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'DANCEiSM Is Not a Rave'

By Shawn Shahani
Published: Friday, February 26, 2010, at 12:06PM
oprstuBIG copy Photos Operandi

A young crowd of revelers packs a warehouse space for a recent DANCEiSM event.

DANCEiSM isn't exactly a religion, but you wouldn't know it by the way that the Downtown-based event and artist collective has earned its followers.

While Downtown Los Angeles has been in the throes of a nightlife renaissance for some time, those neon-clad lost souls looking for dance music and not speakeasy lounges have found their way to DANCEiSM. To the skeptic, their hundreds-strong parties might appear to be a rave, but they insist that they aren't, going so far as to declare that “DANCEiSM [does not equal] RAVE” on all of their promotional work.

CFO Vivek Srinivasan makes the distinction clear, but he doesn’t shy away from the comparison.

“A lot of people have negative perceptions of a rave, but DANCEiSM isn't [one],” Srinivasan said. "[But] we're taking the underground feel from raves, the social aspect of clubs, adding some high quality production and making people [say], 'I'm really at some epic event'."

Srinivasan describes DANCEiSM as "an event, a brand and an artist collective," but that might only make sense to anyone that has experienced the event. While they appear to be a promotional events company at heart, setting up impressive productions with lights, bass-heavy music and (most impressively of all) a safe and clean environment which doesn’t attract the drug-addled rave crowd that often scares away potential revelers, they also use that platform to promote their artists, who have their own loyal fans. As one grows in popularity, so has the other.

That reputation has led to the crew’s booking of world-renowned DJs and producers like Lykke Li, Designer Drugs and Acid Girls for their events, a big leap for a group of USC graduates that started by just throwing house parties in college in 2008.

"USC had such a set-in-stone social life. There really wasn't an alternative scene,” Srinivasan said.

With time, the partners built on that alternative scene, mixing party-making and music-producing to form the collective. CEO Corey Johnson and Srinivasan joined up with DJ and producer Ben Orptsu and Robot Love’s Eron Surdam and Evan Ross, also adding producers ASAA and SP to the lineup that performs at each event.

While they were collectively friends before, their achievements called them to become business partners as well, expanding from loosely-authorized warehouse parties to full scale, high quality events. Everything is done in-house, with each member handling different functions of the business from event planning to web design. They have been keeping busy lately with their smaller and more regularly hosted shows at local venues like the Echoplex and the Rooftop Bar at The Standard, focusing much of their effort on the Downtown area that helped fuel their success.

“I love downtown, it has developed in direct opposition to the Hollywoodisms of L.A. Its like a blank canvas in which we [DTLA's residents] can start to paint a new positive culture,” Orptsu said.

The electronic and dance music movement that has been especially popular among the college-aged crowds has DANCEiSM drawing students Downtown from across the city, with ever-increasing followings at UCLA and Loyola Marymount. Helping change the stigma as much as the high quality restaurants and bars that have been dotting the downtown landscape, Srinivasan, who will be moving into the Historic Core’s SB Main next month, believes that targeting youth isn’t just good for the neighborhood, but that it is also good for business.

"In our minds, from a business perspective, the young kids' experience will shape downtown Los Angeles. When they're 21 and above, they are going to identify with the brands that are targeting them right now,” he said.

As the group celebrates its two-year anniversary with a special party this Saturday in the Warehouse District, DANCEiSM might just be one of those brands that has those kids coming back for more.


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