Jazz at Your Door: Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra comes to Waterside!

(Photo by Ted D`Ottavio)

Wednesday, the jazz age beckons!

Join us for an evening of Dancing Under the Stars accompanied by a live band: Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra!

Michael Arenella & His Dreamland Orchestra is the world’s premier Jazz-Age dance orchestra, steeped in the hot-dance band tradition of the 1920s and early 1930s.

The orchestra’s presence invokes the vibrations of something unmistakably timeless.

No dance skills needed, come learn the steps with our instructors and dance the night away while enjoying the ageless melodies.

(Register here)

We spoke with Michael about his music and the upcoming Waterside show.

Your music seems incredibly unique and appeals to people of all ages.  How do you describe it?

We play the pop jazz of the Prohibition Era, so that would be the ‘20s and ‘30s.

It’s a timeless sound and has a very vibrant energy that has stood the test of time.

I think that’s why we get such a wonderful variety of different age groups and all different walks of life that are big fans of our music.

On your site you state that you and your band “capture the essence of what this music and times were all about: Joy, romance, modernity, and possibility.” Those are wonderful qualities to bring back!   

Yes, I think that in the 1920s people were a bit broken and looking for a reason to celebrate life again, and to find joy in the everyday once again.

And now, similar to the ‘20s, we’re looking for a return to the simple pleasures of life and a reason to just go out and be among friends and remember the simpler, kinder type of life.

I think that’s part of why people love to come to our event today.

What was the impetus to create a full orchestra that played jazz?

That was a standard band size in the 1920s, an 11-deep orchestra, and I wanted to recreate that sound, and I went back and I found the old recordings, the 78 recordings on shellac and vinyl, and I listened to those recordings and I transcribed everything they were playing, note for note, for all the instruments.

So what I have, and what my orchestra presents, is a one of a kind transcribed songbook of music that you won’t hear anywhere else in the world because nobody else has found those records that I found – and if they have found them, they surely haven’t transcribed them.

We have a very unique musical experience for people that they won’t hear anywhere else.

Tell us your favorite part of entertaining.

What really gives me joy is playing music, and I feel that music is a sort of medicine. I’m not a doctor, I’m not a physicist, it’s nothing that important but I feel that music is its own very special kind of medicine for people and I feel very lucky to do it.

It’s a real gift to bring people merriment. Entertainment is often escapist, which is one of the best parts: For a while you’re transported somewhere different, outside of your immediate reality and life.

Speaking of different, how do you feel about playing on a huge plaza overlooking the water? Have you been here before?

Standing on the plaza right now – it’s breathtaking!

It’s a beautiful viewscape of Greenpoint and Long Island City and Williamsburg. You can see the Queensboro Bridge, you can see up at Harlem. It’s breathtaking. It’s a very unique viewscape and the breeze coming off of the river is most refreshing.

That’s fantastic. We love it too!

This show is open to the public – and it’s especially fun for our residents: They can just step outside and have the jazz age waiting for them.

Right at your door.


Where else have you played that’s been memorable?

We play all different sorts of venues, both indoors and outdoors. Our largest event of the year is the Jazz Age Lawn Party which is held on Governors Island. We do speakeasys and restaurants, clubs throughout the city, and throughout the world. We’ve just returned from Cannes, France.


Were you born in New York?

I wasn’t, no. I was actually born in Texas. But I’ve been in New York for 20 years and both of my parents are native New Yorkers. So I could even argue that I’m a New Yorker once removed.

It’s, of course, amazing to have been born in New York – that is a unique experience. But if you come to New York, as an outsider, there’s a whole other component in how you experience the city.

Many of our residents are from around the world. So, as someone who also wasn’t born in the city, what are the things you love about New York? What made you stay?

Well, times have changed and it’s now a much more difficult place for an artist to make it than when I came here in ‘97 and so when I perform, I also try to reach younger folks who might not have had an opportunity to get up close to live music or live orchestra.

I take the opportunity as often as possible to play in public, places where people can see us free, so that young folks can also be exposed to what we’re playing without having to pay a premium for it.

