Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Playing Tourist at Home - Atomic Ballroom

Being a tourist is awesome. Every day brings a new adventure. I love playing tourist so much I am committed to exploring Southern California, my off-again-on-again home, with a tourist's eye.

Tucked away in a nondescript office park in Irvine, it is easy to overlook Atomic Ballroom. I walked in and up to the front desk. The helpful woman sitting there asked me to sign in and mark which classes I wished to attend that evening. Then, she asked me to provide my name, email, and phone number on a form, and sign a waiver promising not to sue if I injured myself while in class. I visited on Wednesday evening, which is salsa night. I marked two beginner classes, a 7:00PM class taught by Corey and a 7:45PM class taught by Megan. Then, I walked to their little bar area to wait for class to begin. The bar area leads directly to the dance floor and had bar stools and a few tables with chairs. No one was serving at the bar, but there was a filtered water dispenser, M&Ms, and other candy free for the taking. The dance floor was large and lined with mirrors, like a dance studio. One corner had a DJ booth and there was a disco ball hanging from the ceiling above the middle of the dance floor.

The first class, Corey's class, was three women and six men. I liked Cory's teaching style because he was funny, danced with each leader, and gave each leader constructive advice. He also only covered the basic step, side breaks, and the follower's right turn (outside turn), which seemed about right for a 45 minute beginner lesson. The second class, Megan's class, was five women and five men. Megan covered the basic step, the follower's right turn, the cross body lead, and the cross body lead combined with the follower's right turn. This was a lot of material and several people were confused by the end of her 45 minute lesson. Megan did not dance with the leaders, though doing so would have been useful.

Megan's class and Corey's intermediate level class finished at 8:30PM, and the dance floor opened up to a general admission salsa dance with music provided by the ballroom DJ. The dance is free with a paid lesson. Otherwise, it is $5. I stayed until 9:15PM, long enough for several dances. I noticed people who had not purchased a lesson starting to trickle in around 9:00PM. There were only about twenty people on the dance floor when I left. Perhaps more people show up later.

I had a great time taking two beginning lessons and staying for the dance. The dancers ranged in age from early 20's into the 70's. The atmosphere during the classes and the dances was relaxed, and everyone I talked to or danced with was friendly. I recommend the group lessons and dance at Atomic Ballroom as a fine way to pick up a new hobby, to meet people, to spend an evening, and as a great date idea.

Atomic ballroom has group classes every day of the week and private lessons by appointment. Group lessons are $15 per lesson if you drop in or $10 per lesson for 10 lessons if you buy their "virtual punch card." Visit the website at for class schedules. Atomic Ballroom is located at 17961 Sky Park Circle, Suite C, Irvine, California 92614. You can reach them via email at or via phone at 949-250-3332.

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