Last year, when New York City was still in the darkest early days of the pandemic, residents of St. James Place in Clinton Hill began taking to their street for some social distanced dancing during the 7 o’clock cheer for essential workers. The block party became a regular fixture of the neighborhood last spring and summer, a way for masked people to socialize without endangering each other. And this weekend, people came out once again to celebrate the first anniversary of the start of the local tradition.
You can check out photos up above of some of the hundreds of people who returned to the block on Saturday for the anniversary, which wasn’t quite as socially distanced as the events last year; you can also see a video below of yesterday’s festivities.
The dance party was started by Gail Bryan-Vill, her husband Jo, their daughter Chelsea and their son Chad. As they told Gothamist last year, it started when Gail began using a whistle and bell for the 7 p.m. cheer, and quickly upgraded to a DJ setup, four speakers and a playlist of joyful songs which attracted lots of locals to come out for the event.
It was both a way to celebrate the sacrifices of essential workers and also bring the community together at a point when people were more separated than ever before. “There’s so many people that were sad and alone,” Gail said at the time.
“It’s like a COVID-release, like a physical dance therapy,” added Jo. “We needed some relief, because the anxiety-level was building up because of the helicopters going by and the fireworks and ambulances. So we needed some form of positive distraction to uplift our spirits and to give us enough to make it through the next day.”
You can see an interview with the family and get a look at the dance parties last summer in the video below.