Lauterborn Blog Search

Monday, May 31, 2010

Dancin' in the Street

Dancin’ in the Street:
Broadway’s Dance Parade Spectacular
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Stamford, CT – It was a recent Saturday and I was bound from Fairfield to New York’s Grand Central on a 10am Express train. The rocking motion sloshed the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich in the pit of my stomach that I had gobbled down in the wee hours of the a.m. I hoped it would sustain me for a while given that I would be padding about quite a bit in a short while taking in all the sights and sounds of Dance Parade, a parade down Broadway featuring over 6,600 dancers of all different styles and backgrounds.

In the quad of seats with me were three Turkish ladies – Esra, Zeynep and Ece. Two of the three, Esra and Ece, sisters, were dressed in light linen pants and tops with colorful headscarves. Esra’s scarf had a colorful floral print with sky blue and orange hues; Ece’s was more subdued but with a world map on it.

Noticing the common first letter “E” in the sisters’ names, I asked if they had other siblings with names that also began with the same letter, but, alas, no. Their scarves signaled their Muslim affiliation. Zeynep was also Muslim, but did not wear the traditional garb, just simple cotton pants and a v-neck sleeveless tee.

They were happy and chatty and looking forward to shopping and eating Turkish food. I told them about my destination, and that it would initiate at 21st Street and conclude at 8th. They were intrigued and thought they might include the event in their plans.

In the group of seats to my left on this very crowded a.m. train was another chatty bunch – “The Magnificent Seven”. These young ladies – Peggy, Marilyn, Mary Anne, Jackie and Carolyn – had been friends for 42 years, growing up and raising their families together in Rocky Hill, CT. Today, they were headed for the Highline on Manhattan’s West Side. Running from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to 34th Street, this elevated railway has been morphed into a park with natural flora.

The ladies were busy programming each other’s phone numbers into their cells, in case of separation. After the park visit, they planned lunch at the Park Restaurant at 10th and 18th Street and to take in an opera, “H.M.S. Pinafore.”

Coming as news to the group, Peggy announced that she’d never been to an opera. “There’s a first time for everything,” I noted, mentioning that my own father had recently learned to surf in Hawaii. “I’ve been to Hawaii seven times,” said Carolyn at the mention of our 50th state. “Next year will be my eighth.”

The train pulled into Grand Central, doors slid open and passengers tumbled out. I joined the stream and inched along, streaked through the main terminal and found my way to the Shuttle. The Metrocard machine wasn’t giving change and there was no attendant to help, so a few of us in the same dilemma breached the turnstile to access the train. It was packed to the gills like classic sardines in a can, but there was one seat open and I slid in.

Seated to my right were two young ladies all dolled up. To my immediate right, Chelsea Newman, 19, a brunette in a peach top and jeans, had the most perfect French manicured toenails and fingernails and I remarked on that. There was purpose to their perfection: she and her statuesque friend Kaitlin Gould, 20, dressed all in black, were promotional models and headed to an art gallery to serve as hostesses. We were headed in the same direction so teamed up on the 1 Train downtown to our respective stops.

I hopped at 23rd and, in moments, after taking a snapshot of an Indian woman’s feet (long story) who helped me with directions, I was in the company of new friends Veronica Vixen and Aaron Garoovy. They were my rendezvous contacts for the Dance Parade and waiting for me at Benvenuto CafĂ© on 23rd and Broadway. With them were fellow dancers Amy Irish and Deanne Wood. We staged some collective photos in front of the salad bar then hit the streets.

En route, we encountered the flamboyant Jenna AKA “Motorboat” and “Rocket Girl”. They were from the Big Apple and part of a group called the Electric Bubble Bus. “We’re freestylin’ it!” they said. “Dangerous moves!”

In a pocket between Broadway and 5th, we found a main herd of dancers and hoopers and stiltwalkers all warming up. Among them were the New York City Flaggers, with colorful silks; red, white and blue clad Cheer New York; Broadway Bodies (all levels dance studio); the just-christened pink flamingos led by pink-haired Yuko; Zouk Nation (Brazilian); the Cape Ann Center for Dance from Gloucester, MA – nine girls ages 13-17 in sparkly silver mini dresses; Samba New York; Samba Freak Dance and Fitness with two locations in Manhattan; Eidolon Ballet; Brooklyn’s Neville Dance Theatre contemporary ballet with a focus on ethnic and folk dance; Amy Marshall Dance Company (dressed in old-style bathing costumes); Martha Graham School of NYC (the oldest contemporary dance studio in America); and the Manhattan Tribal Belly Dancers.

There were so many colors, faces, sounds, styles, persuasions and influences here – a veritable explosion of culture and nationalities… internationalities more aptly, as dozens of countries were represented – China, Hawaii, Peru, India, Korea, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Africa, etc. Of course, one would be remiss without mentioning all the blends of peoples lining Broadway soaking everything in.

