Afternoon Dance Parties

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Do afternoon dance parties glamorize club culture to little ones?

On a chilly Sunday this past February, a rollicking crowd of 450 people partied at the Revival Club in downtown Toronto. As local indie bands rocked the house, the dancing and drinking went on until the revelers could barely keep their eyes open.

Not exactly newsworthy – it sounds just like the scene in any nightclub in the city, right? Except that the drinking was mostly from sippy cups, and the drowsiness was likely the result of missing naptime.

The bash was Totsapalooza, the third annual fundraiser put on by Small Print Toronto, an organization that stages workshops and literary events for kids from two to 17. Hundreds of kids between the age of two and eight boogied to local bands like Hooded Fang, The Monkey Bunch and Don Kerr & Friends, while their parents chatted with friends and relaxed at the bar.

In the U.S., Baby Loves Disco travels from city to city bringing parents and children aged six months to seven years to “super cool clubs” to dance away the afternoon with bubbles, a DJ, dance lessons and a bar for non-driving adults.

To many young parents, an event like that is a great way to get out of the house with the kids and go somewhere cool to listen to music by people other than The Wiggles. But for others, it represents a conundrum: is it okay to take your kid to a club, or bar, where adult debauchery will surely take place a few hours after you leave? Is this type of thing glamorizing club culture for our children?

Not at all, says Chris Reed, artistic director at Small Print Toronto. “We hold Totsapalooza in a club because the facility is set up for live music, and for a crowd of a certain size,” he says. “If you want to have an event on different levels – a craft station upstairs, bands on stage, a helium balloon station – a place like Revival lends itself to that. So the architecture is part of it. But we’re also about celebrating that we’re urban and that these are public spaces; when you see a band, you go see them in a club. It’s part of the vibe.”

Still, there’s an adult-driven element to Totsapalooza.
“We’re all of a certain age, we grew up in clubs, and we have developed a certain set of values about DIY, or indie culture. We want to raise our kids in a way that’s not ‘Disney-fied’. And there’s a message to parents that just because they have kids, doesn’t mean they have to give those values up.”

Growing up too fast

Are kiddie dance clubs a slippery slope? Chris Reed thinks events like Totsapalooza and The Monkey Bunch’s regular kiddie gig at another Toronto watering hole, The Drake Underground, are different from actual nightclubs that cater to young people. Popping up like so many Justin Bieber groupies are places like Club LOL in Long Island, New York, where Friday nights are reserved for middle- and high-school kids to dance on lit-up cubes and lounge on white leather couches in the VIP room. “Those types of things don’t sound like they’re organic to kid culture,” says Chris. “They’re like kids pretending to be adults. We are certainly not trying to create a nightclub experience for children.”

PHOTO: Kevin LaCroix and Don Kerr accompany author Katie Van Camp, as she reads from her picture book, Harry & Horsie, at Totsapalooza: Space-Age Rodeo Edition.

Published in May, 2011.

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