In the groove: Marla's Dance Cafe
They came in all ages, sizes, and types, to dance and socialize at Marla's Dance Café, in The Island Bar & Grill on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs.
"We call it Dance Café because that's the atmosphere: candles, tablecloths, a light food menu and, of course, a full bar," Marla Blakey said.
At the end of May, with little fanfare, choreographer and stage director Marla Blakey organized the dance club and opened it for a trial run to a full house. As she prepared for the event, Ms. Blakey reviewed the evening's play list, one that she "developed over a very long, very cold winter in Oak Bluffs. I think I'll be okay as long as no one requests 'Moon River,'" she said, laughing. And with a hint of opening night jitters, she added, "I've never been a DJ before. I hope I know how to do this."
But she did, and starting last week, The Island Bar & Grill will present Ms. Blakey's Dance Café weekly on Tuesday evenings.
"Oh yeah, this is great," said Cee-Jay Jones, a 92-year-old retired postal worker who remembers the Harlem's golden age of nightclubs in the 1940s. He had no difficulty keeping up with his young dance partner, Suesan Stovall.
From pre-boomers like classically-trained musician Becca Morrow, to a younger set, the place was crowded with Islanders and visitors who danced to the smart, sassy music, from blues to hip-hop, jazz to salsa, prepared by Ms. Blakey, a performance impresario on and off the Island for more than 20 years. She has made a career out of creating entertainment environments, choreographing space and movement. Then, of course, she came by it naturally. Her father Ruble Blakey fronted Lionel Hampton's band for years.
Ms. Blakey's first job was as a 16-year-old dancer at Club Harlem in Atlantic City, a favorite venue for Cab Calloway's band. Later she organized dance troupes and choreography for Calloway and choreographed big set acts and music videos for major artists, including Bette Midler, Sting, and David Bowie.