Last night, the United States Capitol building overlooked an unusually frolicsome scene: a DJ spinning Rihanna and Calvin Harris, glow sticks bobbing on wrists and ankles, and dozens of young people dancing across the soggy West Lawn.
“It’s not the craziest thing we’ve seen at the Capitol,” said a police officer observing the after-sundown boogie. “But I don’t really know what’s going on. I think it’s some kind of Christian dance party.”
The event, billed by organizer Two Planks Productions as the “first-ever dance party held on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol”, sought to bring unity to the nation’s divided capital and “put people over politics” through a night of dance music hosted by Washington DJ Stylus Chris. More than one hundred dancers, including some passers-by, joined throughout the night.
Organizer Jordan Wilson said the event was created among friends as a result of “a shared love of music as a great uniting force, and seeing that play out in public square.”
While not branded as a faith-based gathering, Wilson said, the dance party aimed to “provide a safe, positive space to highlight soul-edifying elements of dance music” that might normally be missed in clubs and shut out of religious services.
Fellow organizer Reverend Patrick Mahoney agreed.
“Worship is not a static experience,” he said.
According to Mahoney, the group saw this event as a "test run" for bringing diverse groups together over the shared power of music and dance in other American cities beset by divisions.
“[Two Planks] are exploring possibilities [in multiple locations] for the redemptive, transformative power of music,” Mahoney said.
Whether or not the organizers’ hoped-for message of unity and transformational was achieved last night, the process of hosting the party was certainly a symbolic one for the organizers themselves — “an odd foursome,” according to Wilson, which also includes Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition; DJ Stylus Chris; and Kate Bryan, a vocal advocate for traditional marriage. Shortly before the event, the organizers experienced pushback on Twitter from some individuals challenging Bryan and Mahoney’s advocacy work.
“That’s a natural result of the political views we hold separately,” said Wilson. “There are very different views among the four of us — but we unite whenever we talk music and dance.”
The experience was a learning one for Wilson.
“We weren’t expecting pushback, and that’s all very new to Chris and I,” he said. “Kate and Patrick are more used to the limelight, so that was a valuable process for all of us.”
“We are called to be peacemakers — we must keep finding creative ways to bring people together,” said Reverend Mahoney. “In that regard, this was a major success.”
Catherine Woodiwiss is Associate Web Editor at Sojourners. Find her on Twitter @chwoodiwiss .