ENTERTAINMENT NIGHT MOVES

Dancing the night away in Dallas.

“WE’RE GOING to dance until we drop,” I told my incredulous companion over after-dinner coffee. It was the kind of overenthusiastic idea one comes up with after having too much wine and before feeling the full weight of an Italian meal.

“What are you talking about?” She clearly didn’t share my enthusiasm.

“We’re going to go dancing, and we’re going to dance until we drop.”

She insisted that no such feat was possible. Dallas, she said, simply wasn’t a dancing town.

“And what makes you so sure of that?”

“Well,” she said, “there are a few places, but we’ve been to all of them.”

“All of them?” I asked. The game was getting good.

“Well, no. Of course not all of them.”

“So, what say we try? Let’s be capricious. Let’s hit as many dance clubs as we can before dawn.”

“That’s not capricious,” she said. “That’s crazy.” And then she added, “You’re on.”

And suddenly our quiet evening alone had turned into a dance marathon. Hey. wait a minute, I was kidding. Joking. But between my pride and her mischievous glance, the decision had been made. There was no turning back.

Of course, I was genuinely curious. My own evenings out-and-about are more frequently spent at private gatherings, movies, bars. Not dancing. It’s not that I don’t like to dance. It’s just that I never know where to go. I decided it was time to find out.

So we set out to trip the light fantastic, to punish the parquet, to dance until we dropped. It became our goal to determine whether or not Dallas can really dance. We weren’t just in this for fun. We had a mission.

Next we needed a plan. Would we divide the city into sections and proceed methodically? Invent categories and sub-categories? Alphabetize? No, this was an evening of impulse. We took our cues from what we’d heard about, what we’d seen and what looked good as we sped down the road. We put aside our personal biases regarding types of music and sections of town. We wanted to see it all. We wanted color, we wanted variety and most of all we wanted music that would carry us into the wee hours.

So here it is -the ins and outs, the ups and downs of dancing in Dallas. Did we drop? Just about. Can Dallas dance? My podiatrist assures me the bandages can come off in a week.



COUNTRY/WESTERN



Dare we begin a listing of Dallas’ best dance bars in Fort Worth? We seem to have no choice because Cowtown, aside from harboring such diverse establishments as the stockyards and the Kimbell Art Museum, is also home of the biggest, baddest country/western bar in the world: Billy Bob’s Texas (2520 N. Commerce, Fort Worth; 817-625-6491). We’re talking big. If you and your podner need room to dance, will 13,000 square feet suffice? Billy Bob’s offers indoor rodeo action, some of the country’s hottest c/w stars and, in case you get thirsty, 42 bar stations.

Less flashy than Billy Bob’s and somewhat smaller, Dallas’ own Longhorn Ballroom (216 Corinth at Industrial, 428-3128) is still the definitive country/western dance hall in -shucks -the whole dang West. Steeped in tradition and frequented by a predominently older crowd, the Longhorn epitomizes the real Texas. But the young and uninitiated are more than welcome, too. BYOB; setups are provided. Look for that great big Longhorn in the sky.

Nine Acres (811 McDowell in Colley-ville, metro 498-1465), which gets its name from the nine acres of ranch land on which it sits, preserves the family atmosphere of Longhorn Ballroom and avoids the pickup crowd (and we don’t mean the Chevy version) with a couples-only admittance rule. The dance floor is very large; the mood, informal and comfortable. Nine Acres is a great place for groups and good country fun.

Of course, there’s something to be said for pickup bars, and several newer c/w hangouts deserve just such mention. Sitting near the intersection of Greenville and Lovers Lane, the cattle crossing of the meat market, Diamond Jim’s (5601 Greenville, 691-2411) can’t help but attract urban cowboys. Diamond Jim’s caters to a younger crowd, though not exclusively. The dance floor is small and crowded, which makes for a get-to-know-your-neighbor evening. And that’s exactly what those neon cowboys have in mind.

Less cruisy than Diamond Jim’s, but still in the upper Greenville league, Belle Starr (7724 N. Central Expwy., 750-4787) attracts a wide age range and an interesting mixture of full-time and part-time cowfolk. The dance floor is large, the several well-manned bars are easy to get to and when the band takes a break, a deejay plays pop-country music that corresponds with the celebrity’s performance of the song on Belle Starr’s large-screen video.

Doc Holiday’s (3120 W. Northwest Hwy., 350-4927) is a sort of c/w Disney World complete with a large dance floor, a gunfight show and stagecoach rides around Bachman Lake. It’s definitely of the new school of Western dance action, but, all in all, a lot of fun.

