Joe Battaglia and The New York Big Band at The Edison Ballroom

If you like a glamorous Rainbow Room-type supper club evening, with ballroom dancing and a romantic Valentine’s Day vibe, the Joe Battaglia and The New York Big Band event at The Edison Ballroom delivers. The evening includes an all-night-long open bar, 4-course dinner and 4 hours of dancing to the live music of Joe Battaglia’s Big Band sound (with Direct Latin Influence, also known as DLI, playing during their breaks).

The recent September “Swing Into Autumn” event offered all at a value priced $100 per person for a table on the mezzanine level ($150 on the dance floor). Our evening was a swirl of dancing to Moonlight Serenade, Skylark, What kind of Fool am I? and Moon River, (perhaps in honor of Andy Williams whose passing had been announced that week) — all the songs that inspire a kiss from your partner at the end of each dance. This inimitable experience fills the void left dark by the Rainbow Room’s closing. Our intimate little table for two gave us happy New Yorkers the kind of evening out on a run-of-the-mill Friday night that most couples only see on their anniversary. Two more such evenings are scheduled this year, both holiday events: Nov 23rd, (the Friday after Thanksgiving) and New Year’s Eve. Visit http://edisonballroom.com.

Here’s what you can expect:
The doors opened at 7pm and the music by DLI was underway. As tables were being seated by the hostess, several couples were already on the dance floor.  It was like being at a wedding but you don’t have to wait for everyone to be seated to be served your dinner. Or for the bride and groom to kick off the dancing. We started with our pre-dinner cocktails and ordered our meal. At 8:02 Joe struck up the band, officially starting the evening. His singer, Timatha Kasten was soon onstage and we rose to dance to  “Making Whoopee,” (Busy, is he?)

We looked around. Who are these dancers?, I wondered.  Not the dance school crowd, not the Midsummer Night Swing crowd. We didn’t recognize anyone. Though we overheard two couples recognize each other from the Rainbow Room. Many a couple dipped and one did many aerials. Some dancers were very good. Some were simply having a good time. Tables 5, 6, 7 and 8 ring the dance floor and those couples were enjoying each other’s company. The romantic music inspired one couple seated at a table at the edge of the dance floor to feed each other. (Upstairs Tables 36 and 37 at the balcony edge have the best view of the dancers).

Just the Way you look Tonight? The Way you Wear your Hat? The women were in cocktail dresses, a few in ball gowns; just one in pants; long black gloves, feathers and flowers in hair were spotted. The men in suits and ties. Some jackets came off for dancing. See the guy in spats?

Joe Battaglia took his break at 8:40, and DLI took the stage. We’re taking a 20 minute break, Joe said and at 9 pm they were back on. We were into the rhythm of the evening.

John and I were keeping track of how many different dances we would do to see if we could break our record, a record actually set dancing to Joe Battaglia at the Rainbow Room for my birthday dinner out 4 years ago. At the Rainbow Room we had danced ten different dances styles.

This night, plenty of swing and foxtrot all night long. …..“Just  a Gigolo“…..then Dean Martin classics. “We gotta get up and dance to Dean,” said John who can be counted on to spring up every time any band anywhere plays “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.” We were up and down all evening from the mezzanine to the dance floor. But who could be lazy if you’ve come to dance for four hours.

“Was that a quickstep we did?” I asked John, who was leading so he would know. “No, there’s no room here to do a quickstep,” he said. But knowing I was keeping track he said, “You can say we did an open foxtrot as well as that closed foxtrot.”

Now Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are.” John hesitated. Let’s rumba, I suggested.
Now a song featuring Joe’s trumpet solo (there were more). It was a hustle, an instrumental version of Do the Hustle, which morphed into “Tangerine” (who knew that was a hustle?) and back. But John won’t Do the Hustle, so beating the record was looking doubtful. (Perplexingly he thinks it’s too much work.)

Hey, we can West Coast Swing to “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” and finally a waltz medly.

When Joe took a break, we took a break and returned to our seats to continue eating our dinner. Like at a wedding, Joe makes the rounds to greet fans and friends at their tables, but collecting kisses and handshakes, not envelopes.

Appetizer choices were grilled shrimp with tart mango salsa and avocado; seared scallops with sage brown butter sauce and ricotta cheese ravioli with brown butter sauce. Salad options were baby arugula, endive and goat cheese with raspberry vinaigrette; mixed baby greens with shaved pecorino Romano and balsamic vinaigrette; hearts of romaine with Parmesan croutons and Caesar dressing.

We had asked our waitress to hold each course since we expected  to be gone from the table a lot.

I chose the pan seared grouper with red bill potatoes and fall vegetable medley for my entrée while John went with the petit filet with roasted potatoes and fall vegetable medley in red wine sauce.

Our desserts, molten chocolate cake for me and apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream for him, had to wait while we jumped up to dance to DLI.  Good thing the ice cream was left off because one Latin number lasted almost the entire 20 minute break.

DLI gave us a meringue and when they played the Happy Birthday song in honor of two of their bandmates, lucky for us it was a Cha Cha.  Here we go Salsa to “Mira Como Baila.”

Joe played the last hour, midnight to 1 pm without a break and we got in our tango and–surprise–a paso doble. John claimed he didn’t know how to do that one but I convinced him to dance it by telling him that paso doble means two-step in Spanish (and being a big country dancer he knows that one) plus the “going for the record” factor. ‘You don’t have to be good, just fake it,” I begged. And he did.

“If you like swing dancing and top-shelf drinking, this is a really great value,” John had to say, after a nice long evening (7 pm to 1 am) of both (they had him at Glen Livet.) He compared it to a  recent evening — a typical dinner with wine and cocktails– where the bill was over $250 for the two of us. At the Edison Ballroom, we had countless refills of red wine with dinner and my kahlua and his afore-mentioned scotch afterwards.
But why dwell on the value when the singular experience of dancing to the legendary Joe Battaglia Big Band was the priceless experience we came for. When we had danced to them at the Rainbow Room that bill was over $500 (but there I go again about the value.)

At our Edison Ballroom night we were at our 10 dance record. Swing, foxtrot, tango, rumba, west coast swing, paso doble, waltz, meringue, cha cha, salsa.

Would we beat our record? When Joe gave us Barry Manilow’s “At the Copa” I knew I was doomed. John wont hustle, don’t ask him.

At 10 dances, we tied but didn’t break our record. How could we have missed a mambo? I know why we didn’t hustle. But John refused to take the blame for missing the opportunity to beat our record, even though he wouldn’t hustle. “Blame it on the bossa nova, he likes to say.

By: Lisa Skriloff, Editor, Dance Travel News

(above) Joe Battaglia and The New York Big Band

(above) Singer Timatha Kasten

(above) Dancers at Edison Ballroom from balcony view

(above) Edison Ballroom from mezzanine view

(above) Dancers at Edison Ballroom

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