Photos by Megan Leigh Barnard

Early Morning Grind

It’s 5:30 a.m. on a Friday morning and I am asleep in bed. A MIDI xylophone jingle chirps noisily from my phone speakers. I roll over, smack the alarm, get up, and have a stretch. I am still shaking myself out of dreamland when a peculiar thought enters my head—a thought that has never existed at the crack of dawn:

It’s time to boogie, baby.

So, I put on some blue booty shorts, neon yellow knee socks, and a tight checkered tee (quite a sight for an skinny, awkward dude standing at 6-feet-5). I walk outside into the chilly morning darkness, breath in the cool air, and jog to my car, feeling ready to get down at Wild Goose Creative’s early morning dance party, Wake & Shake.

Morning dance parties, i.e. breakfast raves, were made popular in London and New York City. Unlike normal raves, these parties are not brimming with hyper sexuality and mountains of drugs, other than, well, caffeine. And really, taking those two elements out of the equation makes the dancing feel pure and untainted. There are no drunken creepers, cracked out candy kids, or the late-night anxiety of stumbling into a sexual encounter; just a bunch of clearheaded folks, fresh out of bed, wanting to start their day with a wicked bass drop.

“Dancing can be
anytime, any place, and any day. Start your day with
dancing, instead

of ending your day
with dancing. It’s
all about living a healthy lifestyle.”

“[It’s] a fun, alternative way for people to start the day,” said Dana Cox, creator of Wake & Shake and member of WGC’s board of directors. “I love the crowd participation, I love the costumes, and I love the people that show up by themselves and feel comfortable dancing.”

I arrive at 6:10 a.m., and a few attendees are already shuffling their tired bodies around the dance floor. Charles Erickson, Columbus DJ and originator of the popular local dance parties Damn Girl and Clampdown, is bumping Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” out of the house speakers. Erickson, who normally charges a fee up front, only accepted what was offered to him, as the proceeds of the event go directly towards funding the non-profit art organization, Wild Goose Creative.

“I like the baseline concept that dance music doesn’t have to be, strictly speaking, a late night activity,” he says, still drowsy from DJing the previous night. “Dancing can be anytime, any place, and any day. The underpinning of the entire concept is what I like about it. Start your day with dancing, instead of ending your day with dancing. It’s all about living a healthy lifestyle.”

And really, it’s that healthy lifestyle ethos that spurs the energy around the room. From the organic cold brew and iced chai served by Raccoon Coffee Co., to the produce donated by Lucky’s Market, right down to the fresh vegetable quiche contributed by Buttergirl Bakery. Dancing doesn’t have to be adulterated and bogged with heavy drinking and MDMA. To be healthy is to dance, and it sure beats the hell out of the gym.

After gulping down a strawberry smoothie, I saunter over to the body paint station, shoddily apply some neon orange paint to my forearms, and hit the dance floor. I am not a good dancer by any loose definition of the word, but I am certainly uninhibited when trying. I am a firm believer that confidence is more important than execution. So, I head up to the front, and start fervently moving my body to the jungle beat.

Eventually, I look up and wipe off the sweat that is starting to trickle off my forehead. To my surprise, the dance floor has filled out quite nicely. Folks are waving glow sticks and sporting fuzzy fox heads, neon glasses and vibrant face paint…and the sun hasn’t even come up yet. The lyrics “am I still dreaming” boom from the house speakers, which resonate with my soul quite well in that particular moment.

I find a dance partner, Pam, who has long, purple hair and is just a bit younger than my Nana. She gives me a large grin on her rainbow painted face when I grab her hand and spin her around during Daft Punk’s, “One More Time.” Pam is a member of the Buckeye Bop Club, and she, like me, is here to dance off the morning blues.

“I love how it is so inclusive here,” she says. “Everybody is just having a wonderful time.” Inclusivity is absolutely the case for Wake & Shake; from spastic toddlers to painted-up elderly ladies, the only trend among the group is its diversity.

Soon, a morning news team makes their way through the doors. I am soaked in sweat, and am going completely nuts on the dance floor. The newscaster looks at me, smiles, and walks over. “This isn’t your first rave is it,” she asks loudly. Well, no, I thought, but was too breathless to articulate. They interviewed me briefly, along with other dancers that looked eccentric enough to put on television, including my dear dance partner Pam.

As they make their way though the crowd, I cannot help but notice the neatly tucked in polo of the cameraman, who carries himself through the breakfast rave with a touch of disdain. It is in that moment that I appreciated the beauty of my position. We are both here to cover this story—but I am covered in paint, dressed in tight, neon clothes, dripping with sweat, and high on endorphins. I am not an outside observer, but a part of the party. This notion alone made me dance even more ferociously, all the way until the final track that dropped at 8 a.m. 

Wake & Shake takes place every second Friday of the month at Wild Goose Creative. The next event is on October 9 at 6 a.m.

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Danny Hamen

Insatiable bibliophile. Intrepid journalist. Born to run. Here for the cake.

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