Philly joins in the lunchtime dance movement

On Wednesday in Old City, some Philadelphia office workers ate lunch with a side of beat.

The Painted Bride on Vine Street pushed aside the seating in its auditorium, called up a DJ, and created a night club in the middle of the day, complete with a light show and throbbing remixes. Only about a dozen people showed up.

“People don’t think to get up and dance for their lunch break,” said organizer Siobhan Graves. “They’ll walk across the Ben Franklin Bridge, do errands. This is something they’re not exposed to before.”

Graves is picking up on a phenomenon that began in Sweden a couple years ago, and has since swept across Europe. Called Lunch Beat, the concept is established enough to have a 10-point manifesto, a la “Fight Club”:

“If it’s your first lunch at Lunch Beat, you must dance.”

“You don’t talk about your job at Lunch Beat.”

You can, however, hit on strangers.

“I was on the train on the way home, and I was like, ‘How you doin’?'” said Christopher Coleman, who had gotten off of work at a downtown Wells Fargo when he struck up a conversation with a stranger. “She’s like, ‘Come out dancing with me.’ I said, ‘OK, let’s go.'”

That stranger was Gabriella Raczka, who was on her way to the Painted Bride already.

“I get an hour for lunch. Looking for somewhere to run around, anyway, so this is perfect,” said Raczka, just as the DJ segued to a salsa beat. “Time to salsa, apparently.”

“We got a couple more minutes,” urged Coleman. “Want to finish up with salsa dancing?”

A night club is still a night club, even if it’s noon.

Outside the Painted Bride, under the bright summer sun, the Lucky Old Souls lunch truck blared jazz music and sold burgers to sweaty dancers wearing ties and blouses.

Emily August, who works at the nearby National Museum of American Jewish History, didn’t want to eat lunch in front of her computer.

“These kinds of dance parties are either weddings, bar mitzvahs, or in the clubs after-hours with a lot of alcohol,” said August. “But here we are, a bunch of people who work down the street, in a no-alcohol setting, just dancing our pants off.”

Organizers at the Painted Bride did little more than announce the event on Facebook and Twitter, and put fliers in businesses in the neighborhood. They hope word-of-mouth will attract more dancers at the next Lunch Beat, Aug. 29.

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