Whether kids and nightlife go together is a hotly contested subject in family-friendly havens from Seattle to Brooklyn. In some places, the vitriol kids inspire by appearing at a bar or on a dance floor is enough to make the most perfectly behaved of them feel unwelcome. Luckily for families, the Baby Loves Disco series welcomes kids with arms and velvet ropes wide open. This year, equipped with a sponsorship from H&M, it’s taking its show on the road, bringing kid-friendly dance parties to a club near you.
Baby Loves Disco was born when modern dancer and mom Heather Murphy threw a party for friends with kids at the Philadelphia nightclub where she waitressed. Some parties later, Andy Blackman Hurwitz, who was working in the record industry, implored her to bring the series to New York. Since then, the two have become busy club impresarios on the single digit scene. While the parties have grown and evolved, Murphy and Hurwitz’s operating principle has remained the same: “Real music, played by real DJs. No kids music,” Hurwitz says.
Hurwitz and Murphy have made a point of recruiting A-List DJs and using real-life clubs as venues. This isn’t always possible considering the far-flung locations where Baby Loves Disco now tours—this week, a BLD party comes to an auditorium in a military base in Fort Hood, Texas—but, a nightclub experience is always recreated: “Moms dress up and kids dress up, even if it’s just in a mall. There’s a velvet rope.”
According to Hurwitz, parents in major cities like to hear at least a few classic disco hits, while other parts of the country are content with top-40. And despite Hurwitz’s musical background and esoteric personal tastes, he’s happy to play to the crowd. “Pop music is popular for a reason,” he says, adding, “Disco died for a reason.” Apparently, kids across the board are frightened by “Boogie Nights,” while Michael Jackson is nearly unanimously child-approved.
Playing dance music to kids is rewarding, Hurwitz explains: “They’re at an age when they’re not embarrassed by dancing. They’re just doing it!” There was a time, though, when Baby Loves Disco was met with controversy. In 2007, ABC’s Nightline featured the event with a question to the tune of, “Babies in Nightclubs: Is This What’s Wrong with America?” which Hurwitz laughs off. Though the lyrics in many popular songs are suggestive, kids are likely to feel the beat before interpreting lyrics: “If you listen to [Flo Rida’s] ‘Whistle’ it sounds just like a happy song.” Only adults need to know about the implied object of “Whistle’s” key verb, “blow.”
As a song about whistling, then, “Whistle” qualifies as a Baby Loves Disco banger, which is what DJs call those songs that guarantee a packed dance floor. When Hurwitz asked his son, Samson, who is also a DJ, to name more bangers for kids, a few came immediately to the ten-year-old’s mind: “I’m Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO, “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, “Fireworks” by Katy Perry, and “Turn Up the Music” by Chris Brown.
Yet Hurwitz’s dance parties sound anything but salacious. He is heart-felt on the matter of the unique collective experience that occurs on the dance floor. In a world that can feel oppressively insular, especially for families with young kids, he believes dancing together keeps us connected.
Recently, Hurwitz noticed a little girl because of her unique dance moves. “Actually,” Hurwitz says, “she was amazing. She looked like she was on acid.” BLD staff rewarded her ingenuity with prizes and a dance in the spotlight. Later, the girl’s mom approached Hurwitz to thank him for being so kind to her daughter, who happens to be deaf. She could feel the rhythmic vibrations by dancing next to the speaker. “Over dancing,” Hurwitz says, “you instantly bond. You realize you’re all different but you’re all the same.”