The Burlesquerade is an annual costumed gala on a yacht that brings together 1,200 of New York's techies, bankers, and artists for a wild night of partying.
The Burning Man-esque party features a lineup of DJs, aerialists, burlesque dancers, and performance artists - as well as cacao ceremonies, sound healing, and more.
It began as a the birthday party of Timothy Phillips, the co-founder of Lightning Society, a self-described "community of changemakers."
By 10:30 p.m., I was ready to collapse on the dance floor. Everyone else was heading to an afterparty at a far-off warehouse. That's the kind of party New York's Burlesquerade is.AdvertisementNow in its 7th year, the annual costumed gala has grown from a birthday party in a tiny apartment to an extravaganza on a 30,000 square-foot "super yacht" featuring an eye-popping lineup of DJs, aerialists, burlesque dancers, and performance artists.
The Burning Man-esque party attracts 1,200 partygoers ranging from bigwigs at Goldman Sachs and Facebook to Brooklyn's DIY fashion designers and filmmakers. Timothy Phillips, the man whose birthday started it all, says he hopes the event is "inspiring."
"The idea is really just to set this expectation that everyone should be surrounded by people who inspire and motivate them all the time," Phillips told Business Insider. "We try to create events that facilitate that."
Phillips recently invited me to attend this year's Burlesquerade. Here's what it was like.
When we got home, we decided to check how we did on the bracelet game.
While most had long-since jetted to the after-party, a core group of Lightning Society members and friends helped load up this truck, which had been lent by a friend, to send everything back to the group's co-living space in Bushwick.
We stuck around to help clean up. It's hard not to feel like you want to help out after seeing all the work that goes into making the party.
The night ended with a group singalong of 'Stand by Me.' It sounds a little dorky, but it was a warm way to cap the night.
Phillips and Che ended the night by gathering everyone to the center of the dance floor for a speech. "Are you all feeling good?" Phillips asked. The crowd answered with a roar.
Zheng and I headed outside to find the Healer's Sanctuary, where we'd heard there were sound meditations offered by an instructor from Manhattan's Woom Center. When we got there, a woman told us that they had just started the final session of the night. Bummer.
The night started winding down around 10 p.m. with some people partied out. I'm right with you there, homey.
Underground Brooklyn DJ David Hohme capped off the night with his brand of feel-good house music.
Blaine Petrovia is a self-taught pole dancer who won the Pole Sport Organization National Championships earlier this year.
The performers wowed the crowd with gravity-defying body contortions.
The Acroyoga team put on a number of different performances. Two of the performers are full-time acroyoga instructors, while the others just do it for fun.
Energy drinks and water seemed to be a popular combination for partygoers.
The Explorer's Sanctuary was hidden behind the grand ballroom stage. Artist Gene Harrison designed the light installation so that 'explorers' could manipulate the lights' colors. This reflective costume really shined in the sanctuary.
People were breaking it down on the dance floor. I have to say, this crowd knew how to dance. Far better than my two left feet.
Phillips said that many partygoers have told him they met their spouse or business partner at the event. “You get a bunch of really smart, interesting, engaged people together and you introduce this idea of being a performer,” he said, “it brings people out of their shell.”
French electro duo FDVM was one of the biggest names on the lineup. The group has performed at Coachella, Outside Lands, and a handful of other big festivals.
David Haws and Jenna Marierd put their acrobatic skills on display for the crowd. Haws is an AI researcher at IBM, while Marierd is a nutritionist. Both moonlight as acrobats.
From 5 p.m. to the end of the party, there were nearly nonstop performances on the dance floor. Aerialists Marcus Anthony and Françoise Voranger impressed us on an aerial silk rig strung from the boat ceiling.
We headed back down to the dance floor where Hils Hinrix, a textile designer who moonlights as a DJ, was spinning a mix of House, Disco, and Funk.
For the first time, Phillips and Che added private tables to the party, which were arranged around the second-floor balcony.
