Middletown dance hall leaves downtown home after 22 years – Middletown Press

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Dancers enjoy the last swing and blues practicum July 18 at Vinnie’s Jump and Jive at 424 Main St. in Middletown. The hall will be closing and moving down the street to the former Community Health Center family wellness building at 635 Main St.
Vinnie’s Jump and Jive dance hall at 420 Main St. in Middletown, held its last night of operation Monday, before moving to another location downtown.
A dance instructor directs a large group during a free basic club salsa dance class at Vinnie’s Jump and Jive in Middletown in this 2004 picture.
Dancers enjoy the last swing and blues practicum July 18 at Vinnie’s Jump and Jive at 424 Main St. in Middletown. The hall will be closing and moving down the street.
Dancers learn to swing dance at Vinnie’s Jump and Jive in Middletown in 2004.
A couple dances during a merengue, cha-cha and rhumba class at Vinnie’s Jump and Jive in Middletown in 2003.
Vinnie’s Jump and Jive dance hall, at 420 Main St. in Middletown, held its last night of operation June 18 before moving to another location downtown.
MIDDLETOWN — Monday evening was bittersweet for those enjoying the last dance at the downtown community studio, a staple in the city’s North End for over two decades.
Vinnie’s Jump and Jive, located at 424 Main St., and named for the late owner of the popular Amato’s Toy and Hobby on Main Street, Vinnie Amato, offers an array of classes. They include swing, blues, salsa, ballroom, hip-hop, belly dancing, break dancing, country line, ballet and more.
It is run by the Community Health Center at 675 Main St.
“It was emotional for many of them, as some have been dancing at Vinnie’s for most of the 22-year history,” according to Nathaniel Holmes, CHC Community Wellness & Engagement Program Specialist and manager of the dance program.
The studio recalls the Roaring Twenties, when dancing became a craze for those of all ages. It continues today, with the popularity of ever-evolving styles.
Twenty people attended the final swing and blues dance class. “It was very nostalgic, upbeat, joyous and emotional,” said Holmes, who took part as well.
“Patrons will really miss the space at 424 Main St., however, they are thrilled that we are committed to continuing on in a new space,” he added.
Kelly Dougherty, a longtime Vinnie’s patron, posted a poignant testament on the Facebook page. “My heart is breaking into a million pieces right now,” she wrote.
Over the years, Vinnie’s has become her “secret refuge, my inspiration, and my sanctuary of joy,” she added.
“There’s something to be said about a small space being more than just a room. If a space is done right … then ‘just a small space’ can become a respite, a place to find your tribe, a sanctuary, a place to call home. That has been this space for me for so long,” she added.
Although Vinnie’s will be reopening, Dougherty explained, the original spot will still be a special one.
“The hearts of all whose feet once graced those floors will linger long past the last song is played and the curtain closes. The floor will remember. The walls will remember. And we will remember Vinnie’s, our shared home.”
Community Health Center President and CEO Mark Masselli and his partner Jennifer Alexander, founder of Kidcity children’s museum, opened the hall in 2000 as a way to promote health and wellness in the community, Holmes explained.
Amato donated the 424 Main St. dance hall to CHC to hold classes. In gratitude, health center leaders decided to “make his name forever a part” of the facility.
Vinnie’s slogan is “All types of dances for all types of people,” which, Masselli said, “really captures what Vinnie’s is all about, and is a big source of pride. Vinnie’s brings all sorts of people together — regardless of whether they favor country-western, hip-hop, swing, waltz or tango. Even belly dancers,” he added.
“Vinnie’s reflects the diversity of our community and is an inclusive space for everyone to enjoy,” Masselli explained.
The building’s new owner, developer Dominick DeMartino, purchased the property last year as part of his multi-faceted project to turn several area buildings into a rooftop patio bar, apartments, gourmet grocery, Latin-style restaurant and ice cream parlor.
Swing and blues dances, the most popular styles at Vinnie’s, take place Fridays evenings. About 30 dancers come to each class, Masselli said.
The health center is in the process of rebuilding the schedule by adding more classes toward the end of the year and into 2023.
The health center has applied to the city for funding from the American Rescue Act Plan. Holmes hopes work on the new studio will begin by mid-fall.
A reduced rate or free entry is offered to health center patients, clients and staff. “Many programs within CHC regularly refer patients and clients to Vinnie’s for medical and behavioral health reasons,” according to the website.
Avid dancers need not stay still for long, however, as in a week, swing and blues, and country line classes will resume Thursdays from 5 to 10 p.m. at Faith Lutheran Church, 300 Washington St. — Vinnie’s temporary home.
These begin July 28 and will run until the new space is ready, Holmes said. The dance hall will share space at 635 Main St. alongside the CHC Family Wellness Center.
“We are very excited to start a new chapter in our permanent location and look forward to building Vinnie’s back up to its pre-pandemic levels in both attendance and programming,” Holmes said.
Before and after classes, he said, patrons, some of whom travel a distance to attend, often frequent local businesses.
“Vinnie’s brings people into Middletown from all over the state. They shop, have dinner and contribute to the overall economic well-being of the city,” he said.
Patrons are asked to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination as well as a booster shot when registering for classes. All are required to wear a mask. For information, email vinnies@chc1.com or call 860-347-6971, Ext. 3777.
Cassandra Day is an award-winning multimedia journalist and resident of the North End of Middletown who has been reporting nearly every facet of the city for over two decades.


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