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SWAY The Night AWAY : * Dancing: Whether you prefer country, ballroom, reggae or disco, you'll find a dance floor to suit.

May 17, 1990|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Asking locals to recommend places to go in Ventura County to do some social dancing is like asking an 8-year-old boy to recommend a good place to do homework. You get a few giggles, a snicker, a couple of, I don't knows, and one or two, What do you means. But if you wait long enough, you get the answer you're looking for, and in this case, directions to get there.

Though it may not be immediately evident, there are some pretty nice places to do all kinds of dancing around town--and it doesn't necessarily have to be square dancing. It just takes a little looking around, which is what Ventura County Life does best. True, we dance to our own drummer, but at least we dance. We two-stepped, waltzed and flat-out boogied our way across the county to get a sampling of the social dancing available.

When we weren't chewing up the dance floor, we were checking out the establishments themselves. Would we take our mothers there? Would we be ashamed to let our mothers know we even knew about the place? Would we need a hosing down when we got home? We took a look at various other elements too--things that could make or break a night on the town. Like noise level. There's no sense going out dancing if you'll never hear again. So we've given each place listed here a noise rating, based on perhaps the most awful noise there is--garbage men clanging cans at 6 on a Monday morning. (One garbage man is relatively quiet, 10 garbage men are obnoxiously loud, and dangerous to one's health).

Being the traditionalists we are, we naturally associated social dancing with some actual physical contact between partners. Wrong. Then again, we had never heard of John Travolta either. Some places have touch dancing, some don't. As a service we studied closely, very closely, the physical contact going on at each stop we made. Finally, we looked at the potential for romance in the various clubs. Of course, we skipped some of the obvious places knowing all too well we'd be the hamburger among the T-bones, but every place has its potential for short- or long-term romance.

We took a look around and made some quick assessments. So now you'll be ready to dance the night away, whether you prefer country, ballroom, reggae or disco. But don't try to find us there. We'll be soaking our feet--while trying to figure out why that woman slapped us when we asked her if she'd like to Lambada.

THE CHAPARRAL CLUB

281 West Main St., Ventura

Country-western all the way, from the four wagon wheels over the bar, to the three sets of steer horns bolted to the wall. You can hear the whooping and hollering the moment you pull into the dirt parking lot.

Each Thursday, Friday and Saturday there's a live band playing songs like "All My Ex's Live in Texas," "Lookin for Love," and "Tulsa Time." And there's a great mix of people, most of whom are in their 30s, dancing to the music. There are the polished dancers and the, well, people who might benefit from a lesson or two.

"It's kind of an unwritten law that the low-steppers (the good ones) dance around the outside of the dance floor in a square," said waitress Deedee Romero, "and the others (the not-so-good ones) stay on the inside and just do that swing thing. They slow dance, fast dance, I don't know what they call it."

The good ones, on the other hand, do know their favorite dances by name. Along with various line dances (one of which is called the Tush-Push for obvious reasons) there is the two-step and the Cotton-Eyed Joe.

"We mostly do the Texas two-step. It's the same as the fox-trot or swing," said John Godds, a former dance instructor, who comes to the club regularly with his wife, Clara, and a group of other trained dancers. "Country-western covers all kinds of music and all tempos of music. The style is very unstructured."

And why does Clara like country-western dancing?

"You can be vulgar and dirty and no one says anything," she said.

Decibel level: 6 garbage men. Touch analysis: Hands on shoulders and hands on hips (one's own or those belonging to someone else. Chance of romance: With a good drawl and a nice pair of boots, you'd have a 50-50 chance of lassoing someone.

RUBE'S VALLEY HOUSE OF BAR-B-QUE

1115 E. Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley

Imagine a 40ish husband and wife doing the swing, while over your shoulder an unshaven dude in a Levi vest gives a gruff rendition of "Poison Ivy?"

Rube's is a family-oriented steakhouse with a dance floor. Kids and bikers welcome. The autographed photo of Los Angeles Dodger Manager Tommy Lasorda across from the entrance is there to rope in diners.

There is live music Thursday through Sunday beginning about 9 p.m., with music mostly from the '50s, '60s and '70s.

"We start out with nice, soft dinner music. We don't want to blow any steaks off the plates," said manager Bruce Donabedian, whose parents own the 12-year-old place. "The first set is ballad music. The dancing is slow and people are rubbing tummies. Around 10 or 10:30 we start to get the walk-ins who want to boogie the night away."

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