Mil­len­ni­als con­nect­ing with no-booze events

More mean­ing­ful in­ter­ac­tions cited

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE - By Kelli Kennedy

It’s not re­ally about the meal at the monthly Con­scious Family Din­ner, al­though there is plenty of ve­gan In­dian food. You can spend time in a cud­dling sanc­tu­ary, sit down with a tarot reader, chat ca­reer goals with a life coach or sit in on an acro-yoga sex psy­chother­apy pre­sen­ta­tion. And there’s al­most al­ways some form of danc­ing.

But what’s in­con­spic­u­ously miss­ing is al­co­hol.

Cre­ator Ben Rol­nik says the din­ners are about cre­at­ing a new form of play that fa­cil­i­tates mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions, not the va­pid chitchat that of­ten pro­lif­er­ates at cock­tail par­ties or bars.

The re­cep­tion to the dry din­ners, held at var­i­ous spots in Los An­ge­les but ex­pand­ing soon na­tion­wide, has been im­pres­sive, with each of the 200per­son events sell­ing out. Tick­ets cost about $35.

“It’s like a jour­ney more than a din­ner,” said Rol­nik, a 26-year-old yogi and for­mer tal­ent man­ager.

Sim­i­lar par­ties are pop­ping up across the coun­try, no­tably in New York, Mi­ami and Chicago, tap­ping into an itch from mil­len­ni­als to find mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions and pur­pose even in their nightlife.

When Justin Hen­der­son, who cre­ated the event com­pany Bender, hosted his first few events in Chicago a few years ago, he served al­co­hol, but he no­ticed very few peo­ple were im­bib­ing. As time went on, he no­ticed more al­co­hol was left­over at each event, and he de­cided to stop of­fer­ing it al­to­gether.

In­stead, Bender events range from 40 to 300 peo­ple and in­clude ev­ery­thing from a rooftop yoga pool party at the Stan­dard Ho­tel to mid­night silent disco yoga on the pool deck of the SoHo House in Chicago dur­ing a full moon.

“I’m just one part of a much, much big­ger movement that’s hap­pen­ing. It’s not so much about whether al­co­hol is there or not, peo­ple are just look­ing for ways to con­nect around things that they value and are pas­sion­ate about,” said Hen­der­son, a for­mer health care man­ager who was look­ing for a fun way to help peo­ple life health­ier lives.

Court­ney Ni­chols, a 28-year-old owner of an event plan­ning com­pany and self-pro­claimed dance fiend, has at­tended sev­eral Bender events in Los An­ge­les and says it com­bines the fun of a late-night party in a more so­cially con­scious man­ner.

“It’s never been an is­sue of not hav­ing al­co­hol. It prob­a­bly is to the ben­e­fit of the event,” said Ni­chols, who was struck by the sense of ca­ma­raderie she ex­pe­ri­enced. “You get to meet peo­ple in a clearer head space. You leave the party and you feel re­freshed.”

While the events have a dif­fer­ent feel around the coun­try, they all in­volve movement, of­ten yoga or dance, to help peo­ple loosen up and con­nect with their bod­ies and one an­other in a shared ex­pe­ri­ence.

The Shine has the feel of a va­ri­ety show, with mind­fully cu­rated con­tent in Los An­ge­les and New York once ev­ery two months, and in­cludes ev­ery­thing from guided med­i­ta­tion to co­me­di­ans to beat box­ers.

The Shine gives about $400 of its ticket sales to a guest with in­struc­tions to help some­one with it. They might use the money to feed the home­less or do­nate it to an an­i­mal sanc­tu­ary. A short video of how they paid it for­ward is shown at the next event, said co-pro­ducer An­drea Praet.

On the no­to­ri­ous boozy St. Pa­trick’s Day, Anna Gar­cia traipsed a group of about 20 to a work­out, like Caribbean reg­gae dance or box­ing, be­fore hit­ting four dif­fer­ent juice bars around New York for her pop­u­lar Juice Crawl. Her first event in 2014 sold out.

“I wanted an al­ter­na­tive where you could hang out with peo­ple and not feel the ef­fects of al­co­hol, and also high­light that you don’t re­ally need it. It’s about high­light­ing the re­la­tion­ships with peo­ple,” said Gar­cia, a 30-year-old trum­pet player who found it dif­fi­cult to so­cial­ize af­ter go­ing ve­gan.

Sober raves, like Day­breaker and Morn­ing Glo­ryville, have been grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity in re­cent years. Partiers show up at dawn, dressed in their coolest, black-light glow­ing ath­leisure, and dance their cares away. After­ward, there’s mas­sage, juices and healthy treats. Day­breaker next month is hit­ting up Mi­ami, where par­ty­go­ers will gather at 9 a.m. for yoga at the Fon­tainebleau’s Glim­mer Ter­race, fol­lowed by a live DJ and danc­ing.

The Softer Im­age bans not just al­co­hol but shoes as well. Heal­ers open the space with group rit­u­als, artists show­case their work and DJs sup­ply heartopen­ing dance mu­sic. There’s even sound baths and hyp­no­tists, and 31-yearold founder Luke Si­mon does reiki heal­ings at the events, where the motto is “let’s get psy­chic, not blacked out. Let’s get wild with­out get­ting sick. Let’s get turnt while stay­ing woke.”

“I wanted to have the spir­i­tual feel­ing you have go­ing to a work­shop or re­treat but bring that into the free form­ness of go­ing out,” said Si­mon, a Brook­lyn-based healer. “Some­times, spir­i­tu­al­ity gets so struc­tured, it doesn’t even feel like you’re liv­ing.”

KATHY WILLENS/AP PHO­TOS

An­drew Hoepfner, left, and Pamela Martinez, dance at a so­cial event spon­sored by The Shine in Brook­lyn in New York.

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