When you think of grooving all night in the year 2000, you probably picture the chemical combustion of a dusk-to-dawn rave or roof-raising hip-hop at a remote warehouse deep in the heart of Oakland. But at Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center in Berkeley, they approach the dance-till-you-drop concept a bit differently. It's a kind of throwback to the bygone days of bobby socks and poodle skirts in the high school auditorium — with a markedly postmodern one-world twist.
The Ashkenaz Dance-a-Thon is an old-fashioned pledge-driven fund-raiser, where registered participants must hit up sponsors for donations for the privilege of getting down (from afternoon to after midnight) and the chance to win fine prizes, including a vacation to Rio de Janeiro. A unique, all-ages performance space and East Bay fixture since 1973, the annual event helps allow Ashkenaz to maintain its typically reasonable admission prices to multicultural shindigs throughout the year.
The Dance-a-Thon features an eclectic roster of Bay Area-based world music ensembles, all of whom are popular club attractions. This year's lineup includes “contra-dance” specialists Hillbillies From Mars, bluesy swingers Brenda Boykin & Home Cookin', Zydeco Flames, California Cajun Orchestra, Balkan favorites Edessa & Friends, Vassil & Maria Bebelkov, Moroccan musicmakers Tamazgha, reggae group Jahmen, West African High Life Band, and Tropical Vibrations, who kick soca, calypso, and Rasta vibrations.
Ashkenaz Dance-a-Thon takes place on Saturday, Jan. 15, from 1 p.m. to 2 a.m., at Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center, 1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley. Admission with advance registration and/or a minimum pledge of $50; call (510) 525-5054. More registration details are available at www.ashkenaz.com.