Saturday, September 9, 2006

Baby Loves Disco

Baby Loves Disco
Heather Murphy Monteith

Baby Disco created itself in November 2004, when my son, Max, was a toddler. It was the sum of all of my parts (mom, modern dancer, choreographer, & caterer) all swirled together in one place and time.

As a new mom, I was shocked by the amount of organized, commercial crap made "just for kids." The Zoo was a nice place to visit but it was hard to find anything very healthy to eat amidst the plethora of blue frozen drinks and junk food machines. The commercialism just seemed gross with the "Tastycake" and "Dodge-Chrysler" displays and gift shops that were so well-placed and eye-catching that our visits often ended with me saying "No" about 50 times in my many mama-voices. The Children's Museum, though wonderful to Max, left me feeling a bit out of the loop (with experiences that had very little adult resonance). It too, had its own junk food machines and gift shop to avoid. I was really surprised at my own disappointment, as I thought for certain that we would be "regulars" at these family-oriented places.

I started thinking about my own ideas of family fun, and began threatening my mama group with a dance party in my living room. I envisioned healthy treats, good music and no dumbed-down kid junk. I wanted a real opportunity to have fun dancing together without skimping on the big people. It took me a while to really do it and by the time I was ready I realized that my living room would be too small. I approached my (then) boss at the restaurant I worked in a couple evenings per week about throwing a baby dance party in his upstairs club on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. It was a bit of an "off" question, but he agreed as long as I could cover the costs of staffing, etc.

I bought egg shakers, play scarves, pillows and a bubble machine. I stocked a "chill-out space" with books and simple toys and bought a bunch of low-sugar and healthy snacks for a kid buffet. I got an actor/friend/DJ (DJ K-Tell) to bring his amazing stock of disco and rare 80's records to spin at the party. I bought some balloons, made a diaper changing station and opened the club at 2pm on a cold Saturday in November. I prayed that 35 people would show-up, and in the end, over 100 turned-out. "Baby Disco" was born!

After a month or two to think and organize, Baby Disco was launched as a monthly party at Fluid Nightclub in Philadelphia. The owner, Tony Schiro, embraced the concept wholly by having the club triple-cleaned and supplying adult munchies from his restaurant, the Latest Dish. He even went so far as to replace the carpeting in the club to make it nicer for the little ones. Tony took me shopping for goods at the restaurant supply store and offered to picked-up the balloons every month in his SUV.

A year later, I met Andy Hurwitz at a Baby Disco party and after a 45 minute conversation we agreed to partner-up, re-name the event "Baby Loves Disco" and take it to New York City. We launched there in the fall of 2005. Baby Loves Disco has sold-out at the Manhattan location every month in 2006, so far. Folks e-mail us with lots of positive and appreciative feedback and those who hear about the event through the grapevine ask when we will bring it to a city near them. Baby Loves Disco is currently a coast-to-coast event with locations in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Boulder, San Francisco and LA. We are expanding as quickly as two people can and we are working very hard to maintain our signature vibe and aesthetic while also trying out new ideas and creating relationships with agreeable sponsors.

Baby Loves Disco is an urban experiment and experience that challenges many norms. We have all kinds of families who participate. Baby Loves Disco serves as a meeting ground for parents, friends, family and caregivers of young children. It is a place to chat and be social while dancing with the little ones. It is a place to read a book to a toddler in the "chill-out space." It is a place that embraces public nursing. My favorite feedback/comment so far has been one mother telling me that event was a "complete release" for the whole family.

Baby Loves Disco serves the priorities of the family by refusing to accept that parenting is an isolated experience. Baby Loves Disco strives to create a resonant experience for all in the sprit of sharing music and dance. As humans we are only a sum of our experiences and memories. Baby Loves Disco embraces an urban culture of parenting that remembers and celebrates our histories as people and shares them with our children in a safe and fun way.

The decibel level is around 80 dbl and the music played is mostly classic disco and lots of more contemporary, yet clean, favorites. The bubble machine is a crowd favorite as are the egg shakers and scarves. The fare for parents and children is a plethora of gourmet and mostly organic snacks, thanks to the sponsorship by local stores such as Whole Foods, Fresh Direct and Wild Oats.

I believe that Baby Loves Disco is so successful because it was started by parents, for parents and that the event seeks to be a grassroots, back to basics, family event that also has a lot of hip appeal. The combination of "clean" and "cool" is a difficult balance to strike but very desirable to younger parents who don't quite buy the old fashioned notion of trading in your old life once parenthood hits.

We’ve started a real business. Andy and I are both excited that we have created stay at home jobs that we can manage in our own way and time. I have been able to quit my part-time restaurant job and take a comfortable maternity leave from my performance life. I have created a job that my kid can come to and have fun with, and that my husband finds exciting. We are psyched to employ moms as our "hostesses" at our events and we are currently creating a "giving plan" to donate a percentage of our income to children with terminal illnesses. Andy is excited to start working on a CD of original Baby Loves Disco tracks, spun by some of the best, A-list DJs. I'm dreaming about how to weave the presence of child dancers-to-be and DJs-to-be into our live event experience, as positive peer- influence and fun-makers.

Andy is the music man—the mover and shaker of our efforts with his many "industry" talents trickling down from his other lives as partner in
"Ropeadope Records" and creator of "Baby Loves Everything.” I'm the dancer who does the follow-up, interviews, bookkeeping, and emailing while making sure all of the venues are supplied with egg shakers and bubbles. We really love working and collaborating together (and comparing notes on our kids!). We strike an amazing balance of similarities and differences in energy and approach—a bit of yin and yang at its creative best.

I remember sitting in front of the computer with Max nursing in my arms as I researched cloth diapering options and I laughed at all of the advertisements claiming that mothers could "start your own, stay-at-home business" not believing it could be a possible option for myself. And now, I sit in front of my computer, doing my work and just marvel at what this small idea has become. I have more work than I can handle, another baby due in August and I can only wonder what child # 2 will inspire.


JennyLee said...

You are a beautiful inspiration!

Chad & Jen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AiramanaHeirlooms said...

This is so COOL!!! We are hoping to make it to the Grand Rapids, MI gig. My 1 year old loves dancing.