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Over the rainbow with the pros at the Metronome

By Millie

'When you're the scriptwriter you get to write yourself into the lead," says Dolly Reynolds, manager of the Metronome Ballroom. In between teaching dance classes and practicing law on the side, Dolly has scripted the Metronome's eighth annual Holiday Dance Extravaganza--The Wizard of Dance. "We wanted to make it real San Francisco, so instead of a twister, there's an earthquake."

The annual holiday show is one of the biggest events at the Metronome, which holds dance parties every week for dance enthusiasts of every level. A typical weekend includes dance parties featuring swing, lindy-hop, jitterbug, salsa, tango and other favorites. The holiday show is an opportunity for the staff, made up of competition-level dancers, to strut their stuff for their students.

As directed by David Weise, an award-winning dancer, mega-diva and principal dance instructor at the Metronome, "The Wizard of Dance" replaces most of the songs in the old musical with fantasy dance sequences. Plus there's lots of insider "dance world" jokiness--the brainless Scarecrow can't remember his choreography, the heartless Tin Man ain't got no rhythm and the Cowardly Lion is too afraid to lead.

Here's the setup: Dolly, as Dorothy, joins the staff for a late-night rehearsal of the upcoming holiday show. (This much is based on reality. The studio is open until 10pm each night during the week, forcing staff to rehearse into the wee hours.)

After the opening number, Dorothy is confronted by an evil Latin dance diva (Niloufar Talebi) who humiliates her in front of her colleagues. (Guess who comes back as the Wicked Witch of the West?) Dorothy runs off and a "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" dance number ensues. Then the earthquake hits and Dorothy wakes up in Munchkinland.

Remember how your parents always threatened you with dance lessons? If they had had even the slightest ability to follow through on their threats, you would have ended up at the Metronome in one of the many dance classes for kids. And, very possibly, dressed as a Munchkin in the holiday show.

Glinda the Good Witch is played by the Metronome's proprietor, Diane Jamalow. This role probably wasn't much of a stretch for the universally admired Jamalow. Very few people can keep a staff of 27 competition-level dancers happy. "We all get along," contends Dolly. "We have a tremendous amount of love for one another. And tremendous self-love, too. But we're all divas."

By following the "triple-step road" Dorothy eventually hooks up with the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. The Wizard of Dance is played by director Weise. The final confrontation with the Wicked Witch is staged as a lindy-hop contest between the Scarecrow (Tom Slater, also the choreographer of the show) and Talebi, the Latin diva.

Lindy-hop is the most popular class at the Metronome. All the kids are doing it in the clubs. Since the Metronome started offering a range of swing classes about three years ago, the business has been completely transformed. Previously, the studio was home to a core of regulars--old folks dancing waltzes, engaged couples learning waltzes and competitors rehearsing.

Today the place is full of young people. It's hard to keep up with the demand for new classes. And the enthusiasm for swing has spilled over into other forms of dance as well. Latin dance classes are particularly popular.

Dolly says that nearly 300 people are expected to attend the show, maybe even more once the word gets out. "For the last few years our holiday shows have just been a bunch of showcase dances strung together. This show is different. There's lot's of dancing but it's an entertaining story too."


The Wizard of Dance will be performed Dec 11, 10pm, and Dec 13, 9pm. Dance parties begin an hour before each show at the Metronome Ballroom, 1830 17th St; call 415/252-9000 for reservations.

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From the December 7-20, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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