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Radha Agrawal and the community building power of dance

Radha Agrawal smiling

Radha Agrawal is a social entrepreneur, community architect, and founder of Daybreaker – an early morning dance movement in 27 cities around the world that incorporates yoga, fitness and dance in a sober experience that promotes wellness and community. We spoke with Radha ahead of Daybreaker’s Friendsgiving Fest in Miami on November 3rd.

 

Radha, you talk about the purpose of Daybreaker as being a way to combat loneliness by creating a sense of community and belonging. What’s the magic formula there? What is it about Daybreaker that you think makes it a salve against feeling alone?

When you’re creating experiences where people are returning to themselves – it can be a sober experience, a healthy experience that inspires more play and dance and joy and self-expression – that to me is the ultimate antidote for loneliness and isolation. It’s creating a space for people to fully be seen and to return to themselves.

I really believe that dancing is really healing both for the individual and for the collective. It’s the only movement modality that has existed since the beginning of humanity. Turning to dance is an opportunity to heal yourself and to combat isolation and loneliness. It starts from within: belonging starts with yourself. The dance floor becomes a wonderful place to connect both with yourself and to look up and connect with other people around you. That’s why it’s a powerful place to go to heal from various past traumas and really get back into the joy of life. That’s what dance does.

Woman holding hemp hearts and dancing

 Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts at a Daybreaker event in August 2019.

Can you talk a little about the impact of Daybreaker on your own life? Both as the concept itself and as the phenomenon it has become. Are there unexpected ways in which it’s changed your day-to-day?

Absolutely! Basically my journey starts when I turn 30 years old, look at myself in the mirror, and I realize oh my gosh, I don’t belong. I spent my 20s sleepwalking through life and spending time with people that really didn’t inspire me. So Daybreaker for me was really an antidote, a place for a 35 year old woman to go that wasn’t a night club – surrounded by people who are on drugs and alcohol, standing in a line with a bouncer, you know? I’m just too old for this.

But we’re still human! We still want to dance, want self-express and move our bodies to the beat of the music. I wanted to create a space where we could return to the inter-generational collective of dance. How to we return to creating spaces for anybody, of all ages, to come and dance and feel connected? And remove all the liability of the night club, which is the drugs and alcohol. And nobody thinks about dancing in the morning, but it actually makes the most sense! We’re the most energized, most connected to our wellness goals, most optimistic in the morning! So it’s a wonderful way to reimagine the way we spend our day.

It seems like Daybreaker has grown a lot, and really fast. What do you think it is that keeps people coming back?

It’s the feeling, right? I call it the DOSE of Daybreaker. Dose stands for Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins. We design our experiences so that every single community member releases their DOSE. We design them through the lens of your happy brain chemicals, making sure every single person walking through that space can experience that release of their DOSE, which obviously requires a very intentional design experience.

With Daybreaker you get the dopamine you get from listening to music, from waking up early; the oxytocin you get from feeling connected and getting a hug. The serotonin really helps you feel like “Oh wow, I’m a big part of this ecosystem.” The more we focus on feeling like we’re part of a bigger collective, the more serotonin we get and the more happiness we feel.

Woman using CBD oil drops at Daybreaker

Manitoba Harvest Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract at a Daybreaker event in September 2019. 

We’re super focused on curating the best partners to be part of our community. The endorphins you get from the runner’s high, the workout, the sweat, the movement, the out-of-breathness of dancing. When you design experiences where all four of your happy brain chemicals are activated, then people are going to come back. They’re going to be like “holy moly, I’ve never felt like this before! I feel high, I feel the most joyful I’ve ever felt.” It’s crazy the thousands of messages we’ve gotten from our community members sharing those feelings. It’s the DOSE!

That sounds so scientific, like you have a formula. Relatedly, you also call yourself a Community Architect, and that’s a big concept! I picture blueprints, complex computer models, building something tangible from the ground up. It sounds scientific and complicated. What are a Community Architect’s favorite tools?

Community Architecture to me is just a 2.0 to Community Building. Community Building feels very primitive, like moving one brick onto another brick, whereas Community Architecture is about the art of designing spaces for people to experience belonging. It’s the simple things, like how much light is in this space? What’s the layout? At Daybreaker we have the bowl effect: we look for spaces that have multiple layers that create a bowl effect where the dance floor is the center of the bowl and there are multiple levels around it, so people can see each other. People feel more connected, actually make eye contact with each other, and can see each other across the room. All these elements ladder up to a much more intentional way of building community.

In your book Belong: Find Your People, Create Community, and Live a More Connected Life, you talk about the concept of “community confusion.” Can you talk a little about that?

We’re just really confused right now around our communities. We’re online, we’re offline, we’re digital…where the heck are we? So to design human experiences where you’re able to actually experience all five of your senses, what I call FSF – being a Five Sense Friend – that’s really where the magic is. There’s real magic to the offline experience, which is why I continue to go back to it, it’s why I’ll never leave the offline space because to me it’s the most important focus for humanity right now. Our biggest epidemic is isolation – one in four Americans has zero friends to confide in, and that’s tripled in the last 30 years. It all ladders down to community confusion – not knowing where and how to meet people, but also our patience for listening and connection. The more digital we are, the less focused we are. Creating a three-hour offline experience builds that attention stamina. Because it’s sober, you’re not escaping, you’re focusing on the music and on yourself. You’re having a transformational moment.

Would you say that a plant-based lifestyle is important to the Daybreaker ethos?

We are currently plant-based, and I do think eating plant-based three days a week is actually critical to the planet. Step one, though, you have to figure out how to belong to yourself before you can learn how to belong to the planet. This is why so few people care about the planet or the animals on it: because we don’t really care about ourselves. Let’s build community, let’s bring belonging back, let’s make everyone feel seen, feel self-expressed, feel like they’re in a space where they’re not judged and they’re fully included. Then, from that place of love, they begin to see that it’s no longer about my sadness, my loneliness, my my my, it becomes, “wait a minute, I feel satiated here, I have a community here that loves me, now let me go outside of myself and start healing the world.”

Manitoba Harvest’s Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract has been part of Daybreaker events in the past; how do you see the benefits of CBD adding to the Daybreaker experience?

I really believe in the health benefits of CBD, and I really believe in plant-based healing as well. I think when you take out the psychoactive element and just have the broad benefits of CBD, it really aligns with our core value of wellness. I’m really looking forward to being at the forefront with Manitoba Harvest on designing and creating spaces for people to experience themselves and enjoy the healing benefits of products like Manitoba Harvest Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract. I love that there’s such a focus at Manitoba Harvest around the healing modalities of hemp and CBD. I really believe in it. I love having Manitoba Harvest at Daybreaker. Our whole community loves it!

Man holds CBD oil at Daybreaker

Manitoba Harvest Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract at a Daybreaker event in September 2019.

So what’s next for Daybreaker?

It’s in beta right now, but I just launched Live It Up. The goal is to teach our community how to build their own communities, how to be financially funded, how to practice mindfulness, how to unlock that entrepreneurial mindset. All these life skills you don’t learn in classrooms. That’s the dream for a sister program to Daybreaker: how do we continue delivering value to our community in between the events that’s not social media? How do we deliver life skills, real tangibles, and takeaway values to our community?

Find Radha Agrawal at radhaagrawal.com and on Instagram @love.radha, and explore future Daybreaker events near you at daybreaker.com.

 

The information provided is for informational purposes only. None of the information provided here should be considered medical advice or treatment recommendations. Consult with your health care provider if you have questions about incorporating CBD into your wellness regimen.

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