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Laconian Dance 101:  Intro to The Laconian Dance

For those of you out there that are regular visitors here at DCGreeks.com, you've seen many references to The Laconian Dance in our articles and poll questions.  "What's the big deal?" you might ask, "It's just another Greek Dance."  Well, friends, The Laconian Dance is more than just your run-of-the mill semi-formal.  As a public service, we are here to provide a primer for those of you that haven't gone or weren't paying attention the first five times you went.   With that, we'd like to welcome you to your first class at DCGreeks.Community College as we present:

Laconian Dance 101:  Intro to The Laconian Dance  

The Location:  Martin's Crosswind's, Greenbelt, MD.  This is major change from year's past at The Laconian.  The Laconian has traditionally been held at the McLean Hilton in Tyson's Corner, VA, a central location right off the Beltway that is just as easy to get to from Bethesda as it is from the Virginia suburbs.  There are several reasons that may have led to the move this year.  The first being price.  The McLean Hilton used to give The Laconian Society a ridiculously low rate for booking the place.  If you think about it, who has a party on the Friday night after Thanksgiving?  You'll never find anyone getting married on Thanksgiving weekend or doing anything else that would require a large ballroom, so most hotels are happy for the business. But under new management, the prices went up, probably forcing the change in venue.  The other reason for the change is that the McLean Hilton would have required a change in the menu, and by that we mean, that they would have actually required them to have food there, to balance out the alcohol consumption.

Time:  9:00-1:30.  Greek time for this event normally has people showing up a little bit before 10:00.  Not much happens at The Laconian before this time.  The band is barely into its first set and most people are still in the lobby during the first hour of the dance.  The dancing really doesn't pick up until 10:30 or later.

Price:  $25 dollars.  For those of you out there that are thinking how amazingly cheap this is for a semi-formal with a live band, keep in mind the following:  1.  Cash Bar... 2.  No Food.  The traditional menu at The Laconian is a bowl of salted mixed nuts at every table or potato chips in an off-year.  Some years they've had dessert stashed away in the corner of the ballroom that suddenly appears around 11:45.  This lack of food makes sense.  It's Thanksgiving weekend, and by Friday night at 9:00, most people have probably sat through enough dinner and leftovers that eating isn't really on their minds.

Where to Get Tickets:  There are a few people in the area from which you can get tickets in advance, but most people, especially the young adults, just end up buying tickets at the door.  Sure you end up getting stuck at a random table, but your table is just a place to set down your jacket or purse because there is very little sitting at The Laconian.

What to Wear:  Semi-formal.  The guys can get away with dressing more boring, um, conservatively, than the girls.  For the ladies, it's a chance to show off that cocktail dress that has been in the back of the closet for a while, or to buy something new.  You'll see less than five girls all night wearing pants or even a skirt, so it's pretty much dresses all the way around.

The Crowd:  Despite the fact that this is sponsored by The Laconian Society of the Greater Metropolitan DC area, the fact is that this is a Pan-Hellenic event.  The Laconian normally averages around 650 people, with crowds as high as 850 in 1999.  This dance brings in a lot of families, but there are more than enough young adults at this thing to put it in the Top 3 as far as events go in this area.  Despite the fact that it is traditionally held in Virginia, it seems that there are slightly more Marylanders who attend the event every year.  Usually they ask you if you'd like to be seated on the Virginia side or the Maryland side.  (Just for fun, say the DC side, and see the reaction you get.)

The Young Adult Crowd:  The reason that this event is so unique is that even among the young adults, the draw is much different than any other young adult event.  First of all, it's not the YAL DC Weekend Dance.  The YAL Dance draws YAL members and an older young adult crowd.  You rarely find anyone under 21, or even under 24 for that matter, at the YAL Dance.  On the other hand, it's not a Greek Night either.  The family atmosphere and the tradition of going to every Laconian Dance since you were a teenager ensures that the older young adults will be there.  (Some of us were dragged to The Laconian when we were still in elementary school; at this age the fun came from racing in the glass-front elevators trying to avoid hotel security rather than actually attending the dance itself.)  There is also the added element of the young adults who are either in college or graduate school outside the DC area coming back for this dance.  For many of these people, it's the first time they've been in the area in a year, at a time in their lives where looks change, relationships come and go, and suddenly they become that guy or girl you've never seen before at a Greek event.

It's this unique mix of people that makes this event so interesting.  Here is where you get that rare interaction between the 30-year-old restaurant owner and the 22-year-old graduate student.  It's where you get the YAL member who wouldn't be at this same party if it were on a Saturday night before church talking to the "bad boy"/ "bad girl" who finds them so sweet and non-threatening it's a wonder they're even talking.  It's the first time you hear that the guy or girl that you've been after for four years has finally gotten rid of their American boyfriend or girlfriend, finally looking to go Greek.  It's where that guy from Silver Spring who goes to school in Virginia meets that girl from Fairfax who goes to school in Maryland, after he's gotten a decent haircut and spent a whole year working out while she grew up into the most beautiful girl he's ever seen.  And it's where someone finally realizes that the other person sitting in the next row over from him or her in church for the last 15 years is the person they're meant to be with all along.

The Action:  Despite the fact that many people are there with their parents and other family members around, there's a surprising lack of inhibition at this event.  We're not talking about exhibitionist behavior or anything; the event barely gets to a PG-rating, but somehow the fear factor disappears once within the four corners of the dance floor or its immediate carpeted perimeter.  And surprisingly, the girls, not the guys, initiate much of this.  Unlike a Greek Night, where staring at a member of the opposite sex is just harmless fun between sips of your vodka tonic and drags on your cigarette, at The Laconian, if you stare at the same person long enough, he or she is going to actually call you out on it, and either come up and talk to you or better yet, drag you out onto the dance floor.  (This is not a call for a moratorium on staring.  God forbid we stop looking at each other.  Greeks are in the upper echelon of ethnic groups when it comes to staring.   It's just what we do.)

But just as much fun as the interactions you participate in at The Laconian, are the interactions that are happening on your behalf.  You may be feeling that you're having the absolute worst time ever and that you're not meeting anyone new, but deals are being brokered and schemes are being drawn up that involve you without your knowledge.  Some guy's or some girl's parents, grandparents, or godparents are checking you out, sometimes seeing you for the first time.  In the weeks and months after the dance, the phone lines from Bethesda to Falls Church are lit up with so much intelligence information being gathered on you, you'd think the call was being placed on a secure line from Langley to the White House.  The due diligence that occurs after The Laconian makes the buyout of a bankrupt Dulles-corridor Internet startup look like a trip to Costco for milk.

The Final Exam:  After attending The Laconian Dance, you still may not have all the answers.  As a result, we suggest you audit this class as to not put too much pressure on yourself.  Some of you may opt to take it pass/fail, but please don't take it for a grade, as you may find yourself repeating this class every fall.  After 15 years, we've barely passed Laconian Dance 101, so we look forward to the day they let us take Laconian Dance 106:  How Things Work  DCGreeks.Community College is also looking for someone to teach Laconian Dance 400:  Advanced Laconian Lab.


Read past feature articles.