Breaking through: Midnight Rave finds its groove


In the empty cafeteria, they stretch for a while, warming up for the next hour and a half of after-school practice. Pretty soon, as the music fills the air, they dive right in. Some days, they work on a new move. Other days, they demonstrate one move and teach it to others. Together, they are Midnight Rave, and their purpose is simple: they break dance.

For years, Midnight Rave has been a group of Central students devoted to kinetic “glowstringing” and break dancing performances, ones that not only momentarily energize their audience but also become memorable highlights of large school shows. In 2009, however, many of the original members of Midnight Rave graduated from high school, leaving behind what many students would call a Central legacy.

Joseph Peng, 2009 graduate of Hinsdale Central and current junior at University of Illinois, was involved in Midnight Rave since his sophomore year in high school. One day, as he was passing by the cafeteria after school, he caught sight of some Midnight Ravers mid-practice. Although he was not yet familiar with break dancing or glowstringing, his martial arts experience initially allowed him to perform with Midnight Rave in future performances.

However, even until 2009, Midnight Rave had not garnered much attention. “Back then, Midnight Rave really wasn’t that well-known or popular, even though we did a lot of performances,” Peng said. “This was mainly because of how many students that actually went to see those events in my opinion. I think the student body merely viewed it as a group of kids doing cool tricks. But in reality, it is a lot more than that. It is a group that allows one to express oneself through the form of dance.”

While Peng was a Midnight Raver, the group participated in Variety Shows, Ethnic Fairs, Students vs. Staff Basketball games, and pep rallies. “People who went absolutely loved us,” Peng said. “A lot of students back in the day came up to us and gave us mad props and went as far as to say that we were the Variety Show.”

When Peng graduated along with the majority of his fellow Midnight Ravers, the tradition had to be passed onto other Central students in order to avoid dying out. One of those students was Benjamin Kim, junior. “I didn’t break that much before high school. I just watched my brother and thought he was the coolest guy ever,” Kim said. Simply watching his brother largely inspired Kim to “re-start” the break dancing group in his freshman year following his brother’s graduation.

Joe Ryu, junior, was also inspired by watching Midnight Rave performances, so he joined Kim in this endeavor. “The summer of eighth grade, we knew that that generation of Midnight Rave was all graduating, so Ben and I wanted to bring that back, knowing that Ben’s brother would be okay with it,” Ryu said. “Ben and I practiced a lot in the summer. Then freshman year, we tried recreating the club again, so then we tried gathering as many people as were interested.” Eventually, hours of choreography in the school cafeteria resulted in their first performance at the Variety Show that same year.

But the many unfamiliar faces in the club made some students skeptical about the potential of the “reborn” Midnight Rave. “People thought we were going to be crappy because it just seemed like we were just some random kids taking the name of Midnight Rave, so people didn’t expect much, but then they liked us a lot,” Kim said.

With the apparent success of the Variety Show, Midnight Rave continued to have a presence at Central, although it was not formally recognized as a school club. That changed, however, toward the end of Kim’s freshman year, when one student sustained an injury doing a handstand. As a result, the break dance group was required to have teacher sponsorship. Now two teacher sponsors, Dr. Jennifer Lawrence and Mrs. Kristine Pohlman, supervise club practices, and Midnight Rave is recognized as a school activity.

“With the sponsors in the club, we’re more recognized in the school. We can start fundraisers more easily, and we can help attract more attention to our club, attract more people to come,” Ryu said.

And that is exactly the trend that they have witnessed as a club. According to Lawrence, the significant rise in membership has been a result of this being Midnight Rave’s second year as a club. “At the beginning of the year, we did ten minutes of dancing in the cafeteria, and that, I think, made people aware that we’re a group that welcomes you,” Lawrence said. “It’s neat to see kids who may not have ever met before, but they have this passion for dancing in common and that new friendships have been developed.”

Besides experiencing such growth, Midnight Rave has also been able to participate in projects such as the recent event BBoys Planting Peace, in which the club raised $600 for the organization Planting Peace. In addition, last spring, kids from all over the Chicagoland area came, and this event helped raise money for the PTO organization Families Helping Families.

While break dancing has become a part of Midnight Ravers’ lives at Central, members’ motivational drive and dedication does not halt at their high school graduation. Alex Sun, a class of 2008 graduate, was a member of the first generation of Midnight Rave. When he went to University of Illinois, he started a club called Illini Glowsticking Club (IGC). Peng, secretary and treasurer of the club, said, “We formed IGC simply because we want to continue to share our passion for the art of glowstringing. In addition, we want to keep learning and doing it. How can we let go of something so fun?”

According to Peng, a break dancing crew called Floor Lovers Illinois (FLI) started ten years ago, before anyone attended the university. Peng feels “very blessed” to join this crew, for which he is the treasurer, “with amazing history.” While IGC has about seven active members, FLI has about 25 members.

Both clubs at U of I have proven to be rather popular on campus. “Various organizations invite both organizations to perform at their shows or fundraising event,” said Peng. “Because we are rather well known on campus, we did so much performance that it kind of got a little bit annoying to be honest. Eventually, we just had to turn down quite a few performance requests because we simply can’t afford to do so many performances because it is at the expense of our studying time.” Indeed, in the large university setting, these clubs receive more publicity and more opportunities to perform. Peng said, “It is definitely a lot more popular than in high school when I was part of it. Both clubs are a lot more serious and definitely have a lot of different people to share their knowledge.”

During his breaks, Peng stops by Central, and he is proud to see that members Kim and Ryu are “keeping it real in the Hinsdale Scene” and have progressed a great deal since they first began in 2009. “When I graduated, I honestly thought that it’s going to be over. However, I was proven wrong and Midnight Rave is still going very strong. I believe that it will be a group of long lasting history and provide a great source of confidence for those that are part of the group.”

In the end, while the club works on routines to present in front of audiences, the root of Midnight Rave — break dancing — is not merely used for show. For club members, break dancing has personal importance, too. “I just like how when I’m dancing, I don’t have any stress at all,” Kim said. “When I’m break dancing, I don’t think about school. It’s just my own time. It just helps me relieve my stress because whenever I’m dancing, it just lets me be myself.”

Meanwhile, Ryu admires the potential for growth that all Midnight Ravers have.  “I’m just really excited about all the stuff we’ll be able to know by senior year. And that’s our goal – to see how much we could get done before we all graduate.”

But for Midnight Ravers the future seems to invite a sort of pleasant continuity. For example, while Peng and two other fellow Midnight Ravers attended different universities, they continued to keep in touch and have even come together to create the Suburbanknightz Crew with some breakdancers from Naperville Central.

While Midnight Rave continues to energize crowds at Central, it seems it will leave its mark far beyond the high school cafeteria. “The fire is strong within every single one of us,” Peng said. “As long as any one of us still love to dance to the beats of music, it will not die!”