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Millennium Hustle— Eight Years Young

by Lori Ortiz
May 23, 2009
The 92nd Street Y
1395 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10128
(212) 415-5552
The Harkness Dance Center
Lori Brizzi's Website
An eighth anniversary party brought out the legions May 23. Legions of dancers, that is. Lori Brizzi's Millennium Hustle party, regularly held in various New York City venues since 2001, marked the milestone at the 92Y.

Brizzi talked about the beginnings at our meeting in Miami several weeks ago during the International Hustle and Salsa Festival. Back in the day, she came to hustle with a broken heart, and loved the happy music and dance. "After a night of hustle, you just can't feel bad about anything in your life," she said.

In order to excel at the dance, she learned ballroom. Ballroom, and especially mambo, are considered the sources for hustle. Brizzi went on to place in the Zacharay's ballroom contests five times and won twice. Brizzi also performed with Swing Dance America and the American Ballroom Theater companies, at the Rainbow Room, the Copacabana, and other glamorous venues.

She's not a hustle purist and believes in assimilation. Millennium Hustle began by aiming to bring the dance into the new century. "Not only do we honor the classics," she said, "We make it current by dancing to new, contemporary songs." She and David Melendez, who started the New York Salsa Congress, got the event up and running. The first Millennium Hustle dance party was at the midtown club called Ballroom on Fifth.

Brizzi is a leading figure in the resurgence of hustle dancing in New York. The dance submerged during the "disco sucks" movement. The baby was in danger of going down with the bathwater. Brizzi took up hustle, and the cause, with a passion.

Brizzi remembers legendary hustle dancers with an inspirational award at her September Annual New York Hustle Congress. Like other contemporary to-dos, the Congress has a wider perspective. This year's party will raise money for animal rights. Guests can expect to dance with celebrity stars.

On the Y's second floor, there's a good sized multi-purpose room. It looks like it has seen its dancing days. Above, old style patterns with themes of light and music decorate the ceiling. It is dotted with colonial style chandeliers, Klieg lights, and a small disco ball.

New Yorkers who don't venture above Fourteenth Street may not know that people are out dancing at the 92Y Harkness Dance Center on Saturday nights. The Y hosts champion-led social dance evenings throughout the year. Tango, Ballroom, Swing, and a Vintage Summer Ball are coming up. Each begins with a lesson, and features live music or DJ. A late night performance may follow.

If dance parties are microcosms of the real world, this one had an unusual abundance of men. About twenty people showed up for the class. Within thirty minutes they had progressed to inside-turns. Brizzi talked them through the basic step, which is actually a stepping down, like the downbeat of disco music. Incredibly, within a half hour, most everyone was coupled and whirling around the floor in a ring. The class catchword was "Ladies! Rotate!"

Around nine, the lights were dimmed and seasoned dancers started filing in, dressed to-the-nines or in casual chic. Warm lighting and music by DJ Johnny O created a nightclub atmosphere. Expanding upon that, images of couples and individuals having fun at previous events were projected. This also offered a sense of continuity. On the floor, pairs with style to spare amicably took turns in an unofficial central spotlight.

Brizzi's philosophy is to mix and match. She's not a purist. Johnny Ortiz at the sound and lighting board followed suit with some salsa inserted at key points. There was no lack of fun at this disco.

Cake and snacks waited in a mirrored studio next door. The champagne punch was spiritual. Vendors sold the necessaries— inexpensive evening bags, skimpy t-shirts, and jewelry. Like back in the day, there was no need to leave the womb of fun.

Long live disco and hustle!
Lori Brizzi (on right) and guest

Lori Brizzi (on right) and guest

Photo © & courtesy of Lori Ortiz


Hustle dancers

Hustle dancers

Photo © & courtesy of Lori Ortiz


The men are here

The men are here

Photo © & courtesy of Lori Ortiz


To the spotlight

To the spotlight

Photo © & courtesy of Lori Ortiz


Cool couple

Cool couple

Photo © & courtesy of Lori Ortiz


Guy with DJ Johnny O (on right)

Guy with DJ Johnny O (on right)

Photo © & courtesy of Lori Ortiz

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