Following the success of their sober dance party on Shark Island in April, Xstatic Sunsets return this weekend with a Circus themed extravaganza. We spoke to co-founder Jasper Vallance about natural highs and inspiring a healthier party culture in Sydney...
RR: So Jasper, tell us why you decided to start Xstatic sunsets and how the idea became a reality.
Jasper: Going through depression 18 months ago, I realised how alcohol and drugs were not serving me. On a fateful trip to reconnect with myself at the Bali Spirit Festival, I had an epiphany after dancing for hours every night sober - I realised how high I could get naturally from just letting go to the music, I mean I got really high! I felt more connected to the music, myself and others around me and the high was sustainable, without the nasty drop.
Having been involved in the Burning Man scene and attended a lot of festivals I could see how the excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs was contributing to the mental health problem. However I realised partying can actually be really great for your mental health if done sober and with the natural high, so I saw an opportunity for a more healthy party culture.
I enjoyed getting into the sober dance scene but I could see a problem restricting its growth. The events were typically quite spiritual which I enjoyed, but I thought they were not cool enough to attract the masses. Bigger, spectacular parties without the spiritual undertones could attract new people into the scene - almost like a stepping stone into consciousness if you like. I founded a big sunset party at Burning Seed 5 years ago and could not get past the vision of organising a sober party at sunset, as it's such a magical time of day to bring people together and connect... and so the vision for Xstatic Sunsets was born.
RR: Sounds interesting. It feels as though sober raving has really taken off recently, but people often need something to help them relax and dance at a party. How do you create that feeling without alcohol?
Jasper: It's a great question as we naturally have inhibitions which is one of the reasons we default to drinking alcohol to relax. The key ingredient at our parties is to create a theme which inspires dressing up! It's like putting on a mask to lose the mask, wearing something out of the ordinary helps people let go and of course, it's a great ice breaker to aid connection. Our theme also guides the whole experience in taking people on a musical journey to loosen then up with surprise elements and dance facilitators to get people moving, grooving and connecting.
RR: What’s your actual stance on drug taking then. Is it fair to say you’re anti drugs?
Jasper: Not at all. Our goal is simply to encourage and inspire moderation by providing an option for a night off. We see the main problem with drugs and alcohol is over-consumption and dependency which can lead to addiction. We know when people come and have the time of their lives at our parties and experience the potential with the natural high it will open their minds to having nights off and encourage moderation. Just like the experience I had at the Bali Spirit Festival.
RR: We’re big on mental health at RR and we know that’s an important part of your mission too. How do you think sober raving benefits people in that regard?
Jasper: From my own experience partying sober has had a big impact on my life and my mental health. It helped me get through depression and I find I have better nights out with more genuine connection and of course avoid the hangover or come down. This means I can do more of what I love the next day and be more productive in my weeks. I still drink but more moderately than ever before. Dancing on the natural high can remind people how much fun they can have sober, which can inspire more healthy party habits as well as leaving you feeling great - like it did for me.
RR: We saw videos of your last event on Shark island which looked pretty epic. Were you happy with how it went? How do you think people reacted?
Jasper: It was like the universe provided! We were so relieved to have perfect weather which created the most magical day for everyone including a stunning sunset right in the middle of the Harbour Bridge. People just loved it. But how could you not on such an idyllic nature island? Seeing how the dancefloor went off after sunset made me so happy and proved what's possible without drugs and alcohol. People of all ages including kids letting loose in the melee of the dancefloor with no holds barred was just awesome. Everyone was clearly on the natural high, including me!
RR: We noticed you did some TV interviews about Xstatic Sunsets too which was very cool. Certain elements of the media can be pretty anti-rave culture in our experience. How was the experience?
Jasper: One thing that frustrates me is that the electronic music scene is painted with a bad brush in association with the drug and alcohol problem. I love the fact we can showcase crazy parties of people dressed up letting loose to electronic music looking like they are high, but they're not on any drugs and alcohol. I want to make the point that raves are not bad and can be healthy. We see our raves as part of the solution to change the 'getting wasted' party culture in Australia which is the fundamental issue.
RR: We like the circus theme for the upcoming Cirque Xstatic event, what do you have in store this time?
Jasper: How much fun can you have with a circus theme?! Yes we've loved the concept of combining a dance party with a circus show. Expect all the magic of the circus with aerial performers, dancers and theatrical surprises along with visuals and lighting to compliment the musical journey. Max Watt's sound system is going to be worked pretty hard with the deep house and afro flavours of DJ R.I.A, then Kid Kenobi is going to blow the roof off the big top with classic house and breaks. We are really excited about this, especially when you imagine hundreds of people in their costumes letting loose!
RR: We hear there’s going to be a costume parade with prizes to be won. Can you give our readers some inspiration?
Jasper: We can't wait to see people's costumes. The circus and Moulin Rouge theme provides lots of inspiration. We will be hand-selecting the best outfits to join the costume parade on stage and the photos of each costume will then be posted after the event so people can vote with likes. 5 free tickets to our next party are up for grabs.
RR: Finally, what’s your vision for the future of Xstatic sunsets?
Jasper: Our goal is to do bigger and bigger parties which can attract more people to give a sober dance a go, to open minds to moderation and healthier party habits. Eventually, we hope to tour our quarterly themed Sydney events around key cities in Australia. I have a vision for a bigger multi-day festival of 'natural highs' revolving around epic sunset dance parties and I also often think about how we can find amazing sunset locations around the world to do epic dress-up parties. One step at a time I guess!
RR: Nice. See you at the big top Jasper.
Get your tickets for Cirque Xstatic this Saturday here