The evening did not start out promising as the Shalitas took the stage in the basement bar. No disrespect to the band, but the music could hardly be called soul. Described as "the Shangri-Las meet The Ramones," I’d put the emphasis strongly on the Ramones.
The Shalitas did do a rocking version of "Twistin" as their closer. Awesome number, great energy from the singers. This however was slightly ruined for us by a couple pushing Westiegirl aside to stand right in front of us to do some arhythmic stomping around that could only loosely be called dancing. I mean, the song is called "Twistin" — which sorta means that you are meant to Twist to it. Please, please, bend over and shake a tailfeather. Oh, the humanity.
The evening improved however with the arrival of the DJs on the main floor…
The main space of Fontana is quite nice, with an ample dancefloor, a couple of bars, comfy chairs and couches for lounging on the sides, and loft ceilings.
When Westiegirl and I got to the dance floor, a half-dozen or so middle-aged folks were already boogieing away. Several of the ladies were in 60s era dresses and the men in suits, which was a great look. Westiegirl, Noelle and I did some lindy/west coast/whatever partner dancing, which got a lot of attention. The DJ was spinning some sweet Northern Soul, instrumental covers of soul classics and lots of other gems that made you want to dance.
One English lady living in New Jersey asked us if we were ballroom dancers. She was a Subway Soul regular and gave us the scoop on the monthly party, as well as another monthly dance called "Dig Deeper" at the Five Spot in my hood Fort Greene. I’ll have to check that out ASAP.
I danced with the English woman later who was trying to teach me her version of the soul basic — sort of a kick twist-y motion that fit the music really nicely. She rebuffed my attempts to lead her — "I don’t social dance, sweetheart!" — which was just fine.
As the evening advanced, the crowd started to pack the dancefloor. Seemed like a pretty eclectic, friendly, twenty-something crowd. It’s an exaggeration to say that the only Black folk were the bouncers, but only a slight one. My worst fears that the place would be packed with too-cool-for-school hipsters standing around clutching expensive beers were not bourne out. The vibe was chill and attitude free.
One person from my little posse remarked how she envied the "non-dancers" ability to just let loose on the dance floor. She said that despite the fact that she was trained in West Coast, Salsa and Tango, she found dancing to other styles of music very intimidating. Which is true for me, even in the genres of dance I have trained in. When a breakbeat comes on, I see lots of other people grooving away, but I often get held back because I have b-boy and popping training.
Anyway, we loosened up as the evening wore on, doing our own freestyle soul basic with the rest of the crowd, till it got way too crazy crowded sometime after midnight.
Did I mention that the DJ portion of the event was free? It’s so great to find a fairly accessible Manhattan venue with great music to dance to, a crowd that comes to dance, at a reasonable price. I’ll definitely be back, with more lindy hoppers in tow.