How to Throw a Digital Dance Party
How to Throw a Digital Dance Party
At any party, there’s a moment of awkwardness, when the dance floor is still empty and guests are arriving. But then, something clicks. Maybe the lights dim. Maybe the D.J. plays That Song and the room becomes a hydra, moving together to the beat. The party has truly started.
“The reason a club is so much fun, for me and for other people, is because there’s something so magical about experiencing music together,” said Louis Mandelbaum, 33, a pop music-focused D.J., writer and actor based in Brooklyn who goes by D.J. Louie XIV. “It’s one of the most ethereal human traits.”
You can still find that joy in quarantine. In real life, the people who have the most fun are the people who just let themselves go. So, in your apartment, do the same thing. Set up a private event on Zoom or another platform with your friends, and then livestream a D.J.’s set, so you’re all sharing the same music. Then, just groove. Here are some tips to find the vibe, no matter what age you are.
All virtual clubs are all-ages.
For kids and teenagers, these live-streamed sets might be their only avenue to listen to some of the best D.J.s right now. They won’t be exposed to any drugs or alcohol at these parties, so there’s no need for ID. It’s among the cleanest fun around (assuming the songs don’t have explicit lyrics).
And for adults, the virtual party can offer a calmer and less performative way to dance with friends. You don’t need to worry about getting in, or your friends bailing on you if they find someone cute. But you still get to dance.
“It got me thinking into how amazing the accessibility of these parties are,” said Robin Krupnick, 23, a graphic designer who lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Ms. Krupnick, who regularly goes to clubs, usually supports local artists, whose shows might cost $25 to $50 to stream. But now, she is also tuning into the techno shows of big name artists. “I was watching D.J.s that I’d have to pay a couple hundred dollars to see,” she said.
If going out is already your thing, check in with some of your favorite local artists. They’re probably spinning. You could just stream and Zoom, though if the D.J. puts his or her Venmo handle up, you’d do well to tip them. Shilpa Sabharwal, a 32-year-old artist who goes by D.J. Scarlett, streams for free, but charges for a private session.
A party for kids might require some advance planning on your part, as few D.J.s cater specifically to children. If you are making your own playlist, pick songs that you know children will like, including oldies they might know from their parents, or a Disney favorite. When in doubt, just play “Let It Go.”
Prepare your speakers.
The music quality will be the most important factor. It’s what makes a party tick. A D.J. can get a streaming device that pumps sound from the mixer directly into their phone. As a listener, if you have external speakers, connect your device and crank the sound up loud.
Any Bluetooth speaker, Mr. Mandelbaum said, “will do the trick. You don’t need anything special.”
Or wear your headphones. That’s what Genevieve Robles, a 34-year-old talent director who lives in Downtown Brooklyn, sometimes does. (If you have nosy neighbors or thin walls, that might be something you want to do, too.)
“It’s even funnier, probably as an onlooker, because I am dancing through my apartment,” she said. “Or I’ll sing at full volume, karaoke style, which is probably hilarious.”
If you’ve got wireless headphones, they might be better: you don’t want to get tangled.
In a bind, you can put your phone in a glass cup. The sound will still be kind of tinny, but at least it will be loud.
Set the scene.
The more you can do to make the party feel like an occasion, the happier you will be.
Ms. Sabharwal, who is based in West New York, N.J., asks her fans to connect the stream to their televisions and turn off their life (you’ll need a Bluetooth-enabled TV or a HDMI cord). She has lights in her setup that flicker, which can help create a club environment.
Or, she said, “if you can invest in a $15 rinky-dink strobe light thingie from Amazon, go for it.”
Clothes: You don’t have to get dressed up, but you could. It might actually make it feel more real.
“You don’t want to look like you’re in quarantine, right?” said Kerry Hayes, 33, who goes by the name Nero Lamek and is a co-founder of Xystance, a livestreaming platform for up-and-coming D.J.s.
Emily Cohn, the 25-year-old writer and director of “CRSHD,” a movie about a college student attending a party in hopes of losing her virginity, hosted a dance party to celebrate the film’s virtual theatrical premier. She asked her guests to wear red, pink and white, which was the color scheme of the in-person party she hosted when “CRSHD” had its premiere at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
“It’s a rare moment to feel really attractive and beautiful and sexy in quarantine, not because anyone is even looking at you, but because you’re having this really freeing moment with your body,” she said.
Make sure to play host.
At Ms. Cohn’s party for the first few minutes, people were just bobbing their heads in their individual Zoom frames.
But then, the music picked up and she started using Zoom’s functions to bring the crowd alive. She started spotlighting people, pinning their video chat to the whole stream, so they had the opportunity to show off. The party really started.
If you’re the party’s host, make sure you’ve practiced spotlighting before the soiree starts (you need to go to “manage participants” on the Zoom Room Controller) and keep your eye on the display to see who is dancing up a storm.
The chat is the dance floor.
The difference between a good D.J. and a great D.J. is her ability to read the room. Before the quarantine, spinning was part-psychology, part-musicology.
Now, the “room” is hundreds of different spaces. The D.J., streaming on Instagram or Twitch, cannot see anyone’s face. It’s more like posting a video than engaging in videoconferencing, so they’re just reading the likes and comments. It’s hard to take the temperature.
So they rely on the streaming platform’s chat function. It’s the new dance floor, the way to request songs and communicate as a group.
“I’m commenting straight for four hours,” Ms. Robles said.
Some fans share how they’re multitasking: dancing while doing the dishes, doing a two-step in the kitchen. Ms. Robles takes her phone with her as she dances through the apartment, to keep up with the comments. “It’s literally like a chat room,” she said.
And, just let loose.
This is not the same thing as an in-person party. But, in quarantine, it’s worth it to be silly. Just shake it out.
“It’s one of the places that I feel most connected during this time,” Ms. Robles said. “There’s this shared love for the music.”
At the very worst, you’ll have gotten some exercise. And — you’ve got a good anecdote to boot. Who doesn’t love a nutty night-out story? This time, you’ve got a nutty night-in story.