“Danceteria: People & Performances” is a photo retrospective of the people and events that made Danceteria unforgettable. Arguably the greatest nightclub in New York City history, it was a welcoming venue for musicians and performance artists in the 1980s when Downtown Manhattan was a hotbed of originality and creative talent. This book includes pictures of Rudolf Pieper, John Argento, Steve Lewis, Karen Finley, Joey Arias, Chi Valenti, Michaela Itenberg, Johnny Dynell, Anita Sarko, Penny Arcade, Phoebe Legere, Pat Hearn, The Pogues, The Shirelles, Jayne County, John Sex, Dean Johnson and The Weenies, Haoui Montaug, Valery Oisteanu, the Hellfire Club and most of the unusual suspects.
Many thanks to the nice Danceteria scholars who helped me fill in the names I didn’t have.
85 images on 80# paper, 8.5×8.5 inch paperback, $40.00 for a signed copy, available on www.falgerho.com
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Danceteria was a legendary New York club and it is still a legend even though it closed in 1986. There was a 30th Street Danceteria later but I missed it, never visited the Southampton branch either. This first iteration was an after hours club on 37th Street that was promptly closed by the police in 1980.
The 21st Street Danceteria definitely got my attention. It occupied an entire five-story building, which gave the impression of five venues under the same roof. It was the creation of Rudolf Pieper, Jim Fouratt and John Argento. I will leave a recounting of the full history of the club to qualified historians. In the ironic words of Donna-Lee Phillips: “Me photographer, me no talk”
Still, I must mention some of the people who made Danceteria great: DJs Bill Bahlman, Mark Kamins, Sean Cassette, Jody Kurilla and Anita Sarko. Ruth Polsky booked the talent that made all the difference. The great Haoui Montaug filtered the crowds at the door with a discerning eye and also hosted his cabaret “No Entiendes” a totally eclectic endeavor. Karen Finley, Phoebe Legere, John Sex, Penny Arcade, Dean Johnson all performed at Danceteria. And members of the Hellfire Club – yes, they lived up to their name – appeared one night to demonstrate their idea of fun for the family.
The irrepressible Steve Lewis in cooperation with Susan Arkun and Ivy Bernhard produced fashion shows that started with East Village designers and reached as far as Berlin, Paris, London and Amsterdam, Manchester and Arnhem. These were fashion shows with an edge in the true spirit of the club and of the times but that will be the subject of another bo
Some performances stand out in memory and in pictures. Joey Arias created “Mermaids on heroin” a brilliant extravaganza and a fantasy based on the idea
that all the drugs consumed in some circles passed into the sewer system and eventually ended up in the ocean and must have had some effect on the Mermaids’ state of mind. Stéphane Darno DeSwaef’s magical play “Bleu Opera” was another memorable event, a life and death drama without dialogue, relying only on visual evocations.
Rudolf didn’t believe in advertising “it brings in assholes” he said. Most afternoons he would design, cut and paste up a new invitation, run copies on the Xerox machine and a fresh batch would be in the mail by the end of the day. It worked and kept everything in the family.
There was indeed a family feel to Danceteria and it was definitely a downtown club. Not luxurious, not glitzy but rather down to earth, open to alternative performers and hospitable to the staff. I was bantering with a staff member at the second floor bar when she asked: “So, do you come here often?” “As much as I can, and you?” “Oh, I live here” she said.
Although the club was well run, the atmosphere was easy-going and friendly, I loved the place and so did a lot of people. This is intended as an homage to an unforgettable temple of New York nightlife and to those who made it all happen.