February 1, 2007
Time for the last dance at folk dancing venue
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Dad made it a point to have all his family involved in some way with the business. I made my first appearance at Café Danssa as a baby. Mom laughs every time she tells me the story of how she'd greet the customers while I sat on the counter in my nipper nap.
My earliest memory of Café Danssa is of running away from the scary black silhouettes of Dassa on the wall. Later, I stood at the wall outside the DJ booth for a month and watched until I knew all the dances by heart.
And then there was our home away from home -- Dad's office. To this day, it is a shrine to our childhood. Dad even had bunk beds built in that room so that we could sleep while they finished cleaning up each night, that is, when we weren't dancing to Madonna out on the dance floor after the crowd had left.
In the late '80s, the folk dance scene began to dwindle. The immigrants had now married their dancing partners and were starting families. By 1986, Café Danssa was already the only remaining folk dance venue in Los Angeles. By the late '80s, Dassa had mostly retired from Danssa, and soon David Dassa's Israeli night was the only profitable night.
Eventually, David Dassa opted for a larger venue in the San Fernando Valley that was better suited to larger crowds and to dances that required more space. And suddenly, for the first time since the Blumes' purchase, Café Danssa had an absence of Dassas.
In the first post-Dassa year, Dad had to subsidize Danssa with the salary he earned as a copy editor at the L.A. Times. A few months later, Dad was introduced to a group of spirited Brazilians who needed a place to practice their samba parade music.
The savvy entrepreneur in Dad revived, and he invited the Brazilians to play on Friday nights and encouraged them, at first, not to charge admission. The Blumes sold beer and wine, and within months, Brazilians throughout the region were checking out this growing scene.
Amy and I, now teenagers, were only sure of two things, that the Brazilians really liked to drink beer and that they desperately wanted our phone numbers. The vibration from the 30-drum ensemble ricocheted like mad off the cinder-block walls. When Dad and I walked down Pico to see how loud it was getting, their soccer chants could be heard six blocks away.
The beer swilling, the Portuguese ranting, the girls in sequined bikinis, the beating drums, the shaking hips, the sweat dripping, the sleazy come-ons -- Café Danssa was happening again. And it stayed that way for another 17 years.
With Dad's death and the children pursuing other careers, Mom recently lined up a buyer for Café Danssa. But the family that owns the building -- who kept the rent low over the years -- decided they wanted to remodel the space for offices.
The only thing that Mom regrets is that the people who will inherit the space from us will not understand the great beauty of what happened here. Like the poet Rumi and his Whirling Dervishes, Dassa has always believed that dancing is a form of prayer, and along these same lines, Mom and Dad always thought of Dani Dassa as the Rabbi of Café Danssa.
For all intents and purposes, Café Danssa has served as a synagogue for all walks of life. It served as a meeting place for Israelis, Greeks, Brazilians and those from the Balkans; a venue for Amy's wedding and reception, the place where my band rehearsed its pop music and the place we celebrated Dad's life after he died.
In keeping with the Dassa-Blume legacy of partnership, Dassa will conduct the very last Israeli dance event at Café Danssa, 11533 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, this Saturday night at 8 p.m. The admission will be $1, just like it was on its first day. After that, the music will stop, the lights will dim and Café Danssa will pass from a place of folk dance to its place in the city's folklore.
A college student created this video of the last night at the club.
Click on the BIG ARROW to view
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