The effects of COVID-19 on our everyday lives can’t be ignored. So many of us are following the advice of our elected officials to help reduce the number of infections from this disease. But the desire to control the infection rate has come with a price. Our new normal when interacting with others is called “social distancing.” What this means is that we have been asked to stay one to three meters (three to six feet), away from each other and to avoid gatherings of 50 or more people. For most of us, that means that attending the Electronic Dance Music events we love and all of the social activities that surround them like meetups and after-hours are not an option. Most of the previously scheduled Electronic Dance Music events have been either canceled or postponed and many people find themselves sheltering in place and staying home as instructed to decrease the spread of COVID-19.
How do we connect at a distance? We can get a sense of connection while watching live streams and virtual events. Many artists are hosting streaming events. I’m glad we have streaming abilities and can take advantage of the little bit of social interaction that this affords us. There is a certain irony to the fact that the utilization of social media and electronic devices has been criticized for creating an isolated sense of communication and now we find ourselves clinging to it as the primary source of connection.
From online opera singing to online happy hours, the world was now virtual. Which virtual event would be the right choice? I had to think about what this symbolized for me. I had been seeing so many live streams and events online, many of which I watched even before the COVID-19 Pandemic, but this time I knew that the live stream I would choose needed to have another interactive component to it in addition to playing great tunes. After much deliberation, I came across an event that I had always wanted to attend but because of scheduling issues I never could. The event I would attend is DAYBREAKER which was founded by Radha Agrawal and Matthew Brimer about seven years ago. The incredibly popular DAYBREAKER event is an early morning dance event that takes place in multiple cities worldwide that focuses on health and dance before work hours. DAYBREAKER lets participants know where the location will be in their city and attendees are encouraged to come as they are and be ready to “sweat, dance and connect with ourselves and each other.” The event is promoted as being an alcohol-free, multigenerational event that’s open to everyone.
Due to the nature of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the practice of social distancing, DAYBREAKER presented an alternative event specifically for this situation. I would be attending Daybreaker LIVE, Our First Worldwide Digital Dance Party! being held on Saturday, March 21, 2020, at 11 AM – 1 PM EST. This online stream would be live and you could participate from anywhere in the world. This truly was an exciting prospect and I purchased a ticket to attend the event. Although this particular event would be limited to 500 to 5,000 tickets, the organizers encouraged attendees to invite their friends if they practiced social distancing and kept to the guidelines of the CDC to ensure their safety.
The event was advertised with the hosts providing entertainment that was taking place from an undisclosed location. It’s our “interactive community playtime.” The organizers put their thinking caps on to provide a program meant to stimulate, entertain and provide that connection we are all craving with one another. Themed as a “global pajama onesie dance-party experience broadcasting to you online” the idea was to create a concept that would draw you in and make you open your heart to dance and yoga’s healing ways. Demonstrating love and joy for the Daybreaker family globally in the time period of 120 minutes, attendees would participate in many activities and enjoy being alive.
I decided I would enjoy the event in my bedroom knowing that it would be a packed program full of fun and adventure. Never in my life did I ever think I would be doing an event like this from the comfort of my own room. I was prepared with my set of suggested tools for this exercise. Goodies which include a onesie, swanky robe or bedazzled PJ set (not hard to procure as I was still in my PJ’s). A comfy AF pillow for meditation and yoga mat. Bluetooth speakers or headphones and a photo of someone you can’t see because of the quarantine. Finally, two cans of food, two pieces of silverware, one magic marker and one piece of paper.
We started off with a guided chakra-opening thanking us for being there. The program began with yoga led by Alyssa Arroyo. Immediately addressing the elephant in the room Ms. Arroyo confessed: “We all feel weird, confused and for some of us so uncertain.” And with that, we were led in a breathing and stretching routine meant to focus our minds and calm our nerves. Breathing and stretching to reach some sort of peace and try to concentrate is just what I needed. Mainly because concentrating and focusing has become has been so difficult for me lately and I’m guessing it’s because I’ve been trying to make sense of it all. I will try and make sense of using this time to focus and relax and release all of the tension and anxiety I have associated with the Pandemic. As I performed my exercises and breathing it was soothing to see all of the other participants online also participating at the same time on my digital screen.
