"Dancing is that thing where you connect with the music and your partner," says Rochester Swing Dance Network's Esther Brill. "It's a tremendous amount of fun. It brings out the best in people."
Back in 1995, Brill and RSDN co-founder Richard Newman (both pictured) figured they could've earned master degrees in all the time they spent driving back and forth to Ithaca for swing dances. As far as Brill was concerned, the '60s had all but killed partner dancing, except among pockets of diehards like those in Ithaca.
And Brill saw the potential for a pocket here.
"We realized Rochester was a bigger city and we should be able to have dancing here," she says.
So they threw their first dance at the Covenant United Methodist Church on Culver Road. The church has "this amazing best-kept-secret dance floor in the lower level of the church," says Brill.
"We figured, 'What's the worst that can happen? Nobody'll come and we'll just have to pay the band,'" she says. "But over 100 people showed up."
Ten years later and RSDN continues to sponsor monthly dances, usually at the Rochester Museum and Science Center, where people from all age groups and dance backgrounds show up to swing. Each event draws roughly 150 pairs of eager feet. Brill and Newman help the rookies keep their heads above water.
"I think the ingredient that makes it work is we always give what we call a 'survival lesson' at the beginning of the dance," says Brill. "It's the same lesson we've been teaching for 10 years. It's always from scratch and it's just so that you can come to the dance and be able to enjoy yourself."
Brill doesn't want folks to shy away, even if they're flying solo.
"People don't have to come with a partner," she says. "So nobody stands out like a wallflower, there's always someone to dance with."
The RSDN tenth anniversary show with Bobby Henrie & The Goners (celebrating 20 years in showbiz) is Friday, March 18, at The Visual Studies Workshop, 31 Prince Street, 8 to 11 p.m. Tix: $7-$10. All ages. www.rochesterswingdance.com, 244-2815
--- Frank De Blase
Rob Brown, who for eight years has been one of the strongest personalities on the Rochester school board, says he will not seek re-election in November.
An attorney and a former Monroe County Democratic Party chair, Brown has been an outspoken advocate for city schools and for additional funding for the school district. He was a strong supporter of former Superintendent Clifford Janey, whose tenure with the district ended in controversy.
Brown said he's not seeking re-election because "eight years is a long time" and because he wanted to leave "on a high point."
"I think we're going to show some good results again this year on fourth-grade tests," he said. "We've improved the district's business integrity." And, he said, the collaboration between the superintendent and the school board has been good "for almost all of the eight-year period."
Brown's decision means there'll be no incumbent running for two of the three board seats up for election this fall. Board member Jim Bowers previously announced that he won't run again. Board president Darryl Porter said earlier this month that he'll seek re-election to the school board rather than run for mayor. All of the current board members are Democrats.
--- Mary Anna Towler
In an episode rarer than some astronomical alignments, county legislature members in both parties crossed the figurative aisle to vote with their opponents last week.
The issue was whether the county should buy a parking lot (which they currently lease) on Brooks Avenue near the airport from a former Republican legislator, Peter Formicola, at a markup of about $1 million. The fuzzy circumstances surrounding Formicola's acquisition of the lot, and the lease/purchase agreement the county entered into with his company, prompted a backlash from the Democratic minority.
Or most of it, at least. One of the proposal's most forceful backers was veteran Dem Kevin Murray.
"I don't believe the simple fact that a legislator goes into business ought to disqualify him for 20 years or 40 years from doing business with the county," Murray said, pointing out that buying (rather than renting) still saves the county about $220,000 per year.
If new information comes out suggesting improper dealings "that's a different story," he added.
The proposal passed, but a related measure to allow the county to issue bonds for the purchase was shot down.
--- Krestia DeGeorge
Say it or don't spray it.
That's the message from backers of a proposal before the county legislature that would opt Monroe into a 48-hour neighbor notification law for spray pesticide. The law was passed by the state legislature, but counties must opt in before it takes effect locally.
Arrayed on the side of the proposal are environmental groups, several physicians, and the Breast Cancer Coalition. But local licensed pesticide applicators attended the leg meeting in force, as did representatives of their trade associations.
Whether it's the claim that pesticides are benign if properly used, or that they're carcinogenic and toxic to pets and children, both sides say that the available science is on their side. The next pesticide hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, May 10, in Legislative Chambers, at 6 p.m.
--- Krestia DeGeorge
On the air
Anyone who's read Jason Crane's bio (www.jasoncrane.org) knows the former WGMC station manager is terminally restless. One of the only constants in Crane's life has been his activism --- from his stints as a labor union organizer, to his two years as chair of the Monroe County Green Party, to his 2003 bid for Rochester City Council.
And now Crane is heading back to the airwaves, activism in tow. The Jason Crane Show will air every Saturday from 12 to 3 p.m. on NewsTalk 950 WROC-AM. In Crane's words:
"We'll tackle the issues that other broadcast media don't touch; we'll talk with guests that other media outlets don't talk to; and we'll talk to some of the people you hear on mainstream broadcast outlets --- but we'll ask them better questions. The show will not deal exclusively with local news, but the overwhelming focus will be on local news, and on tying larger stories into the local scene."
Sounds great to us. Crane's inaugural program will include labor organizer Pat Domaratz and Cornell professor (and former City Newspaper staff writer) Joan Collins-Lambert dissecting the week's news; Glenny Williams and Howard Eagle on the Rochester City School District's school-closure plan; Susan Jacoby on her book Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism; freelance writer Richard Zitrin on Rochester's newspapers; and Andrew Stankevich on the success of the Friends Helping Friends food-distribution program.
And in the next few weeks, Crane promises guests like City Councilman Tim Mains, Police Chief Robert Duffy, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, organic farmer Elizabeth Henderson, and many others. Stay tuned.
--- Chad Oliveiri
Ready for the country?
Late-night grubbers, mechanical-bull cowboys, and urban sophisticates can now converge on East and Alexander. This past weekend marked the grand opening of the country-themed Daisy Dukes, upscale Soho East, and ROC City Hots --- open late so you'll have something to chase the pangs and absorb the booze.
East and Alexander may seem a little bar-centric at this point, but Daisy Dukes is offering something different, and watching people thrown from the bar's mechanical bull should provide hours of fun.
And thanks to ROC City Hots, a long night of bull riding, skirt chasing, and martini sipping can be capped by a white hot and chili fries.
--- Frank De Blase