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Rachel Levin
California Dancing
United States
Greater Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA

Café Danssa - Brazilian and Balkan Folk dance club

by Rachel Levin
September 13, 2002
Los Angeles, CA

Café Danssa


11533 Pico Blvd. (between Sawtelle and Barrington)

Fridays: Brazilian Samba School and Orchestra, 9:30 p.m. - 2:00 a.m.
$10 cover includes samba lesson at 9:30 p.m.

Wednesdays: Balkan Dance 7:30p.m. - 11:00 p.m.
$6.50 cover includes dance lesson

You will leave Brazilian night at Café Danssa with the sound of 1,000 drums beating in your ears and hearts. Your feet will not want to stop moving at the rapid speed of the samba.

Things are somewhat slow to heat up when you arrive. The dance lesson scheduled to begin at 9:30 inevitably doesn't start until 10:00, and you realize that you have entered Brazilian time. So relax, buy a beer, and lounge at one of the large leather booths. The space is modest and has a definite dancehall feel: one square room with percussion set up at one end, a small stage at the other, and chairs all around.

The first samba teacher warms everyone up, and at first it seems easy. Step-cross-step, step-turn-step, everything appears to be basic. The real challenge comes, however, when you have to speed up! The second samba teacher glides in regally. She makes the swift steps look as smooth as butter. Everyone is sweating by the time she is done guiding the group through several combinations. The fact that Café Danssa has only fans and no air conditioning quickly becomes apparent!

If you are a beginner, you will be grateful for the lesson once the band starts up. It equips you with a variety of ways to move to the music that just doesn't stop once it begins. A group of about 10 percussionists commences pounding out the rhythms of Rio, which reverberate through your spirit. This is quite a hearty sound for such a small space! A solitary vocalist sings and plays the cavaco on the other end of the room and blends his melancholy voice with the pulse of the drums.

In the earlier part of the night, there are more beginning dancers, and anything goes. In keeping with Brazilian time, late into the night the Brazilian locals start showing up and dazzle you with their complex movements that they make look so natural. Their energy appears to be limitless, so it is always rewarding to stay late if you can make it.

Regardless of what time you leave, those drums are infectious, and will stay with you for some time afterwards!

For a change of pace, Wednesday nights at Café Danssa are devoted to Balkan folkdance, a broad term to describe the various types of dance included: Turkish, Armenian, Russian, Polish, and Israeli.

Whichever night you choose, you will be rewarded with unique ethnic dance experiences. The club is a little hard to spot since it is located on the second floor of a nondescript commercial building, so be sure to take the street address with you.

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