.Daybreaker Makes Peace Moves for the Masses

Radha Agrawal connects dancing and hope at the Chase Center on Saturday

A wave of peace is coming to the Bay, thanks to the Daybreaker community, and founder and CEO, Radha Agrawal. Kicking off its 11th season with “The Peace Tour,” the NYC-based dance event organization Daybreaker throws a different kind of dance party; a healing, sober start to the day designed for ripple effects of wellness. Think hundreds gathering in the commons with yoga and jungle beats. Just beware that there is a dress code: “Technicolor Rainbow Florals.” 

Needing healing

The future looks bleak right now which means, paradoxically, it’s too late to give up on hope. As with the destiny for humanity that arises from the hellish alternative California of Octavia Butler’s Earthseed novels, prophets of civilizational collapse often admonish people for failing to see the delicate flicker of light in the persistent darkness. Agrawal is one of those prophets of hope, a true believer in the inherent healing power of dance.

”Dance is the most healing technology, a celebratory technology starting from when we were dancing around the fire living in villages,” Agrawal said during our rich, spirited phone interview.

A serial entrepreneur, she noted that, “Daybreaker has stuck with me for a long time because I just can’t think of anything more important to do in my life than to invite and encourage people to dance more.”

Dance is an ancient technology that heals the body and the spirit, a rediscovered wisdom echoed in the growing practice of somatic therapy. This approach roots change and growth in the experience of the body. Start within the self to enable a positive impact out in the world.

“Using your body to move through pain versus [turning it on] someone,” is the kind of healing Agrawal hopes for. “Just alchemizing and composting your sadness on the dance floor, you know?”

Agrawal asserts that dancing, which began as a collective ritual to tap into the power of the ecstatic, has been co-opted into a distorted type of celebration—the abandon of a wedding reception, the all-night rave, the club—which may be wild, epic evenings but also which by their nature counteract much of the healing power of dance.

By making dancing a feature of the night, by allocating a sliver of the day after sunset for socializing, we have had to normalize alcohol and drugs to overcome our circadian rhythms, according to Argawal, a circumstance that arose with the requirements of the Industrial Revolution.

“People are meant to be most energized and social when they wake up, and [in the evening] we should be winding down and going to sleep because of work. We sort of manufactured this new kind of circadian rhythm [in the Industrial Age],” she said.

Being disconnected from the natural rhythms of our bodies as they hurtle around the Sun contributes to what has been dubbed the “loneliness epidemic.” Argawal’s response is a bit of good old social design.

“What if we replace the bouncer with a hugging committee? Or if we replace the alcohol with green juice in the morning? What if we added a performative element so that at 6am you’re seeing an aerialist and a fire spinner, break dancers and confetti blasters before going to work?” she wondered.

On Dec. 10, 2013, 180 people showed up for the first Daybreaker party in New York City. They were greeted with a very intentionally designed experience.

For the first hour of a Daybreaker event, all those gathered are led through yoga and breathwork. The warm-up is essential because, let’s face it, dancing in public first thing in the morning while sober is a big ask. In hour two, the dance party begins in earnest, building in vibe and intensity until releasing in a crescendo of ​​dancers and performers, music and movement. Together the revelers wind down, finishing with a centering breathing and shared closing mantra before everyone goes off onto their day. 

“[Being in the plaza of] the Chase Center is super exciting to us because in such a central place, when people walk by and see a thousand dancing, smiling faces, how does that influence their day? At a Daybreaker we might have a thousand people there, but it’s the ripple effect that I get excited about,” ​​Agrawal said. “They go to their office and they’re affecting 10 people. A 500-person party is exponential in a city. It can really impact 50,000, 100,000 people.”

That is the beauty of this brave endeavor, to pursue peace practically, through gathering and movement. The Peace Tour connects Miami to Seattle to New York City to San Francisco in an authentic experience of joy and peace. It is just one of many avenues for the mission of Agrawal and the Daybreaker crew.

In response to the loneliness epidemic, Agrawal wrote the book Belong. Daybreaker is opening a new space in Brooklyn called Belong Center to expand the reach and impact of the community’s ethos. During lockdown they hosted themed episodes on Zoom, with thousands of participants from Saudi Arabia to Haiti decorating their living rooms thematically with, for example, beach umbrellas and palm trees. In her quest for healing, peace and hope, Agrawal dances down every avenue.

After all, humans have danced from the beginning for exactly this reason.

“This technology that’s been with us for thousands of years … is not really used as a healing modality any more in the way that it actually was designed to be. Healing and celebration are where I think dance intersects, if done intentionally,” Agrawal said. “And I think that peace requires courageous celebration.”

The Peace Tour kicks off with yoga at 10am, then dance from 11am to 1pm on Saturday, June 15, at Thrive City, Chase Center, 1725 3rd St., San Francisco. $45 for the yoga hour. The dancing hours are free. Free bites, bevvies and more. For tickets go to daybreaker.com/event/peacetour-sf2.

In this election year, Daybreaker hopes its community of over 800,000 members all participate in the 2024 election. Go to daybreaker.com/vote.


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