With glow sticks, pacifiers, strobe lights and face paint, the monthly parties hosted by CirKiz look a lot like raves, but with a few key differences: They’re totally legal, they’re during the day, and the average attendee is about 8 years old.
CirKiz was founded by husband and wife Jesse Sprague and Jenny Song, veterans of New York’s nightlife and fashion industries, respectively, who wanted to introduce dance music to their two sons, Alden, 8, and Jalen, 6, in a family-friendly way. Every month, they host dance parties for kids ages 6 to 12 that turn some of Manhattan’s hottest clubs into neon-colored, tot-filled playgrounds.
“Nobody uses these massive clubs during the day,” says Song, 48. “Why not bring your kids in and let them run around?”
The idea was sparked after Alden’s first birthday party, which was held at the Meatpacking District club Cielo, where Sprague was then-GM. “It was for a baby’s birthday, during the day — but it was one of the best parties we’d ever thrown,” recalls Sprague, 46.
Song (left) and Sprague with their son Alden.
The celebration at Cielo became a yearly tradition and people outside of their immediate circle began asking about it. So, Sprague and Song started throwing kids parties that were open to the public, with a $20 cover. Their most recent — a Halloween-themed bonanza at Manhattan’s posh VIP Room on Oct. 26 — put a cute twist on club and rave culture.
Instead of EDM constants like “kandi” (colorful beaded bracelets) and bottle service, there were friendship bracelets and juice boxes. Sprague and his eldest (aka DJ Jesse and DJ Alden) spun a father-son set of house hits by Deadmau5 and Above and Beyond, turned down a notch or two. When the young partiers took a break from dancing, they were entertained with DJ lessons and a robot-costumed dancer by The Dream Lab who shot dry ice into the shrieking crowd. In the spirit of Halloween, kids were dressed up as superheroes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and just about every character from Frozen. (One spirited dad donned a chef get-up and carried around his infant son, wearing a lobster costume, in a silver pot.)
A scene from CirKiz’s kiddie raves.
I-Hsing Sun, 40, a city employee who lives in Manhattan, attended with her two sons, ages 6 and 8, and called the parties a welcome change of pace. “I don’t go clubbing anymore — that ship has sailed,” she said. “So here, we get our wine, the kids play, and it’s what we would have spent on a movie or a museum.”
Sprague and Song have big plans for the future, including a CirKiz children’s clothing line and 2,000-person-plus family-friendly music festival somewhere outside New York. The latter, however, could prove be too much for some current CirKiz devotees: Back at VIP Room, tucked into a banquette along the back wall, a young Ghostbuster took a nap.
CirKiz’s next kids party is Nov. 23 in New York. Go to cirkiz.com for details.
This story originally appeared in the Nov. 15 issue of Billboard.