Dance off: Brooklyn Museum kills its legendary dance parties

Just dance! Here’s where you can shake it in Brooklyn this summer
Photo by Lauren Fleishman

The only dancers at the Brooklyn Museum will be Edgar Degas’s after the esteemed arts institution reins in its popular monthly party series.

The museum’s hopping “Target First Saturday” celebrations are here to stay, but organizers are pulling the plug on dancing inside the art space, saying patrons must stop foxtrotting, electric sliding, and Dougie-ing due in part to record crowds at the longtime event.

“Every month we’ve seen attendance getting larger and larger and traffic flow was just getting difficult,” said Elisabeth Callihan, the museum’s manager of adult programs. “We had to ask ourselves what kind of experience we were providing.”

The 13-year-old event, which takes place on the first Saturday of every month, keeps the regal museum open far past its normal 6 pm closing time, welcoming a late-night crowd that peruses the galleries, sips drinks, and gets down in the third-floor Beaux-Arts Court to the tunes of live bands and DJs.

Museum staff said they were pleased to draw several thousand visitors when the parties began, but crowds now routinely exceed 10,000 — and can spike up to 20,000 when the parties extend outdoors in warmer months.

That’s simply too many revelers, planners say.

“It was getting too crowded to get upstairs,” said Callilan.

But many Brooklyn art lovers say they are disappointed to see yet another good dance floor disappear.

“People like going to Brooklyn Museum dance parties not just for the amazing music acts they put on the ticket, but also to dance in a safe space,” said Christine Kim, a Crown Heights resident who hoped the museum would consider using tickets to regulate the crowd at the dance party — like it does for other exhibits. “We are all sick of the crowded, grimy clubs where you buy $15 drinks and get pummelled all night by drunk people who can’t keep it together. If anything, I would hope that the Brooklyn Museum would do more dance parties.”

Still some people said they were pleased the dancing is done, saying it created an atmosphere unfit for a museum.

“I am very happy that the [Brooklyn Museum] has elected to make a change,” online commentator Patrice Leach wrote on a museum blog post announcing the decision. “I was shocked and affronted to hear the DJ ask the audience at the July Dance Party ‘How you mf’s doing’ not once but twice. You can imagine ho[w] fearful I was to leave my daughter and her visiting friend (both 20 years old) in the Dance Party.”

The Brooklyn Museum promised that live bands would continue to play in other spaces in the museum and described the suspension of the dance floor as temporary, noting that staffers would reexamine the concept in the spring.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.