Dancing through time

How hungry are Sacramentans for groovy new spots to dance? Let me put it this way: You might want to wait a few weeks for the initial novelty to wear off over at the new Polly Esther’s dance club on Arden Way, because this place has been packed, with a capital P.

The much-anticipated grand opening night on March 15 was a gyrating mass of lithe bodies in short skirts or polyester pants, with a decidedly retro fashion aesthetic that was conducive to the time-machine nature of this expansive dance hall.

Inside its strip mall hell surroundings, once you get past a line that seemed miles long on opening night, Polly Esther’s is a room divided: one half a flashback to the ’70s, the other a nod to the ’80s, each side with its own bar, dance floors and synchronous décor.

You enter on the ’70s side, strutting in to a disco beat. Along one wall is the Partridge Family bus, parked near a huge tapestry of the boyish ’70s sex symbol David Cassidy, smiling out from his Right Now album.

From the ceiling hang disco balls and a big Atari icon, illuminating a ’70s hall of fame: the Village People, Farrah Fawcett-Majors, Grease, Foxy Brown and, of course, the ubiquitous dance stills of John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever. Video screens play movies from the decade (from Animal House they segued to A Clockwork Orange, lending a decidedly disturbing feel to the occasion).

Stepping from one room into the next, you get smacked with the Rip Van Winkle effect: Suddenly it’s the ’80s, and you’re listening to Huey Lewis, Duran Duran, A Flock of Seagulls or some such synthesizer-induced ’80s crap (I’m perhaps letting my biases show and should probably admit right here that I spent most of my evenings in the ’70s shaking my ass to disco, funk and old-school soul).

Along the walls are images of the era: Madonna in her underwear-as-outerwear days, a crazed Jack Nicholson from The Shining, a Footloose movie poster, Prince sitting on his motorcycle from Purple Rain and a Pac-man gobbling neon dots on his way back to the restrooms. An actual DeLorean, done up like the Back to the Future time machine, completes the décor.

The scene was happening and the sound was good, so good that you can stand in the doorway between rooms and bounce back and forth between the ’70s and ’80s until you feel like your head might explode. That nostalgia can be powerful stuff, so use it cautiously.

On the negative side, the drinks are a tad pricey and there was condensation formed around all the steam pipes, steadily raining drops down on those dancing underneath, which was actually welcome relief considering how damned hot it got inside and the fact that there was no outdoor area to cool off (a word of warning to smokers, stepping outside means getting back in line).

Yet, if you’re looking for a fun place to dance or just step into the Way Back Machine, Polly Esther’s has immediately established itself as one of the coolest dance clubs in the area.