The clubhouse is packed with students donned in white-haired wigs, face-painted wrinkles and orthopedic shoes while someone pushes around a walker to the beat of dance music thumping through the speakers.
This is not your typical college party.
“You’re going to be really confused and a bit overwhelmed,” said Josh Cypher, executive director of Good Clean Fun.
But once the initial confusion wears off, the heart behind Good Clean Fun shines through.
Good Clean Fun is a nonprofit that arose out of the idea that having wild parties in a safe, sober environment can create a deep sense of community among students who don’t know each other. The belief is that a substance-free setting allows students the freedom to let go of social anxieties and pressures.
“It’s hundreds of people dancing and sweating through their clothes,” said founder Jon Dalman, 22.
This was the case with the Geriatric Get Down, a party where the theme had students busting a move in their grandparents’ clothing.
Other themed parties included a Feliz Navi-Dance Christmas party, a Throwback Prom, an election celebration called Filabust-A-Move, a Safety Dance where people dressed in construction gear and wrapped themselves in caution tape and most recently a Hipster Hop.
“People take the theme and run with it,” said Cypher, 23.
Someone arriving at a Good Clean Fun party will be greeted at the door, directed to a coat check and shown the hospitality table complete with snacks and alcohol-free drinks to keep guests hydrated while a security team guards the perimeters and Good Clean Fun staff stay connected through headsets.
All the while guests let go and dance uninhibitedly to the eclectic music blasting through the speakers.
“You’re free to dance however you want,” said Lauren McFadden, a Belmont senior who has attended several Good Clean Fun parties.
But for Good Clean Fun, a dance party is just the beginning. The directors of this new nonprofit are digging deeper into just how creating a sober environment with genuine community can promote self-worth within the individual.
“You get rid of all the substances and the false expectations and social anxieties,” said Cypher. “You don’t have to put on nice clothes and pre-game.”
The directors of Good Clean Fun believe the wild dancing and crazy costumes found at its parties are examples of individuals freely expressing themselves without the hindrances of alcohol or expectations.
“It’s not that we’re against drinking,” said Cypher. “We’re for creating a positive lifestyle and we believe we can do that without alcohol.”
This has been Dalman’s vision for Good Clean Fun from the beginning.
When he arrived in Nashville, Dalman moved in with a group of upperclassmen who began a tradition of throwing bonfires for their friends.
When the group started inviting anyone who wanted to come, Dalman took on a new role.
“I was put in a situation as host to bring people together who had never met,” he said, admitting the first gatherings were awkward and people were reluctant to let loose.
But then someone brought out the speakers and people started dancing.
“Even those who didn’t want to dance thought that was cool,” said Dalman.
Dalman’s disk jockeying skills and affinity for his self-admitted “really weird music” began to bring people together.
“I was seeing people let go of social anxiety,” he said. “Once we started dancing, nothing mattered anymore. Everyone was on a level playing field.”
Dalman decided to take this new concept to the next level when he planned a Halloween party in the fall of 2011, named it Good Clean Fun and handed out fliers around Belmont’s campus with his home address on them.
The initial reaction was positive and the momentum began.
“They came and totally let go and got wild. Then they told people about it,” said Dalman.
Though skeptics of Good Clean Fun thought it was just another organization trying to promote an agenda, Dalman was quick to dismiss this misconception.
Good Clean Fun isn’t about memberships, mailing lists or making people adhere to a set of beliefs when they walk through the door.
“We’re about community,” he said. “Everyone is invited.”
One way Good Clean Fun makes each party about community is its unique use of a photo booth.
Cypher noticed the power of photos when he first got involved with Good Clean Fun.
“I would show up with my camera and take photos and post them on the Internet,” he said.
Soon the board of directors realized that a do-it-yourself concept might relieve some anxieties people have about getting their picture taken.
“You come, you pick up the clicker and you do it yourself,” said Cypher of the photo booth set-up where party-goers can stand in front of a camera connected to a television screen with a group of friends and take unlimited photos.
Many first-timers gravitate towards the photo booth with their friends —but they won’t stay there for long.
“Inevitably some of those crazy dancers jump into your picture and pull you back in to the party,” said Cypher. “It’s very magnetic.”
These photos have become a staple of almost every Good Clean Fun party, with hundreds often appearing on Facebook the next day.
But the photos offer more than a fun party diversion.
“At the heart of what we’re doing is to promote the inherent worth of the individual,” said Cypher. “What’s a better way to do that than to freeze that moment in time and let it keep on being shared?”
Good Clean Fun has a big vision for continuing this unique kind of community that accompanies these dance parties.
“We see a real need in showing someone they are worth something,” Cypher said.
In addition to plans for creating satellite offices around the U.S. so others can experience a Good Clean Fun party, Cypher recognizes the nonprofit’s unique location within an urban environment where many inner city children are in desperate need of positive inspiration.
Cypher’s vision includes creating after school programs for Nashville students and even tapping into the high school prom market.
“We can start to take this community of people that’s coming together to have fun and have them go out and spread it,” said Cypher. “Making Good Clean Fun a lifestyle, not necessarily just a dance party.”
For Dalman, creating a positive environment where people can have the freedom to be themselves is at the core of Good Clean Fun’s mission.
“To do that we have to lay our agendas down,” said Dalman. “And just open the doors so people can step into community.”
The kind of community Good Clean Fun has in mind doesn’t exclude anybody.
“No one’s sitting by the punch bowl because they couldn’t find a date,” said Cypher. “At the end of the night you will be sweaty and tired. It’s inevitable.”
Check our more of Good Clean Fun’s videos on their vimeo page