get Down at The Meatpacking’s Cielo. In Brooklyn, there’s the No Lights, No Lycra dance party and Deep House Yoga at Verboten. And in the past month, two different early morning raves—Morning Gloryville and Daybreaker—have launched, both of which get people on the dance floor before 7:00 a.m. And the only stimulants are from Starbucks.
So what’s the motivation? Actual connection.
“Technology is so insane now, we’re so connected yet not,” says DJ Tasha Blank, who’s been at the forefront of the movement, initially bringing her beats into yoga studios before bringing yogis to the clubs. “Things like dance parties where you’re actually sober…the appetite for it is about being in the moment and having a truly collective, communal, connecting experience.”
Blank totes her turntables (or laptop) to almost every event on the roster, and she’s the creator of The Get Down. It usually draws between 200 and 250 attendees, who also sip Turmeric Alive, get mini massages, and are en route home before 10:00 p.m.. The bar is open at these, but very few indulge.
At last week’s event, I arrived just as the pre-party meditation was wrapping up to find young men and women laying flat on their backs in the middle of Cielo’s dance floor. They were arranged in a circle around a pineapple that sat beneath the main disco ball, bathing them in flickering pink and green lights as the bass shook the room and Michelle Joni skipped among them wearing a sparkling red cape, inviting them to “begin to wake up by dancing.” Limbs started moving and reaching as they writhed their way to standing and began to sway to the quickening beats.
At the early morning parties, dancing is supplemented with superfood smoothies and services like massages and yoga, too. Morning Gloryville, founded in London, had its first New York party on May 7 and 200 people showed up to dance before work, many dressed in wild prints, and leis around their necks. Its second event, on June 18, is sold out.
“People come to a sober party and they actually feel relaxed, and you basically learn how contagious positive energy is,” says Annie Fabricant, who organizes the brand’s New York events. “It really sets people up to unleash their raw, inner, authentic selves. They’re opening their minds and are discovering their natural highs, that they can have fun and connect with people and get energized without drugs or alcohol or artificial things.”
It’s certainly a much healthier way to let loose, and the appetite for it seems to only be getting stronger, even if for some, it may look a little out there. (My raw inner self isn’t quite ready for primetime, it seems.)
When I ask Blank what the pineapple on the dance floor is about, she shrugs her shoulders. “I have no idea,”she says. “But it’s good to get a little weird!” —Lisa Elaine Held