It’s a sunny Sunday morning in October and I am walking up the stairs to PMQ’s Cube venue in my athleisure best (read the only clean leggings I could find and my old scuffed up trainers) to attend the (invite-only) launch of Daybreaker Hong Kong. Suddenly, I notice a line of black-clad ladies waiting to greet me. And by greet me, I mean hug me. Being enveloped by strangers is not the norm at your everyday Hong Kong wellness event, and I am intrigued. I arrive into the hall and am transported into what I can only describe as a wellness nightclub. Sober morning raves are the new black and a big trend for 2017. But you already knew that.
It’s dark and there are yoga mats laid out in rows in front of a massive stage that includes a DJ booth, a sign of things to come. Le tout Hong Kong of wellness is here, from models to yoga teachers to gym trainers to dancers to regular fit folk, all in a dazzling array of lycra colors and patterns. Think lots of neon. On each side of the room are Zac Efron lookalikes with flippy hair and rolled up pants serving cold-pressed juices and cold brew almond lattes from Genie Juicery. In the back, there’s a booth where guests can get temporary body tattoo stencils of uplifting maxims (I choose Wake Up And Dance). Calvin Klein is sponsoring the tattoos and the event, timed to support the launch of their new line of athletic wear.
Welcome to Daybreaker, a new type of sober community dance event that originated in New York City when founder Radha Agrawal (twin sister of period activist and uber-entrepreneur Miki Agrawal of Thinx fame) decided that in a post 9/11 world, people were looking for a new kind of social connection. In her own words, “What if we could just strip it all away and get back to basics with just dancing, community, and connection […] in the morning when everyone’s cup is full?1” Agrawal wanted to get away from the idea that alcohol was inherent to socializing. She and her co-founder organized the first Daybreaker in December 2013 for a couple hundred people. The event quickly attracted the attention of the wellness-conscious millennial generation, the international press and high profile brands who were looking for collaborations. Today there are Daybreaker events in 15 cities around the world and over 350, 000 people are part of the movement’s global community.
Meanwhile, Rosemary Vandenbroucke, a Hong Kong based model, singer and yoga teacher hosted a community yoga session at her music producer husband’s Las Vegas music festival and the response was incredible. She saw a niche that needed filling. “For the past few years, I have been working alongside my husband in developing and curating unique wellness experiences for his music and lifestyle festivals internationally.” She met Agrawal when she invited her to a speaking event: “We invited Radha to give a talk at Further Future [in Vegas], and that’s where we properly connected and set the goal of launching Daybreaker in Hong Kong.” So keen is Agrawal on the Hong Kong market that she and her team flew in from NYC for the launch. During the event, Agrawal is unmissable in her Daybreaker logo leggings, mega high silver platform sneakers and her feather headdress. Watching her dance was an exercise in passion, energy and liberation.
The event begins at 10AM with a yoga class led by Vandenbroucke and accompanied by NYC DJ FDVM and live nature sounds by Hak Guai, followed by capoeira, body combat and finally, a session of 90s aerobics Viva Bodyroll. At 11AM, it’s all about the free-styling during the immersive dance party. Later, a lion dance (a Hong Kong must), a surprise musical number by a brass trio and then MC-led community dance circles. There are also performances by Korean dance star Lia Kim, Pure Fitness acro yogis, live electric violinist Olivia Dawn and singer Les Greene amongst others.
The event production is exceptional, with lasers, balloon drops, high quality sound…basically, the works, This is unsurprising, since Vandenbroucke enlisted the help of veteran fashion show producer Walter Hau of I-DNAsia, whom she has known for decades since her days as a runway model and who came onboard as her back-of-house partner, allowing her to focus on everything else. Daybreaker Hong Kong’s mission is “to provide a safe platform for the community to embrace all of our core values and thrive and to create a ripple effect of positive impacts within ourselves and towards others.
Everyone communes in the outside garden post dancing to enjoy treats by Raiz The Bar and Supafood. It’s barely half-past noon, and Daybreaker’s Hong Kong launch is an unqualified success. Vandenbroucke is more than pleased: “Daybreaker is here to reinvent your mornings and shake things up. We stimulate positive connections. We’ve been known to lead some of our community members into finding the love of their life, not to mention helping everyone feel more driven and inspired in their work.”
Despite what hard-cord Lan Kwai Fongers will have you believe, alcohol is not a non-negotiable when it comes to a dance rave. “Most people can’t believe that you can have so much fun whilst completely sober, ” enthuses Vandenbroucke. We couldn’t agree more.
1Source BBC: The Woman Behind The Morning Dance Party Craze
Images courtesy of Daybreaker Hong Kong.