Best Bets: New Year's Eve offers dancing and dining

L.A. band Red Ball Jets comes to downtown, while Valley features Prime Rib Bash

Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2002

New Year's Eve festivities top the list of events this week, with dancing, dinner specials and parties at a number of local establishments.

The first weeks of January offer a couple of excellent workshops, one for singers and another for dancers, providing opportunities for beginners and advanced folks to hone their skills.

For New Year's Eve The Hangar on the Wharf is bringing a band up from Los Angeles, a three-piece dance rock group called the Red Ball Jets. The band has a wealth of tunes ranging from pop, rock, disco, hip hop to classic rock. Last year the Hangar brought in Sister I-Live, who delivered a great dance party.

Dean Damitio, one of the Hangar owners, caught the Red Ball Jets in Hermosa Beach in L.A. last month and was sold.

"We were all awestruck," Damitio said. "They have almost 500 songs, everything from Tool to K.C. and the Sunshine Band."

In the Mendenhall Valley, Marlintini's is having a New Year's Eve Party with free party favors and the band Fun House providing dance music. A disc jockey will also be on duty for nonstop music.

For something a little different, the Sandbar is offering a New Year's Eve Prime Rib Bash. That's a prime rib dinner plus a ride home to anywhere in the Mendenhall Valley, for $20.

Henry's Food and Spirits is also featuring two dinner specials with the country music and classic rock from Northern Pacific after dinner.

For a smoke-and-alcohol-free event, there's the contra dance at St. Ann's Parish Hall. Odette Foster is the dance caller and the Grateful Celtics will provide the music. No experience or dance partner is necessary.

Check the events calendar on page 2 for a full list of New Year's Eve events. There are probably a half dozen bands playing in town Tuesday night, but some places didn't have the details nailed down by the Empire deadline.

Singers of all levels have a great chance in coming weeks to get some fine coaching and make noticeable improvements.

Juneau Lyric Opera is again bringing Byron McGilvray to Juneau to lead this year's Mid-Winter Vocal Festival. The festival provides opportunities for beginning, intermediate and advanced singers to work on their voices. I've found McGilvray to be an excellent teacher.

The success of the festival has caused the introductory group voice class to grow so large that the organizers became concerned that students won't get the attention they deserve. The group decided to limit the class to 15 this year and it's sure to fill up quickly. Check out the JLO Web site at, or call 789-4604 for information.

If it is full, consider joining the festival chorus, also taught by McGilvray. This is a mixed group of singers of all levels. It's a chance to get the feel for a choral ensemble, work with good singers and get some excellent tips and vocal instruction.

The group meets seven times, Sunday, Jan. 5, through the following Saturday, for 2 1/2 hours, with a performance Saturday, Jan. 11. That's a lot of time for voice work. Last year the group was almost 90 singers, which is great if you're shy and want to blend in.

Advanced singers should consider the festival's chamber ensemble. The members of the group will work on more difficult pieces and will also showcase the fruits of their labor in a concert Jan. 11. Check out the Web site for more information. All sessions will be at St. Paul's Catholic Church in the Mendenhall Valley.

Along similar lines, Saturday, Jan. 4, the Juneau International Folkdance group is hosting a day-long dance workshop for beginning and experienced dancers.

Nine sessions will be held over the course of the day.

Styles include fox-trot, waltz, swing, salsa, cha cha and meringue. Classes begin at 9 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m., with a two-hour dance review session between 3:45 and 5:45 p.m.

Teachers include Bart Watson and Karen Lechner, Heather Haugland and Antonio Diaz, Shane and Bonnie Wirtz, and Dan and Lorinda Kassner. These are all experienced teachers with a relaxed and unintimidating style.

Cost is $10 per session or $35 for the package at the door, or $30 for the package if preregistered by e-mail. To preregister contact

Riley Woodford can be reached at

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