Daniel “Breeze” Clayton, the emcee of Breeze’s Country, the hand-dance TV show filmed at the Chateau, was originally told by the family of owner Seresa “Nut” Coleman, who died earlier this month, that the club would stay open. They apparently have changed their minds. The Benning Road NE club’s voicemail says it’s closed “indefinitely” and Clayton states that a family member told him they are selling the hand-dancing and soul music establishment, which was founded in 1967. The repass held at the club for Coleman was apparently the Chateau’s last hurrah. The building is now locked up and phone calls from Arts Desk have not been returned. Clayton’s public access show did not occur last week as he was searching for a new location, which he soon found: His program returns Wednesday at the Colmar Manor Town Hall in Colmar Manor, Md.
In 1999, hand-dancing, a form of swing-dancing, was named the official dance of the District by the D.C. Council. Now it’s gone from city nightclubs and can mostly only be found at Colmar, The Game Room Grill and Sports Bar in Fort Washington, and various other rented lodges and halls in Maryland. Through part of 2015, hand-dancing could have also been found at the Solar Eclipse Nightclub on Bladensburg Road NE, but that establishment, which added go-go and rap events last fall, then closed after its owner, Baba Tutu, died in November.
Through 2014, hand-dancing occurred at the Channel Inn on the Southwest waterfront, but that building was acquired by developers PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette, who leveled it to make room for The Wharf redevelopment.
Beverly Lindsay-Johnson, former president of the National Hand Dance Association, says that, in addition to Breeze’s Wednesday event, “the Chateau was the place to be on Friday night if you were ‘old school.’ Everyone was there, from the government worker to the construction worker to the former Mayor Vince Gray.” She adds that “the Eclipse catered to generations of hand-dancers, ‘old school’ and ‘new school,’ from those who, in the 1950s and ‘60s, learned to hand-dance in their community, and in later years, hand-dancers who learned through class instruction.” Both the Eclipse and Chateau were about community, Lindsay-Johnson says, “they had annual hand-dance socials for seniors and kiddie cabarets, evenings for the persons with disabilities, and donated formal attire for those who needed it during prom season.”
While the situation may now look grim, the NHDA is doing what it can to keep hand-dancing alive. The NHDA Classic Hand Dancers performed at the recent Anacostia River Festival, and will be involved with the May 6 “Art on 8th” event sponsored by Dance Place in Brookland and at an event that day at the Prince George’s County Publick Playhouse. The Bethesda Blues & Jazz Club and Westminster Church’s Blue Monday Blues Night sometimes presents soul bands that people can hand-dance to. In addition, the Roots Public Charter School on Kennedy Street NW has hand-dance in its curriculum. And, of course, Breeze is promising that he will continue to host his TV program every Wednesday.
Breeze Country Hand-Dance TV Show will be taped live on Wednesday, April 20 from 6 to 11 p.m. at Colmar Manor, 3701 Lawrence St., Colmar Manor, Md.