The Western Place (6651 Skillman, 341-7100) is somewhat deceivingly tucked into a shopping center at the hectic corner of Skillman and Abrams, but the c/w atmosphere is for real. There’s a fair-sized dance floor, a good live band and the earmark of a true-blue honky-tonk: pool tables in the corner.

No Whar But Texas (9840 N. Central Expwy., 369-3866) is North Dallas’ answer to c/w dancing. This certainly isn’t a pickup joint, nor is it down-home Texas. No Whar But Texas satisfies those every-fourth-weekend would-be kickers who have some extra bucks and prefer something clean -very clean. This place is for classy cowboys and cowgirls, if that’s not a contradiction in terms.



DISCO



Disco in Dallas seems to be alive and well, but something of a different animal than in the days of Travolta fever. The boundaries between disco, rock ’n’ roll and the nebulous beast known as New Wave are not clear. Hence, Dallas discos have taken on shades of other genres. The following bars all share a commitment to a backbeat that cannot be misplaced so that even the most bumbling left-footer can appear nimble -if only by jerking back and forth.

Refusing to go the way of pet rocks and leisure suits, élan (5111 Greenville, 692-9855), Dallas’ paragon of Seventies chic, will not let the decade die. Replete with chrome, tapestries and -yes -ferns, this superswingles nightclub remains popular, packed and not a bad place to dance. The elaborately lit but small dance floor is fine but hard to get to considering that one has to dodge not only sevral speeding waitresses but often the strange passes of passing strangers.

Not far down the road lies Café Dallas (5500 Greenville, 987-0066), the last word in singles dance bars. Although this place does have a decent dance floor, lots of multicolor lights and all your favorite radio songs, those are hardly its main attractions. The most amazing thing about Cafe Dallas is its proximity to the fast lanes of the Old Town Tom Thumb, the only grocery store we know with a reputation for being a great place to meet people. Now who’s influencing whom?

Papagayo (8796 N. Central Expwy., 692-5412) is home to the serious disco regulars and is one of the grandest disco caverns in the city. If you tire of dancing on the very large, incredibly lit, multilevel floor, retire to one of the several bars that encircle Papagayo and make a few friends. Or a few hundred friends. The clientele-let’s call them a crowd -is highly mixed, with a large percentage of youths and no small number of bizarrely attired attention-seekers. And since some of us are just getting warmed up by 2 a.m., Papagayo stays open until 4 on Fridays and Saturdays.

For truly elevated though staid dance moves, try the sky at Top of the Dome, (Reunion Tower, 300 Reunion, 651-1234). The dance floor is small, but the view is terrific. The Top of the Dome attracts mostly older couples and Dallas newcomers who not only want to see Dallas, but who also want to “do Dallas.” This bar revolves, so even the non-dancers can feel like they’ve been doing some spinning of their own.



ROCK ’N’ ROLL



Despite its volume, rock ’n’ roll is something you don’t hear much about these days. Rock ’n’ roll doesn’t really change. Therein lies its greatest virtue: It’s solid as a rock. Dallas abounds in good rock ’n’ roll and has no shortage of die-hard zealots, whose haunts are intentionally less colorful than some of the other dance bars.

Rock ’n’ roll clubs come in several shapes and sizes, and the Agora Ballroom (6532 E. Northwest Hwy., 696-3724) stands as a sort of kingdom. As the long lines out the door will confirm, going to the Agora is often going to a full-fledged concert. Agora features nationally prominent bands, often the big up-and-comers, as well as many local favorites. Consequently, ticket prices and cover charges vary, as does the size and character of the crowd, depending on the particular group or musician. The rather winding facility provides plenty of seats, a large bar in the back and a very large stage often equipped with extravagant lighting. This is a concert hall with at least two striking differences: No one needs binoculars to see, and for those inspired to dance, a sizable floor lies right below the stage.

We danced our socks off at The Sock Hop (2946 W. Northwest Hwy., 352-6856), a small and informal nightclub that features live bands performing Fifties rock ’n’ roll. The clientele is mixed and unpretentious, and from the nostalgic smiles, we could tell that some of these rockers had been rockin’ back when it all began. The club is small, as is the dance floor, but there’s enough energy at The Sock Hop to fuel your ’59 T-bird.

