This town has a place where people of all ages can dance for pocket change — $3 to $5 — but to make the offer even more lucrative, the organizers are offering a complimentary beginning of the year dance class to anyone who would like to try social partner dancing — East Coast Swing-style.
Atascadero Agricultural Hall will offer this free, family-friendly dance class this Sunday, Jan. 7 at its Grange Hall on Palma Avenue.
The hall’s mission as a nonprofit is to serve the purposes of sustainable agriculture, small family farming and non-GMO labeling by promoting healthy, locally grown food, and allows Central Coast Organic Farmers, olive oil growers, beekeepers and 4H to gather and hold fundraisers, classes, dinners and demonstrations there, but the building is also used as place for nonprofits and religious organizations to meet as well as a place for locals to hold their special events.
AA meets at the hall every Monday evening and Sunday morning and the first Wednesday of each month the hall becomes a food bank for needy families. Other locals have found the price for renting the hall (stage, dining room and kitchen) on the weekend is very low ($300 per day) for weddings, funerals, birthdays and family reunions.
The hall has been hosting social dance classes for three years now, rotating different types of dance to concentrate on for every month. This month will be strictly East Coast Swing, with the Cha-Cha coming up in February, and styles of Rumba, Waltz and Country Western to be taught throughout the year.
“The first dance of the year is always free, to have people come and by and check it out,” said Wayne Lyons, President of the Atascadero Agricultural Hall. His entertainment committee sponsors the dances for the communities. The dances take place at the more than 100-year-old Atascadero Grange Hall, one of the original “Colony” homes of the city, which used to serve at a USO dance hall for Camp Roberts during WWII.
Due to the rental revenue, the bathrooms, lights, stage curtains and plumbing have been renovated, among other upgrades.
“If we keep putting lipstick on this pig, we’re gonna have the prettiest pig in the county,” joked Lyons, who said the place was pretty run down when he came in three years ago, but he’s happy to report the building is doing much better.
“The whole object is we don’t want to make a profit — we make the money that we make and spend it back fixing up the hall,” he said. “And also everyone volunteers their time, like myself.” Lyon’s wife is the treasurer, and Choreographer Christina Troxel is the secretary. Local Brian Reeves is the vice president. Another local man takes care of the maintenance.
“I came over because I love to dance and they had this awesome 100-year dance floor,” Lyons said.
The Creston Swing dancers began the dance group. Brian Reeves, Laura Slania and Christina Troxel were some of the originators. All of the main players dance with the Dancing with Our Stars fundraiser. Lyons, who learned to dance through lessons with Brian Reeves, said he “got hooked” on dancing while taking the lessons each week with his wife, and nowadays enjoys dancing the Cha-Cha the most, but he also loves Nightclub two-step and East Coast Swing. When he brought in his team of dancers from Creston he noticed the membership had declined. “So I brought in a whole team of people,” he said. “And if you have a whole bunch of hands working no one has to kill themselves.”
The Ringleader, as Lyons calls her, is dance instructor Laura Slania, a native of Santa Barbara and Cal Poly graduate, who teaches private and group dance classes in and around San Luis Obispo County. Slania said she hopes to see some new faces at the the beginner’s class.
“The beginner’s class is for anybody who’s even thought about dancing. They’ll have the chance to start at ground zero,” Slania said, adding that the intermediate class will be going over some new styling moves as well.
On a regular basis the cost is $5 per person for the adult dance classes. Children and teens (under 18) are free with a paid parent. Open dance is always free and a special Youth Social Dance Class, designed for children 17 years and younger, which takes place from 4 to 5 p.m. on Sundays, is $3.
Lyons said the hall has been getting a nice crowd of youth dancers after some local moms heard about the class.
“We get anywhere from eight to 16 of those kids that come and dance regularly,” Lyons said. “The’ve done some presentations at some downtown Atascadero events.”
This Sunday, the free youth group swing dancing class for ages 17 years and under will meet first from 4 to 5 p.m. No partner or prior experience is necessary. Following the youth class, an Intermediate Adult Class will go from 5 to 6 p.m., with Beginning Adult Class afterward, from 6 to 7 p.m.
All dancers are encouraged to stay for open dance ‘practice’ from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Dancers are encouraged to bring some snacks to share for the open dance portion of the evening.
“The reason we do the immediate first, and then the beginning is to encourage people to stay and dance afterward, because that’s how you get good, is practicing it...It seems to work out pretty good,” said Lyons.
For more information call the Agricultural Hall at 805-491-1059 ext. 4. Or email to [email protected]
The Atascadero Agricultural Hall is located at 5035 Palma Ave.
photo courtesy of Wayne Lyons