If anyone could throw a ball in Glendale, the man you would want to do
it would be Gene DeWald.
And no, we’re not talking about baseballs or footballs. The ball we’re
referring to is the kind where Cinderella found her prince.
For more than a quarter century, beginning in 1954, DeWald was the man
to see if you wanted to learn the art of ballroom dancing in Glendale or
Pasadena. One of the country’s leading practitioners of the art form,
during that time he taught thousands of couples the finer points of the
fox trot, waltz, swing, mambo and numerous other dances that make up the
ballroom slate, using the Glendale Civic Auditorium as his classroom.
Since he retired in the mid-'80s, the city’s Parks and Recreation
Department has often called him back to teach. In fact, he recently
finished a series of classes at his old haunt.
“It seems that no one knows how to teach ballroom dancing the right
way anymore,” says the master dancer. “They’re just teaching steps, the
mechanics. They leave out the dignity and the enjoyment of it.”
DeWald is counting on that dignity and enjoyment, along with elegance,
entertainment, gourmet dining and the chance to dance the night away to
draw revelers as he ushers in the new year with the Millennium 2000 Ball,
taking place at the Glendale Civic Auditorium on New Year’s Eve beginning
at 8 p.m.
The recent swing revival in pop music, and the fact that ballroom
dancing is part of the curriculum at many colleges, should also help
draw some of the younger crowd.
“It’ll be the largest New Year’s Eve dance ever held at the
auditorium,” he says proudly. “And people will be getting quite a
bargain, considering what lots of other places are charging for this
The ball, priced at $150 in advance and $200 at the door, features an
hour of hors d’oeuvres, a gourmet dinner with wine, dessert, a champagne
toast at midnight and a wide array of entertainment besides dancing.
Among the featured performers are Paul Ruben and his Illusions of
Magic comedians Michael Haywood Norris and Noelle North, pianist Mark
Mercury, magician Larry “The Great Kasini” Krasny, who will stroll from
table to table doing feats of close-up magic, and, just added, America’s
premier tango team, Felix Chavez and Marilyn, who will perform an
exhibition of this exotic dance.
Lou Dokken and his 13-piece orchestra will provide a wide variety of
musical styles for couples to dance to, from samba to swing to waltz and
everything in between.
“We will also have a sing-along to the old songs, and other
surprises,” DeWald says. “There will be stick jugglers as people arrive,
and everyone will have a full color 8 x 10 photograph taken. And,” he
adds, “because we are only serving wine with dinner and the toast at
midnight, it won’t turn into a drunken bash.”
In fact, the black-tie optional affair will end at 1 a.m. to ensure a
safe commute home.
“People shouldn’t be afraid to attend,” he adds. “After all, there
will probably be a bigger police presence on the streets than we’ve ever
seen before. And with the cost of driving drunk these days, well, we just
want everyone to leave with a happy heart.”
Besides, DeWald wants people to come back. He has already booked the
Civic for Millennium Ball 2001.
If You Go:
WHAT: Gene DeWald’s Millennium 2000 Ball.
WHEN: New Year’s Eve, Friday from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.
WHERE: Glendale Civic Auditorium, 1401 N. Verdugo Road.
DRESS: Black-tie optional.
TICKETS: $150 per person in advance; $200 at the door.
INFORMATION AND RESERVATIONS: (626) 303-6252.