Going Out After Your Twenties: The Beat Goes On

Sometimes it takes a lot of courage, and booze, to satisfy a serious need to shake your groove thing

“Let’s go dancing!” is something my friends and I tend to say, or shout, after a few drinks, and though our intentions are good—we all want to go dancing—the notion inevitably peters out long before the dance hour. Nobody knows where to go is one problem, and nobody’s keen to find out is another. “Let’s go dancing!” has started to sound a bit like “Let’s have lunch.” Which is too bad for me. A couple of years ago I developed a case of what I can only call “Dance Fever.” Don’t titter; it’s serious. Born of a simple desire to exercise in a way I’d grown accustomed to over many years of dance lessons, and perhaps the manifestation of a repressed desire (my mother did caution me about the “horrible life” of dancers, which she knew all about from A Chorus Line), it causes a great deal of dancing. If I’m not dancing, I’m thinking about dancing or reading about dancing or watching dancing. I’d dance my Italian greyhound down the street if I didn’t think people would talk. I don’t know why I’m so afflicted, but apparently the muse has possessed me, and there’s nothing I can do until she’s done. Fortunately Dance Fever is treatable. Thanks to regular ballet, modern, and jazz classes, plus a monthly tap intensive and home practice (which I do every morning in my living room, loudly, to Sparks and to the displeasure of my husband and dog), I no longer break into a jazz square at Gelson’s unless they’re playing Queen. But still, my condition is the reason that, when I found myself on the outskirts of yet another what-sucks-about-L.A. conversation, I looked up from my 700-page Bob Fosse biography and wailed, “There’s no place to go dancing!”

Had I thought about it longer, I’d have probably complained about the traffic or the drought or something else. What I meant was, there’s no obvious place—as in, no obvious place for me. Though I come from the generation they call “X,” my musical tastes, particularly for dancing, tend to run baby boomer. I was born too late, and maybe in the wrong country, to dance publicly to the music I like, so my living room must serve as a disco. Other than the on-again, off-again Giorgio’s at the Standard hotel in West Hollywood, where I once had a swell time until I had to give up my booth to Lady Gaga (Oh, Lady Gaga, ruining another dance night!), my last few public dancings have been confined to private parties where people I knew played music I liked. But no one was putting on a dance club for me. Which is to say, no one had opened an 800-square-foot, clean, comfortable, well-ventilated dance palace on the Eastside with a lot of ELO on the sound system. And perhaps that would just have to be. Perhaps my dance ship had sailed.

Though I grew up in dance classes, what I never did was “go dancing.” The cool kids in Sherman Oaks, and even the not-so-cool kids, went dancing on the weekends. The underage club Hot Trax loomed hotly on Van Nuys Boulevard, and I wouldn’t be there. Oh sure, I was invited plenty of times, but I couldn’t dance in front of people just any old way. I was too shy! I thought that going dancing was different from dancing, and I wouldn’t unwind that knot until much later and after many substances.

But it didn’t matter anymore because there was no place to go dancing for me or, as it turned out, anyone I know. An informal poll of about 30 or so of L.A.’s finest creative professionals—directors, photographers, star stylists, and stylists to the stars, whose median age is 33—came up with Giorgio’s. So I started looking, rather hesitantly, I’ll admit. Googling “L.A. dance clubs” is a little too bridge-and-tunnel for this Valley Girl. Everything looked like it was for tourists, anyway, and I stay away from them. There was Los Globos, which my friend described as “offputtingly young.” I’m only really put off by people under four, but even so, with my DJ-recognizing ability not at its peak, their names jumped out at me with so many z’s and x’s that I had to close my laptop. Another friend described a set of complicated instructions—complete with passwords and secret doors—to get into a place where I could dance with members of Maroon 5. So I could dance with kids, tourists, or celebrities, and I didn’t want to dance with any of them. It was only after snooping on some of my dance teachers’ Facebook pages (we have mutual friends; it’s OK) that I decided to try Full Frontal Disco, a club that takes place once a month at Silver Lake’s Akbar, which is, incidentally, supergay and superclose to my house.

I contacted every person to whom I’d ever shouted “Let’s go dancing!” and said, “We’re doing this. We’re going dancing.” If people had to be forced, then I’d force them. I told them to be at my house at 9:30 in one month’s time, and most of them were. I provided ample beer and tequila (clear liquids are good for dancing), and though the club wasn’t more than a couple of blocks away, I sent for a caravan of Ubers. It seemed fitting.

Once within the red steamy walls, the crowd folded around us like a flytrap—a dark, glittery flytrap. Within seconds I was absolutely alone, and steeping in techno. I just walked, in any direction, as fast as I could, my cheeks flushing with regret. What have I done? I thought. I’m making people dance! Force is the enemy of freedom, and one must be free to dance. The muse was leaving me, I could tell.

After being spit out, thankfully, in front of the bar, I ordered a Heineken. The mean man said he didn’t have Heineken, so I got a Corona and handed him my credit card. “Keep it open,” I shouted, but he slapped my card on the bar and moved on. The guys next to me were too deep into their nipple play to notice, so I stepped away and went down a craggy corridor into another bar, where I saw my friend Dave beckoning. “Listen,” he said, pointing upward. “Steely Dan!” It was true. “Reelin’ in the Years” was playing in the bar, but endless, bloodless techno still pumped from the dance floor, which my friends—armed with tequila, every one—were actively avoiding.

Then it was announced that a new DJ, whose name I didn’t catch, was taking over, and soon the techno-pounding turned into a more discernible pounding. If you were to ask me what song would most likely compel me to the dance floor, any dance floor, I’d probably go through the entire canon of popular music from the last 50 years before I got to “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and yet that’s the one that did it. “Relax” came on, and someone in my party grabbed my hands and said, “We’re going in.”

Sluicing the sweat off our limbs in grand, sweeping gestures, twisting our sopping-wet hair into buns, swigging beer, sipping tequila, and sweating them both out immediately, my friends and I danced for what felt like minutes but was actually hours. The only other song I recognized—oddly the song I’m least likely to dance to before “Relax”—was “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” but to his credit, DJ XZ-something was able to maintain a constant beat throughout the evening, which is all you really need to dance. Despite my complications, it’s that simple.

It only took one month, a chain of e-mails, a barrage of texts, cyberstalking, bribes, a car service, two bottles of Patrón Silver, and roughly 50 beers, but we went dancing. We went dancing, and we had what I can confidently describe as a great time. (I’ve seen people having a great time, and this is how they acted.) And we’ll do it again, or we plan to. Either way, I’ll be ready, I thought, as I gazed through the haze to where a scene from Xanadu was being projected onto a wall. This town is my dance floor. I just have to do the footwork.