Awake Boston: The Sunrise Nightclub Workout

In today’s world of exercise, music has become as vital to working out as sneakers and water. Having a pump-up playlist can be the motivating factor needed to get you on the treadmill-- and keep you there longer than five minutes. Because of its lively rhythms and energizing beats, electronic dance music, or EDM, is a favorite genre at the gym. If the music alone can give you the boost you need to get some extra reps in, imagine the results of incorporating the other components of an EDM concert into your workout. Hillary King and Stefanie Porcaro, founders of awakeBoston, did just that.

Once a month, the two women host a dance party complete with all the trappings of a true EDM rave. In a rented-out club, colorful lights make a dark room glow while a professional DJ fills the room with energetic beats. The difference between this and any nightclub event in Boston? Awake Boston recreates this environment at 6am as a way to get your mind and body healthy-- instead of hungover.

Described by its founders as a sober morning dance party, awakeBoston is the solution to the boring workout. Based on the exhilarating experience of being at a rave, the premise is to get participants dancing away the fatigue of the previous day and stress of the coming one.

Before the dance portion of the program, a smaller group of participants can begin with a yoga session at 6am. Unlike many traditional yoga classes, strobe lights and house music accompany your stretches for a more energizing yet still stress-relieving effect. The more experienced yogis can test out advanced, almost acrobatic, poses amid a stream of people entering for the second half of the morning.

Around 7AM, the calisthenics switch to cardio. Instead of the uninspiring mundanity of an hour on the treadmill or elliptical, awakeBoston encourages people to simply dance. In a throng of glowsticks and thumping bass, the idea is to let loose in a form of movement that the body enjoys instead of dreads. Porcaro, a recent Providence College graduate, has always found happiness in EDM and the freeing style of dance that it entails.

“I am hoping that at awakeBoston, powered by the rhythms of EDM, people feel energized, intrigued, comfortable to be themselves, and inspired throughout for their days,” she says. Porcaro sees her dance class as a way to build community in addition to getting a fulfilling workout. “People can find that hug, reassuring smile, dance move, inspiring performance, or feeling of community that they need.”

Like any rave, drinks and substances are plentiful. Though they are meant to stimulate you, the refreshments at these dance parties do so in a very different way from most stereotypical club and concert drinks. All of the refreshments are selected deliberately to help cultivate the healthful experience dreamed up by Porcaro and King as an alternative to what is the norm at raves, festivals, and concerts. At awakeBoston, smoothies, tea, coffee, and energy drinks as well as snacks help you start your day and power through it.

Despite the early start time, awakeBoston has seen a consistent outpouring of people willing to test out their unique way of working out. For many people, the class replaces their morning trip to the gym before heading to an office job. Given that most day jobs aren’t terribly thrilling, it makes sense that King and Porcaro’s venture would be seen as enticing, even if it means setting the alarm clock extra early.

The history behind awakeBoston is just as unusual as the sunrise dance parties that have come out of it. King, 27, of Manchester, New Hampshire and Porcaro, 24, of Medfield, Massachusetts, had both left behind undergraduate degrees, jobs, and life as they knew it to explore southeast Asia. After months of backpacking separately, the two met while working as waitresses on a beach on Koh Rong Island in Cambodia in exchange for room and board. Like any good adventure story, they had their share of difficulties-- such as a scarcity of running water-- and their happiness: “We danced until the sun came up,” says King. With that dancing, however, came a realization that many people they knew were using drugs and alcohol to a risky extent.

“We realized that there has to be another way to tap into the freeing energy of dance, connection, movement, and community,” King recalls. Inspired by a similar event in London, the two conceptualized awakeBoston in February 2014 as the way to do just that.

The inaugural awakeBoston took place September 18, 2014 and has already evolved. Instead of the original ticket-based platform for admission, interested participants are encouraged to subscribe to the awakeBoston email list. For now, details for upcoming events will be available through both email and the official Twitter handle (@awakeBoston).

The founders are always looking for ways to grow their program for the better.

“We are encouraging everyone to put forth ideas or talents that they are interested in seeing. We want this event to be something special, unique, and tailored to the people of Boston,” says Porcaro. While open to meeting their participants at events, the awakeBoston website and Facebook are also effective ways to communicate with the women who started the experience themselves.