Are you having a good day, today? Will it be the best day ever?
Best Day Ever is a monthly dance party in Center City that starts at 6 a.m. That is when producers (aka “joy bearers”) Caitlin Rae Keleman and Meggie Conner set up a table in front of the First Unitarian Church at 21st and Chestnut streets, donning glitter and enveloped in floating soap bubbles, selling tickets for people who want to go inside.
For those who keep walking, they simply wish them the best day ever.
“A lot of people are, like, ‘No, I don’t want to have the best day ever,’” said Kelemen, a nanny by trade. “People say that to us. ‘Do you want to have the best day ever?’ ‘No.’ ‘OK!’ But the more we are positive, the easier it is for people to feed off of that.”
Morning dance party organizers (from left) Caitlin Rae Kelemen and Meggie Connor sit outside the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, the venue for Best Day Ever. (Peter Crimmins/WHYY)
The morning starts with yoga at sunrise, then DJ EZ Almighty spins electronic music from the church pulpit. Unlike nightclubs, the sanctuary is extremely well lit, and completely sober. Dancers are propelled by kale and wheatgrass smoothies, fresh-baked goods, an in-house massage therapist, and lots of coffee.
“It’s a weird experience, and it sets you up for not having a normal day,” said Beth Teigan, who danced nonstop for more than an hour before going to her job as a dog walker. “I love to dance, but I don’t drink anymore. Going out at night is not as fun — everyone is really drunk. So I like to come out in the morning. It’s fun, sober, and I like to get my groove on.”
DJ EZ Almighty, who works up and down the East Coast at Burning Man-related events, says spinning first thing in the morning is worlds apart from spinning until the morning.
“People aren’t coming out for an all-night party. They are coming out to wake up, to stretch, to do yoga and dance,” said DJ EZ Almighty. “People have a limited time here before they go to work. They have to make the most of it.”
Tim Waller, a fungal phytopathologist based in South Jersey (“I study fungi that hurt plants”), made a big detour in his morning commute. Following the dance party, he will drive back over the bridge to his job in the Pine Barrens.
“You’re full on. You’re ready to roll. Everything is activated, and your creativity is going,” said Waller. “It’s a conscious event — fully sober — so you’re ready to kick some butt.”
The Best Day Ever is modeled on the Daybreaker and Morning Gloryville raves that have been franchised in many cities. After reaching out to those organizations to inquire about starting a Philadelphia party, Conner and Kelemen decided to do it independently.
“We really love the idea of facilitating a very home-grown feel to it,” said Connor, who works as a veterinary technician. “Local businesses, local yoga teachers, local food vendors, local DJs. Philly has such a thriving artistic community and healthy-living community. By keeping it in Philadelphia, we are giving back a little.”