Daybreaker Morning Dance Party Comes to Chicago

I am that girl with a yoga mat in one hand and a vanilla bean protein shake in the other sauntering down North Avenue.

It’s 8:30 AM on Wednesday.

I didn’t just collectively say, “Namaste”. I was getting low to Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?” with 350 other people.

Yes, we’re crazy, and we love it.

“Welcome to the family,” Elliott LaRue, the MC of the morning commemorated the crowd for joining the Daybreaker movement, as he took the stage in his Back to the Future silver jacket.

Daybreaker Chicago with Elliott Rauel Photo: Amanda Elliott

On October 21, 2015, it was Chicago’s turn to experience Daybreaker, an initiative founded by Matthew Brimer and Radha Agrawal to change the way we think about having a good time.

And I mean totally change—the time of day, the attire, the food, the beverages, the entertainment, and the location. Everything except for the music.

“The fabric of our culture is to get f***ed up to have a good time,” Agrawal said.

She challenged me and everyone else, “Why do we have the best time ever holding a glass that harms our bodies?”

The answer in her eyes was to create Daybreaker in December 2013. Held every month, the movement has made the rounds to New York, Los Angeles, and London.

Daybreaker starts on a weekday morning, pre-dawn at 6 AM with one hour yoga, and then shifts into a two-hour dance party sending participants on their work day.

Chicago Daybreaker Photo: Amanda Elliott

There were two questions I had.

One, “Will people really dance without alcohol?”

And two, “Despite the notion that being an early riser is beneficial, will people really switch their social life from after work mojitos for a morning dance party with friends (if you can convince them to come)?”

Even with alcohol, people don’t start coming out until 11 PM. And when we do dance, it is in small, secluded circles of bachelorette parties and tiny notions of two steps in between sips of the night’s special.

“By 7:05 AM, it’s contagious,” Agrawal promises me.

Part 1: Waking Up at 5 AM

My alarm rang at 4:30 AM. I got up a little after 5 AM, and decided this was not the time to take public transportation. My Uber pulled up, and I thanked my driver for being up this early.

I walk into Chop Shop (2033 W. North Ave.) in Wicker Park at 5:45 AM and immediately feel at peace.

There are bags under everyone’s eyes. No one came in high heels and pencil skirts (seriously, how would you do downward dog?). They very much rolled out of bed and are patiently awaiting to check-in and drink coffee. Which, spoiler alert, they won’t be getting for another hour.

The organizer has us line up outside. Yes, there is a bouncer. No, they don’t check I.D.’s.

We are now pleasantly diagonal from the construction workers who have just taken their first sips of Dunkin Donuts.

I hate my life.

Part 2: Making Friends

A girl pops up behind me.

She heard about Daybreaker through BuzzFeed.

“Did you come alone?” I asked.

“Yes, everyone was like, ‘how do you get up at the crack of dawn without a pastry?'”

“We’re doing this together,” I said. We high fived and went in.

Part 3: Yoga

Chop Shop was full. We laid our yoga mats on the concrete floor.

“There’s a pillar in front of me,” I said.

My new friend said, “That means you have an obstacle in your life.”

Two instructors, Cat Aldana and Brian Witten led us in a vinyasa flow. There were no candles. There was no peace. You could already feel the energy—the anticipation of experiencing your first Daybreaker.

Light EDM music played in the background. It felt more like a dance warm-up as we got in our fair share of downward dogs and warrior 1 poses.

Even though the class was full, some did hand stands right in the middle of the room.

It was 6:45 AM and we were now in pigeon pose.

“Get Your Booty on the Dance Floor,” from the song “Pump Up the Jam” was on in the background. And, I am literally trying to do that.

My new friend looked at me and encouraged me to reach for my leg.

“It hurts,” I mouthed.

But, she insisted.

I reached further, grasping my toes.

In yoga class, I very much feel like it is a solo practice, but here I felt apart of something.

Daybreaker Chicago Yoga Photo: Amanda Elliott

Part 4: Breakfast

“I think you know what’s next,” Aldana, our yoga instructor, said.

