At 6:40 PM on Thursday, Biljana Milenkovic walked out of her Ordway Gardens apartment building armed with a laptop and a bullhorn. At 6:45 on the dot, she hit play and blasted Gloria Gaynor‘s “I Will Survive” into the street. A sing-along dance party ensued.
WATCH: Cleveland Park residents had a social-distanced dance party last night.
Come for the Gloria Gaynor, stay for the first spark of joy you’ve felt in days. pic.twitter.com/dBpz0Dfkde
— Washingtonian (@washingtonian) March 20, 2020
This was the second iteration of Milenkovic’s “social distancing sing-along happy hours.” Five people showed up on Wednesday night to sing “Seasons of Love”; on Thursday there were roughly 25 (not counting the many dogs). All participants made sure to keep a responsible six-foot distance between one another as they grooved to the beat.
A mother and her young son were two who had shown up the previous night. “I think I might have embarrassed him with my dancing,” the mother said. PR strategist Tammy Gordon was there with her chihuahua, working on a bottle of red wine after a long day of emailing panicked clients. After the first chorus, a man strutted out of his building in a flowy blue dress, striking a twirling grand entrance to hollers and cheers.
Milenkovic fist-pumped her way through the song. An employee of DC Public Libraries, she was inspired to start the nightly parties after seeing how people were coping with social distancing in Italy. She plans to continue the get-togethers until the social distancing is over; Friday’s scheduled song is “What a Wonderful World.”
It’s been a great way to get to know the neighborhood, Milenkovic said. Though she knew some of the people who showed up on Thursday, she said she’s never seen most of the participants before.
I mentioned that I live a few blocks down, and her face lit up.
“Oh my gosh, you live here!” she exclaimed. “Everyone, this is our neighbor!” she yelled as we bumped our elbows together in salutation.
I asked her how she’d been coping with the isolation, especially since the libraries closed. Her face fell and she became quiet for a moment. “Coming from Serbia, a country that was tarnished by war, poverty, inadequate medical supplies and services, this is on a personal and mental level nothing new in a way,” she said. “DC Public Library’s mission is to be open to the whole community, and it’s hard not to be face to face with our patrons.”
But being able to bring her neighborhood together makes it bearable. “[These parties] are an act of resistance,” she said. “To stand up to something that is terrifying. It’s an act of togetherness, and compassion, and kindness, and community.”