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Knott’s Cloud 9: High on Nostalgia, Floor Space

<i> Zan Dubin is a member of The Times Orange County Edition staff</i>

OK, so it’s not as hip as those underground clubs that migrate from week to week and draw the waifish and chic, but if you prefer grace over grunge, there’s good reason to try Knott’s Berry Farm’s monthly swing and ballroom dance this Saturday.

An expansive dance floor (4,800 square feet) that’s less crowded than most recommends the event, held at the park’s Cloud 9 Ballroom, an airy, spacious hall with a nostalgic feel. A glittery mirrored ball twirls slowly above as dancers sweep, swirl or Lindy hop below. Two large-screen TVs show priceless footage of such veteran hoofers as grand master Fred Astaire or the tapping Nicholas Brothers.

Locally popular deejay Patricia Straight, spinning everything from Frank Sinatra to Shelby Lynne, plays swing (West and East Coast), ballroom (waltz, fox trot) and Latin (cha-cha, tango, rumba) dance music. Straight also gives hustle and disco two-step fans their turn and throws in a few country hits for Texas-style two-steppers.

A friendly clientele (partners aren’t necessary), plus rules against smoking and alcohol are other assets of Cloud 9, which attracts kids to seniors; the average age hovers around 35. Attire ranges from comfy slacks and cowboy boots for both sexes to floor-length dresses for the women, although nothing’s too elegant.

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But don’t expect anything too posh in decor. This is, after all, a cow town theme park, not the Copacabana. The linoleum dance floor’s black-and-white check pattern livens things up, and theatrical lighting creates a romantic mood, but beyond that, unremarkable describes the surroundings, and the walls could use a fresh coat of paint.

More bothersome is the cost of refreshments ($2 for bottled water) and the $12 admission price. Ticket holders may roam around Knott’s for an hour before the 7 p.m.-to-11 dance begins, and, during the summer, until midnight. But most go to this dance to dance, period. Free parking included in admission is some consolation.

Also on the down side--particularly for those loathe to sit out a single song--is the evening’s entertainment. At 8, 9 and 10 p.m., the floor is cleared as dance teams or couples perform routines from 10 to 20 minutes long. Some of the area’s top competitors and teachers show up, but so do some embarrassingly bad acts.

Still, despite these deficits and the hike from the vast parking lot, Straight’s Cloud 9 affair is a good time. It offers one of the too few weekend opportunities to don taffeta and patent leather and whirl around the room in an atmosphere evocative of a far more innocent age.

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Assorted tips: There’s no coat check at Cloud 9, but belongings can be deposited on a number of tables and chairs. Packing a pair of flat shoes for the trek from the parking lot is advisable.

To find the light green Cloud 9 building, head toward its neighbor, the park’s sky-high parachute ride. Topped by a large “K,” for Knott’s, this sky jump is easily spotted from afar.

* KNOTT’S CLOUD 9 BALLROOM

* Knott’s Berry Farm, 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park.

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* Call Patricia Straight at (714) 968-5816 for a discount admission card, which allows entry for $12. Parking is free with card.

* From 7-11 p.m. the second Saturday of every month, through 1994. Card holders may enter the park at 6 p.m. and remain until closing.


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