For harder rock and rockers, there’s The Ritz (2711 Storey Lane, off Northwest Highway, 351-4663), a converted movie palace that attracts a very young, very rowdy crowd. The bands are usually regional; the cover charge, steep; and the parking lot, full. A smaller, less expensive place is Cardi’s (500 Medallion Center, 691-3037), featuring live bands and an adequate dance floor. For recorded rock ’n’ roll, try Roxz (2829 W. Northwest Hwy., 351-1262) or Austin Roks (2700 W. Northwest Hwy., 358-0014), which also spins something called country-rock.



BALLROOM DANCING



Not to be outdone by the dancing masses, certain well-bred Dallasites are discovering-and rediscovering -the more sublime joy of ballroom dance. But sublimity can also be fun, as the surprisingly young converts to waltzes and tangos will attest. Every few weekends (you’ll have to call and investigate), Union Station (400 Houston St., 741-1561) opens the doors of its Grand Hall from 8 p.m. until 1 a.m. for classical dancing to live big bands. This huge, renovated lobby of the old railroad station is an opulent setting for a welcome trip down memory lane. Admission fee is never more than $6; the dress code is casual.

Also try the Four Seasons Ballroom (4930 Military Pkwy., 349-0390) on Wednesdays and Fridays, the only nights that it’s open. BYOB; setups are provided. Gentlemen must wear coats and ties; ladies must wear dresses.



ECLECTIC



The remainder of our favorite dance discoveries defy category. Some lean toward disco, some toward jazz, some toward New Wave. All of them offer musical variety. Not surprisingly, it was these chameleon clubs that showed us the best time.

If traffic on upper Greenville seems particularly heavy these days, it can be attributed to the almost ridiculous success of Confetti (5201 Matilda, 369-6969), the party spot of the Village set and those future Villagers: SMU students. We like to think the attraction is the music and not the all-too-busy decor. Deejays crank out everything from vintage Fifties to European New Wave on one of the finest sound systems in town. You’ll hear a good bit of what’s popular on the radio, as well as what used to be popular. There’s a small dance floor upstairs, and a large downstairs floor, parts of which are raised above the crowd and lit from underneath. For the same sort of musical variety, try Trax (2829 W. Northwest Hwy., 350-5509). The Trax crowd is less fancy than the kids at Confetti and a little more spunky. Both Trax and Confetti are open until 4 during weekends.

Worlds apart from both of these clubs is The Village Station (4001 Cedar Springs, 528-6161), which may be the hottest dance bar in Dallas, playing hard-edged disco and New Wave. The myriad of lights is fantastic and the crowd is indescribable, but this place is not for the intolerant or the faint at heart-the Station is predominantly gay.

In the way of live dance music, Dallas has a real treasure in the form of Nick’s Uptown (3606 Greenville, 827-4802). This attractive showroom on lower Greenville spotlights both popular regional and national groups. Sometimes jazz, sometimes progressive country, frequently rock ’n’ roll, the music at Nick’s is quality stuff, often perfect for high-energy dancing on the small dance floor near the stage. Similarly, Popsicle Toes (5627 Dyer, 368-9706) is a very comfortable neighborhood club that highlights a handful of jazz-funk artists. It’s a bit more of a dive than slick Nick’s, but the careless atmosphere is perfect for the let-loose time you’ll have on the dance floor.

Moving into the realm of New Wave, Ground Zero (6844 Twin Hills, 363-0167) exists to make the transition more gentle. This self-proclaimed “nuclear bar” seems more neutral than nuclear, but the rockin’ and reelin’ music combined with the fairly large floor make it a good place to shake it up. The crowd is oddly well-scrubbed, and the lights are interesting, although they’re not really exotic. The music sometimes echoes the Fifties, the apparel anticipates the post-fallout Eighties, and-to add an extra dimension to this time warp – Ground Zero keeps a go-go dancer in a cage.

There’s nothing gentle about the Hot Klub (4350 Maple, 526-9432), Dallas’ only authentic New Wave music showcase and haven for “slam dancers.” Don’t be discouraged by the grimy exterior (or for that matter, the grimy interior) of the Hot Klub because this seedy looking cave is actually pretty safe. The Hot Klub attracts new musicians from around the country as well as a very loyal local following of authentic punkers -people who have never even heard of elan or Confetti’s.. .and really couldn’t care less.

No discussion of Dallas dancing wouldbe complete without a mention of 8.0 Bar(The Quadrangle, 2800 Routh; 741-0817).This has to be the last place you’d think offor dancing and invariably is one of themost popular. 8.0 has no band, no deejayand practically no dance floor. What 8.0does have is a fabulous jukebox packedwith three generations’ worth of memorable hits and forgettable favorites. It’s theremembering that gets everyone on theirfeet.

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