Is your inner Gene Kelly or Isadora Duncan stifled? Is your body screaming, "Gotta dance!" but your mind saying, "Where do I go?" Wonder no more. Whether just getting started or an experienced dancer, there is an opportunity for you. Here is an overview of the staggering array of choices available to the toe-tapping rug-cutter in you.
Swing's the thing
There is a swing dance style to match any personality. A lot depends on your music of choice.
Jackie Jaros is one of the leading proponents of an active (and addictive) West Coast-style Swing scene. In Buffalo the dancing is done mainly to DJ-provided R&B. Jaros teaches ongoing lessons in St. Patrick's Episcopal Church in Cheektowaga, and she and her husband host a twice-monthly Saturday evening dance in the Brounshidle Post, 3354 Delaware Ave., Town of Tonawanda.
On alternating Saturdays, Joe and Barb Tomasulo host the Brounshidle dance. About 70 people hit the floor and strut their stuff in a variety of personal expressions. A lesson is free with entry.
East Coast-style swing usually goes with big band music. Club Paradise has started up a Thursday night event where Charlene Gore and Al Constantino, Buffalo dance-scene vets, teach. A 16-piece band rehearses afterward, with opportunity for dancing. Gore and Constantino also teach a country-western-style swing at Club Infinity on Wednesday nights.
It's a great country
Bev Randall has taught country-western line and couples' dances at Club Infinity for years. Hundreds of people, young and old, come to dance. Footgear ranges from cowboy boots to sneakers. And, like all of the events mentioned here, you do not need to come with a partner. Just bring a good attitude and a willingness to learn.
For Paul Zilliox, the choreography of country-western provided the solution to his former position as a sit-down husband. He and his wife, Bonnie, had taken swing lessons but felt more at home when they discovered the less challenging patterns and steps of this dance.
Let's polka round
"Hop or no hop?" The question took me a bit aback, but then I realized that my polite dance partner, John Godlewski, was inquiring as to my polka preference. With a hop, I felt. He agreed. We sallied forth. The blazing horns of hot polka band PhoCus provided both rhythm and inspiration.
The Buffalo Polka Boosters' monthly dance and meeting does not include lessons, but polkas, waltzes and a faster waltz style called an "oberek" go on all night. And the friendly regulars will be happy to guide any newcomer.
Chris Gregory, 29, and his fiancee, Kristin Dienstbier, 26, are some of the youngest and newest members. Of the $7 member ($8 for nonmembers) door charge, Gregory said, "Where else can you go, eat snacks, drink beer and dance to live music? It's a lot of fun. We bring all our friends."
Belly up to the barre
At the Allen Street Dance Studio, Middle Eastern belly dance class is offered, along with samba and ballroom lessons. Cathy Skora is the owner, instructor and the director of Folkloric Productions Dance Co. Her enthusiasm for the ancient art is infectious. Her belly dance warm-up combines yoga, Martha Graham technique and good old sit-ups (as strong abdominal muscles benefit any physical activity).
Jingly scarves are draped around the studio. Tie one around your hips for inspiration.
Reel them in, erin style
Shane Devlin teaches Irish set and ceili dancing weekly. The classes are done to recorded music, but once a month there is a ceili (pronounced "kaylee"), or dance, with live music. Devlin's low-key style and clear love for traditional dancing are evident.
Before playing the tunes, he walks the small group through each dance. He continues to call the pattern while dancing. These dances, with simple footwork, done in short lines, squares or sets, are precursors to American squares and contra dances. The people who come to dance are again, enthusiastic and fun-loving. You don't have to be Irish to love it.
Salsa lessons are available from Jaros, as well as at most local dance schools. It is a catchy beat, and many can pick up the steps without a lesson. Just be prepared to practice if you want to dance with better dancers.
For salsa, merengue and cha-chas, go on Friday nights to O Restaurant and Lounge. And, for the night owls in the crowd, hit Chippewa's La Luna on Saturdays. It doesn't get going until midnight, but it's the place to be, so take a nap before.
Dance options in Western New York abound, including Afro-Brazilian, ballroom, Scottish country, English country, free form, hip-hop and tango. Check listings in the Gusto Calendar (Page X) for more. Just pick a style of music and follow your feet.
Movers and shakers
It's a good idea to call and confirm a dance event before you go. All events are around or under $10, some free or by donation.
What: West Coast Swing and salsa lessons with Jackie Jaros
When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays
Where: St. Patrick's Episcopal Church, 1395 George Urban Blvd., Cheektowaga
Info: 481-1227, buffaloswingdancegroup.com
What: West Coast Swing with Joe and Barb Tomasulo
Where: Brounshidle Post, 3354 Delaware Ave., Town of Tonawanda
When: Saturday and May 7
Info: 694-3341, buffaloswingdancegroup.com
What: West Coast Swing with Dave and Jackie Jaros
Where: VFW 416, 18 Spring St., Williamsville
When: 7 p.m. April 23 and May 21
Info: 481-1227, buffaloswingdancegroup.com
What: East Coast Swing dance lessons
Where: Club Pardise, 3950 McKinley Parkway, Blasdell
When: 7 p.m. Thursdays
Info: 648-4944, clubparadiseofbuff.com
What: Bev Randall teaching country-western line and couple dances
Where: Club Infinity, 8166 Main St., Clarence When: 6 to 9 p.m. Thursdays
Info: 565-0110, clubinfinityonline.com
What: Buffalo Polka Boosters, monthly polka dance with live band
Where: Polish Falcons Club, 445 Columbia Ave., Depew When: 8 p.m. every third
Thursday of the month
Info: 894-4074, geocities.com/buffalopolkaboosters.com
Who: Niagara Frontier Folk Dance International
Where: North Park Lutheran Church, 310 Starin Ave.
When: 8:30 p.m. most Fridays
What: Middle Eastern and other ongoing classes
Where: Allen Street Dance Studio, 85 Allen St.
When: 11 a.m. Saturdays, 6 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays
Info: 876-6291, folkloric.org
What: Irish Innisfree Adult Dancers/Buffalo Irish Arts Society
Where: Buffalo Irish Center, 245 Abbott Road
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays
Info: 627-5966, calendar.yahoo.com/buffaloirisharts
What: Queen City Contra Dancers
Where: Unitarian-Universalist Church, 695 Elmwood Ave.
When: 8 p.m. first and third Saturdays of the month
Info: 884-0646, qccd.org
What: Salsa to live music at O Restaurant and Lounge
Where: 3047 Sheridan Drive, Amherst
When: 6:30 p.m. Fridays
What: DJ salsa dancing
Where: La Luna, 54 W. Chippewa St.
When: Saturday night, the later the better
What: Royal Scottish Country Dance Society
Where: Amherst Community Church, 77 Washington Highway, Snyder
When: 7:45 p.m. Thursdays
What: English Country Dance
Where: Officer's Club, Fort Niagara State Park, Robert Moses State Parkway,
When: 7 p.m. second and last Wednesdays of the month