March 31, 2011 at 4:03 pm EDT | by Juliette Ebner
Gaining ‘Momentum’

DJ Alyson Calagna says she likes to start her sets slow and work to a boil. (Photo courtesy of the Cherry Fund)

Cherry Fund’s annual charity circuit party may have officially kicked off Thursday, but the party has barely started with more events all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The big party tonight is Momentum hosted by Miss Foozie at Apex (1415 22nd St., N.W.) with lesbian DJ Alyson Calagna and DJ Steve Henderson.

With a line-up of mostly male DJs, Calagna, who has been spinning for 19 years, kind of sticks out of the crowd, and she likes it that way.

“It feels pretty good … now things have changed and it’s a lot easier to be a girl DJ,” Calagna says. “I have a much more masculine essence so its good to be among the boys.”

She doesn’t stay at one club and spin, but tours and goes somewhere new every weekend, with fans sometimes traveling to hear her at the bigger parties.

Circuit parties don’t seem to be as big as they once were, and Calagna thinks it’s just the way the club culture goes every five or six years with peaks and drops.

“Right now, I think we’re in a bit of a reorganizing phase, weeding out what’s not working, changing things,” she says. “There are some circuit parties that do really, really well.”

Music has always been a part of Calagna’s life.

When she was young, she wanted to be a radio DJ, until she started clubbing.

She became a resident dancer at a teen club, getting close to the different DJs there. One night, she went up to the DJ and just asked if he’d teach her.

“The first time I went to his studio where he practiced, that was it … I knew the moment I touched a turntable, that was what I wanted to do,” Calagna says, adding she almost gave up dancing right there.

This isn’t Calagna’s first turn at Cherry.

“I play a lot of circuit parties … Cherry is one of the ones that really still stands for something,” Calagna says. “I really like what they’re doing.”

Her style is house-based, but Calagna doesn’t stay in a single genre or follow a set list when she spins, rather going with the vibe of the crowd, comparing what she does to a chef visiting another country and changing regional recipes to fit his style of cooking.

Don’t expect the music to be fast and rocking right away tonight. That’s one of her biggest DJ pet peeves, time-appropriate music.

“I start deeper and more soulful and melodic in the beginning because I don’t like to bang out clubs until there’s a lot of people in there,” Calagna says. “I like the music to start slow and kind of build.”

Calagna does get paid for her appearance at Cherry, but she gives the organizers a big break and she donates a large portion of the money she receives to the Cherry Fund, which benefits AIDS charities.

Calagna is probably looking forward to seeing the other DJs on Saturday night at the main event the most.

“I’ve always really enjoyed playing in D.C.” she says. “I love the city … I’m looking forward to having the next night off.”

DJs Oscar G, BennyK and Town’s own Wess will be spinning at Town (2009 8th St., N.W.) from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. with performances by Macaviti and the Ladies of Town.

Friday also has two other events, a fashion show at Caramel Boutique (1603 U St., N.W.) with local designer Andrew Nowell from 2 to 8 p.m. and a bachelor auction at Town with DJ Bandit and D.C. Bear Crue from 7 to 9 p.m.

After the main event on Saturday is an after-hours party at Fur (33 Patterson St., N.E.) with DJ Peter Rauhofer from 4 to 9:30 a.m.

Sunday continues with a Tea Dance at Cobalt (1639 R St., N.W.) from noon to 4 p.m. with DJ Mike Reimer and Ovation with DJs Stephan Grondin and Sin Morera from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Ultrabar (911 F St., N.W.).

For more information and to purchase tickets to events, visit

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