When lunchtime comes around, Laurie Batista often grabs a salad near the Flatiron ad agency where she works as an executive assistant and eats it at her desk.
But shortly after noon on a sunny, 65-degree Friday in April, Ms. Batista, 31, jumped into a cab with three co-workers and headed west to Marquee, a nightclub on 10th Avenue. After waiting in a line that wrapped around onto 26th Street (and attracted the attention of the police, who wanted to know what was going on), she redeemed a drink ticket for a free cocktail of vodka and fruit punch. A half-hour later, she was wearing purple lensless Wayfarer-style glasses, waving a foot long foam glow stick and mouthing the words to Warren G's "Regulate."
Around her, hundreds of other revelers did similar things: a guy in Chuck Taylors moonwalked across the dance floor, a man in a hoodie threw up his hands to form the "W" that stands for the rap group Wu-Tang Clan. Strobe lights bounced off a giant disco ball. Sweat glistened on foreheads. "Gin and Juice" thumped. Cheers erupted. It was midday, but inside Marquee, it could have been 2 a.m.
Ms. Batista was one of more than 300 people who attended the latest Lunch Break, a free midday party series whose hosts are Flavorpill, the online culture guide, and Absolut vodka. Introduced last summer, it is the most raucous of a group of lunch-hour dance parties starting up in New York City and around the world. The goal: get the screen-addicted masses to move and groove, often with the lubrication of alcohol. But don't get drunk: this is not the three-martini lunch of yore (or lore), ending with secretaries being chased around a desk. And please, leave the business cards at the office.
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"Networking is fine, I'm a big networker myself, but it's work," said Sascha Lewis, a founder of Flavorpill. "Let's just call this what it is: a fun, daytime party for people to enjoy themselves for an hour."
A workday dance party presents certain challenges. There are wardrobe issues ("Will I sweat through my Brooks Brothers button-down?" "How low can I go in a DVF dress?") and, for those who usually eat lunch at their desks, excuses to make. (At a Lunch Break in February, a reporter for a local tabloid was overheard saying that she told her bosses she was stepping out to meet sources.)
And how do you get young professionals, who find out about these parties online but often arrive without knowing exactly what they've gotten themselves into, to get down the moment they get in the club? At Lunch Break, the free cocktail helps ("It's just one drink, it's not like you're going to get hammered," said Kiran Sachdeva, a student at the New York University Stern School of Business) but the D.J. carries the bulk of the burden.
"They told me, right off the gate, get the party started," said Ahmir Thompson, the D.J. and drummer of the hip-hop and soul band the Roots. Known as Questlove, he's provided the soundtrack for three Lunch Breaks, amping up the crowd with a mix of '90s hip-hop and pop culture non sequiturs (a sample of the theme song from the 1980s cartoon "Inspector Gadget" elicited yelps of approval at Marquee). He also requests as little light as possible, a canvas of darkness for the glow sticks and strobes.
"People dance more when they know they're not being watched," he said.
Another party series, Lunch Rocks, draws up to 100 attendees. It was started last year by Thomas Rudy, 31, a hedge fund manager who said he used to sneak out of his office to dance at the Abercrombie & Fitch store on Fifth Avenue, and his wife, Amanda Tan, 29.
At venues like the Caulfield and Whiskey Trader, they put together a cash bar, dancing and food, and charged $15 a person, which allowed them to "make a little profit," Mr. Rudy said. They have not yet organized one this year. (Ms. Tan blamed the stunted spring: "When it's cold, people don't want to leave their offices.") The couple are thinking about how to revive and even expand their venture.
"There could technically be Lunch Rocks every 10 blocks," Mr. Rudy said.
As for Lunch Break, it began in August at Le Bain, the nightclub atop the Standard hotel, after marketers for Absolut, a frequent partner in Flavorpill events, told Mr. Lewis about a midday party series that was doing well in Sweden, Lunch Beat. It was founded by Molly Range, arguably the mother of this mini-movement. Ms. Range, 29, whose other day job is developing smartphone apps, said she was inspired by "Fight Club," David Fincher's film about white-collar workers who form secret societies to tear one another up.