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The T-Swift dance parties have amassed a massive following in its year of infancy, with thousands attending events around the country.Victoria Morton/Handout

Picture this: hundreds of Canadians, putting aside their typical hesitations, belting out Taylor Swift song lyrics at the top of their lungs and dancing like nobody is filming it for Instagram.

This isn’t a concert. This is a celebration – one of many – that has been loudly disrupting club scenes as a safer, more inclusive alternative across the country, while also raising money for charities. Call it a dance party. Call it a revolution. It’s a love story, and Canada is saying yes.

For the three co-founders of T-Swift Dance Parties, the pop-country star’s songs are reason enough to sing and dance.

Of all her contemporaries, Swift’s influence is undeniable. Look no further than the Swifties, a devout fan base of Gen Zers and millennials so large that even Ticketmaster collapsed under the pressure of 14 million people trying to purchase seats.

“Her music has come out exactly when I needed it to come out in every stage of life, so I find no matter what I’m feeling, there is an incredibly written song that really captures my life experience,” said Miri Makin, co-founder of the T-Swift Dance Parties, noting her proximity in age to Swift.

“I think she’s literally the best songwriter of our generation that we’ve seen growing up,” added Avish Sood, another co-founder.

The dance parties have amassed a massive following, hosting more than 24,000 people at 32 events in eight provinces in its one year of existence. Collectively, the events have raised nearly $80,000 for various charities, including Planned Parenthood, the Canadian Cancer Society, CAMH, Daily Bread Food Bank Toronto, UNICEF’s Ukraine relief efforts and the Cystic Fibrosis Society of Canada.

Even Swift herself has acknowledged the events, commenting “I am speechless” on one of the group’s TikTok posts, run by the third co-founder, Victoria Morton.

But what came first? An undying love for Swift, or the charity?

According to Sood, it all came about after seeing a viral video of a woman singing and dancing her heart out to Swift’s Mr. Perfectly at a bar in Australia. It was “very different than anything we’ve seen in North America,” he said, and after a bleak year of lockdowns brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, a dance party felt like the best way to shake it off.

In November, 2021, the co-founders set about putting together a small Taylor Swift-themed party for 250 people in a basement bar on Toronto’s King Street. With Christmas around the corner, the trio decided to donate the proceeds to the Daily Bread Food Bank. Within 30 seconds, all 250 of the tickets they were selling on Eventbrite were gone. They launched two more Toronto events in the spring, both of which also sold out in under a minute.

Since then, they have launched events all over Canada, making an effort to bring the dance parties to parts of the country that major artists tend to skip out on, such as Fredericton, Moncton and Saskatoon. When Swift launched her latest project, Midnights, they hosted a sold-out event for 3,500 people at Rebel Nightclub in Toronto – one of the biggest launch celebrations for an album in North America.

For Makin, the idea was a no-brainer. Dancing to Swift for six hours at a bar was a dream come true, she said: “It turns out, a lot of other people wanted the same thing.”

While the music plays an unquestionable role in the dance parties, fans of the events say they keep coming back for the atmosphere, which some have described as the safest they have ever felt at a nightclub.

“I wish every night out was like that,” said 24-year-old Bayley Levy, who has attended two parties. Levy, who stopped drinking several years ago, said it was rare that she would go out partying with her friends, because of how loud and dark and “grimy” the Toronto nightclub scene could be. T-Swift Dance Parties, she said, were a game-changer.

Levy said she wore jeans and sneakers, and nobody made inappropriate passes at her. Unlike most nightclubs, where she was expected to dress up and act a certain way, “there were no expectations,” she said. “You were going to sing songs that you love and spend time with your friends.”

Anastasia Kountouris, 23, and Helen Patriarche, 22, have been to five of the events together, often dressing up with their friends to match the theme of a different Swift album each time. What first struck them both when they went to their first event together was the mixture of men and women happily dancing and singing along to Taylor Swift “like there was no one watching,” which they said helped set the tone for the event, and how caring the crowd was.

“I feel like everyone is concerned for each other’s safety. Like if at any point someone lost something, there would be 1,000 phones with flashlights looking for it on the floor,” Kountouris said.

She added that the pair had purchased tickets together for two more dance parties in Halifax and Toronto next month, and that mini-events at dance parties, such as costume contests, had helped foster a sense of community – making it easy to make friends.

“I think Taylor definitely attracts a certain type of audience, and it’s just kind, genuine people, and you know you’re surrounded by these types of people at these events,” Patriarche said.

For the co-founders of the event, the experience has been better than their wildest dreams. But as Taylor Swift says, nothing lasts forever.

“It blows my mind every day,” Makin said of the event’s growing success. “I couldn’t ever have imagined this.”

What’s next for T-Swift Dance Parties remains unclear. Makin, Morton and Sood each have full-time jobs, and plan the dance parties in their spare time. Asked about whether they would expand internationally, Makin laughed: “Don’t give Avish any ideas.”

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