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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
July 1, 2005

Dancin' in the Streets is back, and back in the streets, too

Cleveland--Dancin� in the Streets, an annual outdoor dance party benefiting the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, will return to its roots as a street festival this year on Sunday, August 28.

The event, originally produced by the AIDS Taskforce, had been discontinued last year. Now, a new organization has formed to sponsor it.

�Given that 2004 was the Dancin� 20th anniversary, it seemed like a good time to retire the event, and allow it to evolve into a newer, more modern phase,� Taskforce executive director Earl Pike said last year.

That newer phase will be to take it back to its roots as street fair or block party, as opposed to the amphitheatre or pavilion-hosted event it had become by the end.

Dancin� in the Streets was first held as a street fair on West 9th Street in 1985 to raise funds for AIDS services. Over the years, it was expanded, and its last two events were held at the Tower City Amphitheatre and the Scene Pavilion.

Now, with the AIDS Taskforce�s blessing, a new organization is bringing it back to the boulevard--Clifton Boulevard, between West 116th and West 117th Streets.

�It was a small event, it was one block, and it was a blast,� said John Katsaros, the owner of Twist dance club and one of the organizers of the revived Dancin� in the Streets. His club faces the new location.

Gregg Witbeck, a DJ and manager of Union Station Video Caf�, spun at both the first Dancin� and what was supposed to be the final one, and felt it was important to help keep it going.

�It�s a way to pay back the city of Cleveland and the community who have been so good to me for so long,� he said. �I cannot let this die. The AIDS Taskforce is an enormous support group, providing help and services to so many, and it needs to be supported. It was unacceptable to me that Dancin� would end.�

One of the things Katsaros and Witbeck have in common is Judy Price, the development director of the AIDS Taskforce. For the last few years she has put large amounts of time into organizing Dancin,� each year with dwindling returns. As the event got larger, the costs went up, and attendance sagged.

�Judy and I are very good friends,� said Katsaros, �and we were talking last year about how well we had done at the bar. We did the Friday pre-event, and then Saturday was the circuit party, and Dancin� was on Sunday.�

�Having it back and right in the community, in the neighborhood where so many of us live, is great too,� he continued. �People can walk here.�

Dancin� is being set up as its own 501(c)3 non-profit corporation with its own bank account. All expenses will be paid by the organization, but all net profits will then go to the AIDS Taskforce.

The new event has other friends in high places.

�The Cudell Development Corporation, which is the merchants association here, has been really, really helpful with this whole thing and really cooperative,� Katsaros noted. �I�ve been a resident of Cudell and a business owner for a long time, and I have to tell you, talk about people who are really involved in the community.�

�And also, our councilman as well,� he continued. �Jay [Westbrook] has been a councilman for as long as I can remember.�

�These people are all gay friendly. They know who their residents are, they know who their constituents are, and I have to give thanks to them,� he concluded. �The whole thing�s gone very smoothly. They�re good friends.�

Witbeck pointed out that while Dancin� will be returning to its smaller, more intimate roots, the weekend will be larger than ever, with eight events surrounding Dancin� in the Streets.

On Friday, an opening cocktail party at Snickers Tavern will begin the weekend, followed by another event at Twist.

Saturday will see the return of the Pump Party at Club Cleveland, then a cocktail party at Longevity, a pre-party at Man�s World and the Shed, and then Erie Party, the traditional �circuit party� event, at Bounce inside Union Station.

Sunday begins with Dancin� in the Streets from noon until 8 pm, followed by a post-party at the Leather Stallion and the closing party at the Grid.

�The whole weekend is just amazing,� Witbeck said. �We�ve tried to include everyone as best we could.�

�I owe something back to this community and I hope that helping to save Dancin� and Erie Party is something that is meaningful to the community,� he posited. �We can all be together in one place and have a good time.�

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