I knew as I was doing this exercise that I had to figure out why was this particular event was so different for me? It’s because of the cost of social distancing is so alien to what many of us know as normal. It’s because I don’t want to be apart from my friends and loved ones. It’s because I also enjoy seeing others have fun too because I am a strong believer in the positive vibes that it creates. All of these things have made me feel cranky and disappointed in all of this even when I know I’m lucky to be well right now. My aunt called me to tell me that her great, great-granddaughter was born last night. I was so happy to hear that the baby and mother were doing well and then I thought about how differently I received an announcement regarding day to day joys. I thought about how wonderful a new life is and that this wonder is what we are trying to preserve with love and kindness. Somehow I had lost track of this but was reminded when I saw those smiling faces on the screen in front of me.
Ms. Arroyo continued guiding us. “Try and reach out to your neighbor, they are so far away but we are trying”…”reach out through that foot line (as you elongate your leg) you could reach out to a neighbor.” Ms. Arroyo gave us a challenge and asked if we were inspired to lift out arms up and see if we would lift our heels up and that we may not all have the same needs at the same time but to explore those needs on an individual basis. She asked us to give ourselves a little hug and to extend that hug out to our neighbors since we can’t hug one another right now. That self hug felt good! I hugged myself for as long as I needed it. The focus on breathing was important to me as over the past few days I found myself breathing oddly and often holding my breath for no reason. Ironically Ms. Arroyo said, “It’s the moments where it’s hardest that we may find our selves holding our breath.” How important that dialogue was here! Being present and being fully right here right now felt so good!
Proving the future is female, and in amazing DAYBREAKER fashion, we started with beats on the drum from Madame Gandhi. A social justice activist and inspirational performer, Madame Gandhi would bring us all to another level with her uplifting drumming which was soothing, encouraging and empowering. The social dist-dancing approach introduced during the event was a fun take on how to make lemonade from lemons, this approach reflected the positive vibes projected by the team to guide participants. Showered with messages of encouragement and peace from Radha and MC Elliot Laurie, the set went on (played by Afro-house DJ Sabine Blazin and sax musician Marcus Miller) with a lovely vibe bringing us all together. Sing-alongs were played that included songs from Coldplay, Whitney Houston, and U2. Some cool dance moves by the organizers and participants encouraged everyone to express themselves. Becoming more than just a virtual party, the event made me forget my troubles for a little while. Strong believers and supporters of the science around the idea of dancing, organizers hone on the fact that dancing naturally produces happy chemicals (dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins). The maintenance of dancing sober was emphasized.
Participants put to use the tools they were encouraged to bring with them. We took the spoons and used them as a percussive to make our own beats. Cans of products were used as weights to do bicep curls and at one point we showed each other on our digital screens photos of those loved ones we can’t visit because of the quarantine. Messages and visuals from participants worldwide sent proclamations of peace, love, unity, and respect. I watched a man dancing with a sun costume on and it put a smile on my face. Sipping on tea and water I kept myself hydrated and ready for the virtual dance-off with Chuck Robert‘s “My House” and many more songs to groove to.
MC Elliot Laurie brought me to tears as he expressed his gratitude and love he had for all of us. Paraphrased: “… as we rise in the morning, today I choose to be happy, and remember what love feels like as long as we are united as one!! And in closing, it feels good to be with you right now. We come together and dance together, we have this community to help us feel connected, what’s happing now is why we do this. We need each other and none of us are an island.” The Big Quiet’s Jackie Cantwell closed out the event for a mass community meditation, exercises to recalibrate the nervous system and get that energy going. The idea of Intention and community with one voice was expressed. How are you inviting more togetherness right now? Facetime? Virtual dinners? Watching movies together?
We all read the intention together. Even during social distancing, you have to be open towards letting others into your heart and life. You don’t have to stay up all night to party. Dance during the day or whenever you feel like it. As Daybreaker proclaims: “Let’s show each other that nothing can keep us apart. Nothing can stop people from connecting to one another. See you on the virtual dancefloor.” Thank you Daybreaker. Love RiMo.
Join DAYBREAKER’s next live event on April 4, 2020. Get tickets here.