“Only in New York,” a Trinidadian fellow with a Caribbean lilt remarked. Too true.

Among all the organized dancers, there were others marching to their own tune, like a duet in NASA-like silver Mylar with a placard “Just Solar Powered”, jamming on a rock guitar and promoting the alien-like website “”. Or the guy in the superhero costume with “United We Dance” written in marker on his belly. Or the duo staging an obvious protest against city government with signs like “Worst Mayor Ever.” Or the three ladies with green frizzy wigs, green-toned outfits and tambourines calling themselves the “Art Car Wash.” Or the real-life Tinkerbell with mesh wings on her back and a green tutu. Or even the senior citizen stiltwalker holding a tiny green seahorse and calling out, “My horse is too small!” In reply to this cry, a response from a member of the crowd, “Baby, where ya’ been all my life?!”

A group of swing dancers in 40s style get-ups swung each other about. On their heels, the Samba group, then some freestylers with feather dusters and rocks in striped socks, making for a bizarre cacophony of imagery and sound.

Argentine Tango dancers in slick nightlife outfits did an elegant number in front of Andy’s Deli at the corner of 18th. They were chased by Latin dancers from Stepping Out Studios.

Of course, there were my hoops pals, with Veronica mid-pack hoopin’ her heart out. Did she know there was a 3-wheel bike behind her pulling a cart upon which was erected a stripper pole? And that adhered to the pole was a scantily-clad young lady doing some very impressive acrobatics? About the sight, a disapproving grumble from an elder woman in the crowd, who felt the need to declare, “That’s so not appropriate. There are young children in the crowd, and that woman’s half naked.” Hmm, I don’t remember this being billed as a family event… and if there are Samba dancers anywhere in the pack, you’ve got to expect some skin.

The crew calling themselves “Stage Stars” seemed pretty resourceful. A hand-scrawled sign on the side of the U-Haul pickup they were being led by said, “Our car broke down and this is all we could get.”

It wouldn’t be a real parade without drums, tubas, flutes and horns and a school group from Brooklyn filled in that gap – pursued by two toned black men in drag shaking their hot cross buns.

A very wild group of mismatched revelers billed as House Coalition wiggled through with Mardi Gras beads, dogs, a priest, naughty school girls and other “freelancers”.

Kat and Gabby, both 21, from Long Island, were catching the final leg of the parade. They had trained it into NY to support Pacha, a nightclub on the West Side, by the U.S.S. Intrepid. They claimed to be patrons – “not much, but we go there” – and called out to friends. At the same time, they cast a few critical barbs: “Put some clothes on, girl!”

Did I have to remind them that dance is about interpretation and, often, skin? There’d been a lot of beautiful skin to behold here. So, you think you can dance? If so, I’ll look for you next year!

Take That and Wind It Back

Take That and Wind It Back:
Stamford’s Battle of the Bands
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Stamford, CT --- Tigin’s Irish Pub, Stamford, a recent Friday night. A modest crowd warms up to the night with pints of Arrogant Bastard and Guinness, and clear cocktails with slivers of lime bobbing in them. Drum-accented tunes spill from an overhead speaker. Tattered copies of a regional weekly, “The Irish Emigrant”, lay carelessly on speckled bar counters. It was the calm before the storm – a brewing Battle of the Bands wherein a dozen musical acts would be competing at bars around the city for a coveted spot on the popular Alive @ Five summer concert roster.

The carrot-mopped bartender busily moves from tap to tap, like a drone gathering pollen from flower stalks. Chatter and laughter fill the air. Posters and flyers advertising world cup soccer, an international passion, adorn walls. Amongst these, a wooden placard: “Smoke Walnut Plug, made in Cork.” The suggestion makes me think of my dear departed grandmother Julia Marie O’Brien and I give a nod and raise a toast in her honor.

I’m joined by new friends Aaron and Veronica, who slip in beside me at my high perch. Recognizing V’s petite build in contrast to the ridiculously high counters that dwarf her, I place a stack of weeklies on a stool to give her a boost. She hops up and we decide the paper has never enjoyed a better audience!

They notice I’m scribbling my notes with a cheap hotel pen, about which I inform them: “The cheaper the pen, the rounder the point, and the happier I am.”

Eyeing a curious roulette wheel, which I dub the “Wheel of Forture” (Torture and Fortune merged), on the far side of the room, I give it a spin. Eons pass before it stops rotating and comes to rest on “$50 tab.” In the ideal world, I’ve won this offer, but am not sure how to collect.

