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In Full Swing : The mambo, fox trot and cha-cha are back, thanks to a renewed enthusiasm for ballroom dancing.


But large ballrooms like Marriott's aren't the only places to couple dance in the Valley.

The Valley Swing Dance Club meets every Tuesday at the Crest Lounge in Reseda. Sonny Watson and Kris Hagerty give beginning and intermediate-level swing dance lessons, with social dancing afterward.

"Don't forget to introduce yourself," Watson said as he led the class through the finer points of something called an eight-count sugar push. "You could be dancing with your future ex-husband."

Watson, 33, started the club in 1985, but has seen a big increase in interest in swing dancing in the last two years. He now draws about 150 people each Tuesday who pay $6 to be put through their paces.

"Everybody used to do it," Watson said. "And then the twist came and all couple dancing took a dive. It lost popularity."

Watson and Hagerty, 26, give swing dance lessons in the Valley about four nights a week. "It's a dance you can do to any type of music." Hagerty said. "It's romantic, it's sensual and dressing up is part of the attitude."

Dressing up for some of the women includes not only fancy dresses with flowing skirts but also garter belts and seamed stockings--evoking the sensuality of an earlier, more innocent time.

Dr. Beverly Ball, 45, a dentist who lives in West Los Angeles, travels regularly to the Crest on Tuesdays. She has been swing dancing for about four years. She started after she was injured in a car accident. "I got involved in dancing for my health, and it's socially interactive," Ball said. "In the '90s, a lot of singles think it is a safe place to go."

Rose Nichols, who moved to Sherman Oaks in February from the Upland area, said she quickly tired of the Valley club scene and was looking for an alternative. She enrolled at an Arthur Murray studio, and then took private ballroom dancing lessons.

"It's nostalgic, more classical and more fun," said Nichols, 41, who grew up with Top 40 music. "It's a completely different scene. There's no gangs and you can get out to your car safely.

"The people are different, a lot more polite, you can get dressed up and feel like you're out on the town," she added. "And you can kind of show off, and it only takes two months to learn it."

Nichols goes out dancing three nights a week, but she wants no part of country-Western dancing.

"Comparing country-Western to ballroom dancing is like comparing beer to champagne."

For some, the dancing provides a temporary intimacy.

"Dancing is a physical release, it's like safe sex," Ball said. "For that one song, you're with that one person. You're theirs, and they're yours."

Where to Learn

Here are some places that teach ballroom dancing:

Jamie and Gail Arias teach swing dancing and promote dances with live music and disc jockeys. They specialize in "aerial" swing dancing. Call (310) 474-7350.

Felix Chavez specializes in Argentine tango, but also teaches Latin, American and international ballroom dance styles. Call (818) 719-6521.

Valley College Community Services, 5800 Fulton Ave., Van Nuys, offers classes in ballroom, Latin ballroom, West Coast swing and salsa. Registration begins at the end of March, and classes will start in April. Call (818) 988-3911.

Pierce College Community Services, 6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills, offers classes in ballroom and cha-cha/tango ballroom. Registration begins at the end of March, and classes will start in late April. Call (818) 719-6425.

Learning Tree University, 20920 Knapp St., Chatsworth, offers classes in ballroom, East Coast swing and West Coast swing. Registration is open and classes run almost continually. Call (818) 882-5599.

Sloan and Sloan School of Dance, 343 Arden Ave., Glendale, offers instruction in all American and international styles of ballroom from beginning to higher competition levels. Call (818) 241-4424.

Sonny Watson and Kris Hagerty specialize in West Coast swing dancing. Watson runs the Valley Swing Dance Club that meets at the Crest Lounge on Tuesdays, and he and Hagerty give private lessons. Call (818) 504-0941.

Where to Dance

Here is a sampling of places in the San Fernando Valley area that offer ballroom dancing:

Barbata's Steak House, 20001 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills. 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Call (818) 340-5914.

Crest Lounge, 6101 Reseda Blvd., Reseda. 9 p.m. to midnight Tuesdays. Call (818) 342-1563.

Glendale Moose Lodge, 357 W. Arden Ave. 8 p.m. to midnight Wednesdays. Call (818) 240-1505.

Guys and Dolls Dance Club, American Legion Hall, 7338 Canby Ave., Reseda. 8:30 p.m. to midnight Fridays. Call (818) 705-9843.

Moonlight Tango Cafe, 13730 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. Big bands, 8 and 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays; music of the 1940s and '50s, 7 to 11:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 7 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Fridays, 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturdays, 6 to 11 p.m. Sundays. Call (818) 788-2000.

Sportsmen's Lodge, 12833 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. 6 to 11 p.m. the first and fourth Sundays of the month. Call (818) 984-0202.

Ventura Club, 13920 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Tuesdays and 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays. Call (818) 788-5550.

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