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Wander through Williamsburg, New York, this coming Wednesday morning and you might well stumble across some rather oddly dressed commuters. Inside the Verboten nightclub the dance floor will be packed with energetic, enthusiastic ravers, disporting themselves like it’s midnight on a Friday, not 9am on a weekday. And after two hours of uninhibited partying, they will stop and dutifully troop off to work.
“We were asking ourselves, why does dancing always have to be done at night, drunk, in the company of potentially unsavoury characters?” says Matthew Brimer, one of the founders of Daybreaker, the organiser of these increasingly regular pre-work parties. “Then we thought: what if we could create the very best possible way to start your day? Instead of going to the gym and doing some boring, monotonous exercise routine, what if we could design a morning experience that was high-energy but healthy and social too?”
It’s an ambitious idea, particularly in a city whose club scene revolves around VIP sections and velvet ropes. So, intrigued by whether notoriously hard-to-impress New Yorkers would take to such an idea – and to the dance floor, stone-cold sober – a few weeks ago I headed to one of the parties to see for myself.
Sure enough, by 7am the floor was already filling up with well-dressed twentysomethings unselfconsciously showing off their moves. Others, taking a little longer to warm up, were propping up the bar, where coconut water, fruit juices and coffee were being dispensed, all free.
There, I got chatting to George Cuchural, 25, a Daybreaker first-timer who works in sales. “It’s totally unpretentious, not full of moody models and attitude, which is really refreshing,” he said. “It does feel more like 1am than 7am, though. Going to work later might feel a little weird.”
“I usually have a really hard time getting up in the morning,” said Tatiana Peck, 31, a Brooklynite who works at a digital agency. “But I was so excited about dancing today I woke up before my alarm – it felt like Christmas morning.”
Brimer and his co-creator Radha Agrawal describe themselves as “social entrepreneurs”; Brimer, 27, is a co-founder of General Assembly, an educational organisation, while Agrawal, 35, runs Super Sprowtz, a children’s nutrition and education company that has been endorsed by Michelle Obama.
“It’s about performance and participation,” Agrawal tells me. “Everything – parties as well as working out – can get a bit monotonous, so we pride ourselves on the element of surprise. Where will it be held? Who will be performing? What will be going on?”
The morning of my visit, alongside the DJs, there were performances by opera singer Lilla Heinrich, rapper Saloman Faye and Great Caesar, an indie-rock band. The Haiku Guys, two poets with vintage typewriters, created verse for partygoers.
Though it may sound like an outlandish idea, morning clubbing is catching on. Daybreaker parties are now taking place in San Francisco and Los Angeles, with plans for Chicago and Washington soon. The trend is taking off outside the US, too; London held its first Daybreaker earlier this summer and parties in Tel Aviv, Berlin, Hong Kong and Tokyo are in the pipeline.
“It’s becoming a global movement very quickly and we’re keen to work with like-minded people who want to take Daybreaker to their cities,” says Agrawal. He is now in discussions with potential partners in Cape Town and Delhi.
Daybreaker isn’t the only player: other pre-work parties, including the UK-based Morning Glory (tagline: “Rave your way into the day”) are going global, too. Similar events are set to take place in Barcelona, Paris, Dublin, Sydney, Perth and Miami over the coming months.
Back in New York, Daybreaker is now a roaming event, popping up at venues around the city. Three weeks ago, its largest party so far was held on a superyacht, with 800 clubbers dancing away as they sailed around the harbour. “It’s heartwarming to see the joy this generates,” says Agrawal.