Not surprisingly, V caught the immediate attention of the bartender and ordered a urine-colored concoction called Palm. It reflected its hue, smelling of wet carpet and tasting of lemon rinds. We cast it aside and checked on the show timing of the featured band, Tuna Fist, not to be confused with the deli sandwich of a similar name. Unfortunately, they weren’t going to be on until 10, which wasn’t aligning with our current scheduling.

So off we went on walkabout, power walking to Hula Hanks, which Aaron had dubbed “Hula Skanks”, certainly a home of short skirts, generous cleavage and 80s beats.

Tiffany Escobar was holding court at the bar and sipping a drink called a Fishbowl. She was unsure of its ingredients but we could say with confidence that it was in a fishbowl-shaped glass, blue (like antifreeze), full of ice and had three wedges of fruit affixed to its rim: an orange, a lemon and a lime. The latter reminded me of the images you’d see displayed in the window of a one-armed bandit in a casino. I remarked that it would have been better (and maybe there would have been a payout) if there were three oranges or three lemons instead! “A triple threat!” said Tiff, a doe-eyed beauty of Portuguese/Columbian stock in a low-dipping mini dress.

Tiff was joined by her diminutive friend Noor. “Say goldfish!” I said, with reference to the fishbowl drink, as I snapped a picture of them.

Kelly and Laura (or Leslie or Stephanie – she was reluctant to reveal her true identity) were perched at a nearby table taking in the scene and not down with the featured band, The Rhodes. They preferred the usual pop house music. In contrast, Aaron, Veronica and I felt inclined to jump right onto the small dance floor in front of the band and dance like the free spirits we are. We shimmied and wiggled with abandon, enjoying the jamming tunes. This was our first band encounter and so far they had our vote.

It was Heading Out time and we had cowbells to smack, so we took a sharp left out of Hula Hanks and padded up to the Black Bear Saloon to enjoy the musical buffet of Psycho Magnet. We three literally dove right in, throwing inhibition on the tracks and engineering our dance floor locomotion, boogying to “My Own Worst Enemy.”

The suds were flowing at the bar but the drafts were pegged a little steep. Time to bargain. “Can I get a $5 draft for $3 if I write about Bear Grill?” I inquired of the bartender. The response: A chuckle, a point at a tap handle, a pour into a plastic cup – even a transfer into a pint glass… and top off… then another point and smile as I received my libation. Shoot, hit, score! The evening had gained true traction.

An Amaretto di Saronno slipped from a hand nearby and crashed to the floor in a spray of ice and liquore. “That’s alcohol abuse!” a bystander observed. The offender saw my notepaper scrawl and said, “You have excellent handwriting for a man!” She would know… she’s a handwriting teacher. Still, I said, “I never really learned to write script. I mostly write in block letters!”

A Hispanic quartet, headed up by Helen the Brazilian, strolled in at that moment “Boa Noite!” I said. “Now the party can get started!” I steered them to the dance floor.

Bradford’s up on Bedford became the next destination. Upstairs, the band Ten Feet Deep was entertaining the masses, who were, coincidentally, ten feet deep at the bar. The group’s licks were keeping the crowd calm.

In the pack at the bar was Ecuadorian beauty Gabby Valdez, surrounded by family and celebrating a cousin’s birthday. Sipping nonchalantly on a Bud Light, she was unaware of “The Battle”, but intrigued.

It was Moving On time again, first to feed the coin gobbler at the parking lot, then to wander to SBC to meet my misplaced two-thirds, V and A. They reported that a band called Consonance was playing there. I would bring the vowels. But not before a return to Tigin to catch Tuna Fist, which we’d missed earlier.

“Pretty good for a bunch of old guys, right?” the lead singer asked, launching into “Living on the Edge” before a now-full house of inebriated revelers. Lights flickered across them in the tight little space into which they’d been herded.

Again I set off for SBC but encountered en route the Brazilian quartet from the Black Bear, and was kidnapped to Butterfield 8 Restaurant & Lounge on Bedford St. Here, the band Cadillac 9 was jamming and suddenly the Coronas were flowing and limes were squirted and bodies were slamming…

Well, suffice it to say that I never did manage to reconnoiter with the other half of my team, nor make it to see the other half-dozen bands around the city, which would have been a tall order anyhow. Unfortunately, this included missing The Woulda Shoulda Couldas who performed at Bobby Valentine’s on Main Street and captured one of six semi-final spots awarded in this first-round bands battle.

I guess we will have to once again gather up the forces to stage another assault on this fair city and be more committed (and less distracted) next time in supporting these musical units. So adieu until the next skirmishes are staged.

Semi-final contests between six bands chosen by the Stamford-Downtown Battle of the Bands organizing committee will perform at street fairs on Bedford Street during three Saturdays in June; two will play each date and people will vote on their favorites. For more info, visit