After we reached zen and let our problems flow through us and exhale out of us, we were ready.

We rolled up our mats and stashed our purses under the stairway.

A new group of people joined us.

Who starts a rave with breakfast? We do.

We went to the breakfast bar for High Brew Coffee skinny lattes, Vita coconut water, Green Sheep Water, and protein shakes.

Daybreaker Chicago Breakfast Photo: Amanda Elliott

Part 5: Dance Party

Defined abs. Check. High energy. Check. Yoga Pants. Check.

When you remove the make-up, the flirting, the tight skirt, the cologne, and the alcohol, people still dance.

They came to dance. And they aren’t going to wait for  you to join in to start dancing.

We never moved this free before because we were in sports bras. We never jumped this high before because we were in Nike’s. We never lasted this long because we were fueled by protein shakes.

We weren’t worried about who to take home that night. We weren’t worried about our dress riding up. We weren’t worried about looking a certain way to get access to the club.

Some opted to be unicorns or wear wigs, but most of us were in neon and workout clothes.

And of course we look good.

We woke up like this (literally).

We’re in yoga pants. We have no make-up on and our messy bun is getting messier as we shake our laffy taffy, to cue you in on the song currently playing.

Chicago Daybreaker Photo: Amanda Elliott

DJs Win & Woo started the morning up beat.

LaRue took the stage and he brought with him three backup dancers in workout clothes.

He invited us up to the stage as we became the entertainment.

Daybreaker Chicago 2015 Photo: Amanda Elliott

Then he jumped off stage and brought his dance moves to the dance floor. He got low right in front of me, and I joined him.  As we danced, everyone formed around us and cheered. Yes, I had my Save the Last Dance moment, and it was amazing.

I watched as girl’s got sassy as they shouted out “My Milkshake Brings All the Boys to the Yard,” to the song “Milkshake”. And then at 7:25 AM, as the song shifted to “Laffy Taffy,” LaRue led us to get low in slow motion again and again. Later on he led us in a sway dance. See the video on Windy City Cosmo’s Facebook page.

Chicago Daybreaker Photo: Amanda Elliott

Chicago Daybreaker Photo: Amanda Elliott

In one hour, we celebrated Back to the Future Day with character Marty McFly joining us on stage. We formed a circle around break dancers and a man swinging glow sticks. Then, the trumpet players came on stage in a succession of nonstop entertainment. So much was happening, you could hardly take it all in, but you were. Because you were in the present. You were so alive.

“In this room, you are free,” they told us. And we were.

Daybreaker Chicago Dance Party Photo: Amanda Elliott

By 7:50 am, people started rinsing off in the bathroom and changing into work clothes. Though, people were still going strong on the dance floor.

The After Party:

To say that I didn’t feel like I just came from a workout—an intense workout—would be a lie.

I was pumped to jump higher, to dance lower, to stretch further, and move longer. And the best part was that I didn’t realize I was doing any of this until I sat in my office chair.

I left the club and smiled at a girl who was also excited for fresh air. Just like a night of drinking, I was ready for carbs. The Mark Chocolate Cherry Almond Bar, aka the 100 percent natural, pre-workout quinoa fuel, gluten-free, dairy-free bar was not going to work for me. Neither was the Coconut Water. But I didn’t want anything sweet, like Stan’s Donuts. I wanted a bagel and orange juice. I was so wired; I didn’t need coffee.

I felt refreshed.

But, it was really difficult to push through work.  I was so nervous about sleeping through the event, that I only had two hours of sleep the night before. By the time I got home, I had been up for twelve hours. I went to charge my phone, and woke up three hours later—arm extended and everything.

Chicago Daybreaker Photo: Amanda Elliott

After partying hard, doesn’t everyone need a day to recover?

Daybreaker Community:

Daybreaker is a community effort. The team is currently working on an apparel line and an app to help people connect in-between events.

Sign-up for Daybreaker’s newsletters or “like” them on Facebook to be invited to the next Daybreaker Chicago event on November 18,2015.

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