We made fast friends with Dani Klein, a manager at a carpeting manufacturer, who volunteered to serve Moroccan tea in the Lover's Sanctuary. The guy on the left told me his name was Tommy Walmart. I still have no idea if he was joking.
Heart-On's Rachel Santos had set up the space to engage all of the partygoers' senses with tantric massages, cacao ceremonies, Moroccan tea, whispers in the ear, and other activities to encourage intimacy.
The Lover's Sanctuary, according to Che, is a giant "cuddle puddle." It was set up with lots of couches, bean bags, and pillows to take a break from the music.
We headed upstairs to find the "Lover's Sanctuary." Zheng and I traded wristbands so I could go in, not that anyone was checking.
People got creative with their costumes. Product manager Yair Cohen was rocking these customized light-up shoulder-pads.
Philips said that in the first iterations of the Burlesquerade, many found the idea of costuming to be intimidating, but each year partygoers’ costumes have become more elaborate.
Actress Emily Shephard kicked off the night's performances with a steamy burlesque dance in front of the stage. This was the start of the performance. My editors will not allow me to publish the end of it.
Things started to heat up when the grand ballroom opened. People were getting down to the music booming from the Funktion One speaker system, which is considered top-of-the-line in the electronic music community.
The yacht captain loved taking photos with the partiers. Those intricate headpieces were designed by fashion designer Saida Mouradova, who is at the bottom of the photo next to Che.
One of the biggest name acts of the night was Katherine Crockett, an actress and a principal dancer for the Martha Graham Dance Company.
We snuck into the grand ballroom before it opened to get a glimpse. Insiders were already getting their dance on while many of the performers, like Aryn Shelander, warmed up. Shelander is the co-founder of iOS app maker Logical Animal.
There was a GIF photo-booth for everyone to capture their snazzy outfits. Here Marleena Ortiz, the founder of nonprofit Beating Cancer in Heels, and Cheni Yerushalmi, a startup advisor and founder of a business incubator, pose for a photo.
We found the artists' sanctuary behind coat check. There, Parisian pop singer and performance artist Cocovan de Bancalis had set up her interactive project, "The World Letter," where she encourages participants to write love letters to the world.
Wendy Escobar kicked off the afternoon with a mix of house and techno beats. Che said that they like to confine partygoers to the boat's solarium to get people mingling until the party hits critical mass.
Once on the boat, every attendee was asked to choose a character: The Lover, The Healer, The Explorer, and The Artist. They got corresponding bracelets and a scroll with instructions.
As attendees walked on the gangplank, volunteers Erika Brown and Daniel Michael cleared away negative energy with smudging sage sticks. Brown kept telling partygoers to "slow down" so she could brush more of the smoke their way.
Once I got through the security line, we headed for the boat. I quickly learned the partygoers were not a camera-shy bunch.
If you wanted to add glitter to your visage, as Zheng did, a Burlesquerader was happy to oblige. The theme and activities for the Burlesquerade change every year.
Not everyone was game for the marriages, but if you were, you got a quick Polaroid.
Other volunteers were walking up and down the line offering to perform "party marriages." The tongue-in-cheek vows included "Do you promise to share whatever drugs you smuggle onto the boat with your partner?"
Volunteers were draping the white parachute over partygoers and asking them to do one of several activities, like learning a dance routine, harmonizing a song, or gazing into each other's eyes.
I headed out to the line to meet my dance partner for the night, Annie Zheng, and check out the scene. Che told me that one of his and Phillips' goals is to make the line, usually the worst part of any party, the best part.
Engineer Liam Tyler Griffiths and Lauren Sagador, a connectivity specialist for a booking platform GetYourGuide, were a couple of the first on board.
Phillips soon handed me off to Joe Che, his business partner and the man most often tasked with turning Phillips' high-flying ideas into, in Che's words, "practical realities."
At Phillips' insistence, I showed up at Pier 40 early so he could show me around the boat, the Hornblower Infinity. I was dressed in my costume gala finest, but in true New York form, no one batted an eye.