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No Lights, No Lycra launches Dance Break app

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In darkened community centres, church halls and school buildings around the world people are gathering to dance like nobody is watching. 

No Lights, No Lycra is the brainchild of Melburnians Alice Glenn and Heidi Barrett and now the pair are taking their passion for dance online with the launch of the Dance Break app.

Glenn and Barrett founded No Lights, No Lycra in 2009 and the dance-in-the-dark movement now spans 75 locations worldwide.

No Lights, No Lycra attendees gather to carve up the dance floor without worrying about how they look or what they are wearing.  There are no steps and no teachers just a group of people who want to dance. 

"We studied contemporary dance together and were housemates at the time and felt disheartened going to dance classes," Glenn says. "We felt we had lost that joy from dancing around the room. So we just came up with the idea to turn the lights out in our living room."

Glenn and Barrett are accidental entrepreneurs. 

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"We never set out to run a business it was just something we wanted to do ourselves," Glenn says. "The first week five people turned up, the next week everyone brought a friend and it just grew organically and exponentially over the next few years."

No Lights, No Lycra gatherings sprang up in other cities and states and the concept went international after one of Glenn and Barrett's friends took No Lights, No Lycra to New York and scored a write up in The New York Times

Now No Lights, No Lycra is hitting the app store with Dance Break, an app designed to motivate users around the world to break into dance every day by overriding their phone with an energising track at a random time. At the end of each track, a map reveals the location and number of people who have danced globally to that song.

Glenn says Dance Break is the next evolution in No Lights, No Lycra's non-judgment dance movement as it encourages users to dance wherever they are – at home, in the office, at school or on the street. 

Developing the app was a long process with Glenn and Barrett securing funding from the Victorian government to the tune of $110,000 through Vic Health "which covered development and marketing".

After a soft launch last year there were still bugs in the app so the pair had to spend more money and time upgrading it.

We never set out to run a business it was just something we wanted to do ourselves.

Alice Glenn

"We're not in it to make any money from it, it's a great marketing tool for No Lights, No Lycra generally," Glenn says. Ultimately once users have had their dance break the app will flash up where the closest No Lights, No Lycra community is.  "So hopefully it will help our ambassadors around the world get more people to the nights," says Glenn. 

No Lights, No Lycra "ambassadors" contact Glenn and Barratt through their website and sign a licence agreement to run No Lights, No Lycra nights.​

Glenn says the agreement is "really about keeping the idea consistent around the world" and ambassadors pay $200 a year.  

Once ambassadors attract over a set number of people they have to contribute a percentage of earnings back to headquarters.

"We've used this model so that small communities can exist as well without too much of a financial burden," Glenn says. "The majority of No Nights, No Lycra nights are run by people with full-time jobs and it is just something they are passionate about." 

No Lights, No Lycra is run on an honesty system.

"All the ambassadors just report back to us, we don't monitor their numbers," Glenn says. "Every accountant we met with advised us against that model and said honesty just doesn't work ... but we haven't had any issues."  

Glenn says turnover is under $100,000 a year and No Lights, No Lycra is "still very much a small, grassroots business". 

"Ultimately we'd love to see it grow in the next couple of years so it could support us," she says. "We have been really lucky with No Lights, No Lycra that it has come from a personal need we have. So many other people were craving the environment to dance away from judging eyes. I'm so glad that we backed ourself."  

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