New York's hottest new trend: clubbing for kids
The music's thumping, the dance floor's packed and the bar's bustling. Welcome to one of New York's hottest nightclubs and a new generation of clubbers: six-year-olds.
The VIP Room threw open its doors to children aged six to 12 on a Sunday afternoon to give them a taste of the nightclub, electronic music and dance scene in New York's uber trendy Meatpacking District.
Among those hitting the decks was eight-year-old DJ Alden. Kids swarmed onto the dance floor, bopping up and down to beats with proud moms shimmying alongside or snapping pictures.
"It was awesome!" said Alden, son of the organizers who jumped on the decks during the four-hour, Halloween-themed party. "The best thing was when I was in the DJ booth, DJing for everybody."
A dancer dressed as a robot with LED lights on his legs, arms, head and body, took to the podium to whip up the crowd. When he starts shooting dry ice from two white guns, they go wild.
The children scream with pleasure, reaching up their hands as the robot takes them through basic dance steps, getting them to feel the beat.
More than 300 people, including parents and younger siblings, attended the party organized by a husband and wife team whose company CirKiz opens top New York clubs to children once a month.
"I love it. My daughter's having a great time," said Laura Lampert, a legal secretary from Harlem dressed in a leopard print dress with cat ears, pointing out her child twirling to the side.
"It's a lot of fun. It's also safe for the kids. It's during the day, and they get to feel like grown-ups," she said.
While parents sit back with a beer or vodka from the bar, children get a taste of the DJ booth -- they are encouraged to touch the equipment and dabble in a spot of mixing.
Natalie Elizabeth Weiss DJs at the children's club sessions and thinks they are a brilliant way of opening young minds.
"It's giving us a chance to get back to our roots as humans, which is get together and dance to music," she told AFP.
She gives DJ lessons to children as young as three months, which have gone viral among trendy families across New York.
There has been interest as far afield as South Korea, Berlin and Los Angeles. Weiss plans masterclasses in Atlanta and Orlando, and she flies next month to Taiwan to initiate the program there.
But the parties are the brainchild of Jesse Sprague, a DJ who has worked on the club scene for 20 years, and his wife Jenny Song. They say the raves are great fun for a child.
"They get to come into a really cool space, socialize with their friends, get away from televisions, ipads and tablets, and come in and experience something that has a very cool vibe," said Sprague.
"One of the mission statements is that we want to inspire kids to pursue things that are artistic. It helps to develop a creative mind, having the kids be in a stimulating sensory environment."
The couple got the idea after throwing their son's first birthday party at New York club Cielo. Friends had such a good time that they urged the couple to turn it into a business.
In concession to the tender age of clubbers, they keep the volume in check, screen songs for content and restrict ravers to cupcakes instead of cocktails.
Pier Singh, dressed up as a Candy Corn Witch in tight trousers, high-heeled ankle boots and a spangly top, struts onto the dance floor with two-year-old son Nico in a New York police uniform.
Older brother Miles, six, is Spider-man and likes to breakdance. Singh saw the party advertised on Facebook and knew it would be the perfect family outing.
"I think it's really awesome," said Singh. "What kid doesn't love dancing these days," she laughs.