The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Underground Caribbean Ballroom Dancing Takes the Spotlight in Brooklyn

By Sonja Sharp | March 12, 2013 7:08am
 Brooklyn's underground ballroom clubs were featured in a March 2013 showcase in Crown Heights.
Brooklyn's underground ballroom clubs were featured in a March 2013 showcase in Crown Heights.
View Full Caption
Chantel Bell

CROWN HEIGHTS — Forget electronic music — the latest craze in Brooklyn's underground dance clubs is Trinidadian tango.

Far from the gritty warehouses of Williamsburg, top dancers from central Brooklyn's underground Caribbean ballroom scene quick-stepped into the spotlight at Five Myles Gallery in Crown Heights this month, strutting their stuff for outsiders for the first time. 

"Every weekend they are partying hard, really dressed up at gorgeous ballroom parties," said organizer Chantel Bell. "This is the first time that everyone’s kind of gotten together to do something that’s just a concert, that’s highlighting the top dancers."

Transplanted to Brooklyn by immigrants from Guyana, Trinidad and Barbados, Caribbean ballroom clubs mix waltz, tango and quick-step with classic tunes of the '50s and '60s.

"They started out with something they called oldies or goldies — they used to call it freestyle," Morris said. "It's not pure ballroom."

The schools — most of which meet in church basements around central Brooklyn — attract dancers young and old, men and women, novices and passionate professionals.

"Some people go to multiple schools — quite a few of them are involved in dancing four and five days a week if they go to multiple schools," said teacher Lenox Morris, 50, who runs the school Rising Starz in Flatbush. "The age group ranges from maybe 25 to 60."

Morris' dance school also runs classes for kids as young as 11.

"It's easier for the kids to get into the Latin dance than waltz or a quick-step or a fox-trot," Morris said. "They tend to like salsa and cha-cha and merengue. They do well in those dances."

Unlike his young students, Morris only learned to dance as an adult. 

"I grew up in the church and didn’t know to dance," Morris explained. "When I moved from the country to the city, the guys used to make fun of me that I don’t know how to dance."

When he finally learned, he said he "fell in love with it," studying for two years in Guyana before moving up to posh dance schools in Manhattan, where local teachers go to perfect their craft. 

"You go to the city to develop a little bit more knowledge in the dance, technique and teaching ability," he said. "You have to love it."