New York is still so full of beautiful art and a beautiful energy, and I think that’s what draws people here and continues to draw people here.

It’s an ever-evolving city and it’s constantly kind of working itself out and it’s an honor to be a part of its tapestry.

Is there a particular thing that you’re most excited about in terms of playing at Waterside?

I’ve never played here before and I’ve never had the opportunity to touch the East River from this exact point.

It’s a discovery for me. That’s one of the cool things about New York, that you can have been here for a long time and maybe even your whole life, and still discover something new every day, and it’s a lot of fun for us to discover this new venue, and bring the jazz age here.

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Register for this event on Eventbrite.

(Via @madreamland on Instagram)


Delight in Disco – Wednesday at Waterside – with Disco Unlimited!

Get ready to Boogie! Disco Unlimited will be here at Waterside this Wednesday! (Register here.)

Disco Unlimited has become the hottest disco show and dance band on the East Coast. Capturing a time in music that to this day has not been matched, Disco Unlimited will exhilarate you with their powerful vocals, tight harmonies and dance grooves, and instantly transport you to a time when Saturday nights meant white suits and platform shoes and the best music.

Disco Unlimited - Performing at Waterside in NYC on July 19th, 2017

We have a fantastic summer line-up– all free of charge – so please feel free to invite your friends.

For Waterside residents, just step out your door – and the entertainment will be right there for you!

We spoke with Michelle Amico Licata, owner of MLicata Entertainment, and the booker and manager of Disco Unlimited to find out what to expect on the 19th – and why Disco music is so universally appealing.

Disco Unlimited’s site has: “Capturing music that to this day has not been matched.” Why is it so unparalleled – and why does it appeal to people of all ages?

Disco music takes you to a happy place – that’s what it does. And people remember the songs. Whether they heard it from their parents playing it or they heard it from an older brother or sister, or in recent circulation, it makes people happy

Once you hear the music, you can’t help but tap your feet and move to it – it’s such upbeat, happy music. And the hustle – the dance that came along with it – was a great dance.

Then they brought salsa into it – that era really captured every audience.

In fact, it seems that in the past 5 or 6 years, Disco’s become really popular again. And now it’s the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Fever! They released the album again; they did a CBS special with Barry Gibb and John Travolta – so it’s huge this year.

Speaking of which: Disco Unlimited is playing at that 40th Anniversary of Saturday Night Fever in Coney Island! That’s also huge!

You have been working with the band for many years. How did you get involved with them?

I’m a band person and I started out booking bands. I wound up listening to not even a full verse of one of the songs they were doing and I called them up and asked, “Are you guys playing anywhere?” and they were playing at a very small park, and I went to see them and I was blown away by the voices of the two lead singers.

The whole band is great – and the two female singers were just phenomenal. So, at first I thought, “Are they lip syncing? Because they sound so much like the artist or better.” And I found out that they don’t lip sync at all.

Then it started to snowball: They were doing larger shows at the NYCB Theater in Westbury and resorts, casinos, opening for the artists whose music they play. And now they have a fan base that follows them around! It’s crazy.

How do the artists feel about them performing their songs?

They worked with these artists sometimes over and over, and now I have the artists saying, “Can Disco Unlimited back us up…” Like Tavares and France Joli, they say, “Can you back us up on one of our songs? We want you on stage with us.”

And it’s an honor. It’s an honor when you get an artist asking you to play with them.

There’s no bigger compliment!

What kind of songs are they going to be playing at Waterside?

They’ll probably do some Donna Summer, they’ll do some France Joli, they’ll do some Tavares –they have so many.

New York City is very much linked with Disco, in part because of Saturday Night Fever.

Yes, Disco was very big on the east coast between New York, Florida, all up and down the east coast. It was huge back in the ’70s and it still is. And of course, yes, New York is most powerful because of Saturday Night Fever.

And Disco Unlimited has a special niche – they come in costume of the Disco era, they play all the songs from that era, and people love to dance to the music as much as they like hearing them sing.

What should people know about your show at Waterside? What should they expect that night?

What I would tell them is to make sure they have their boogie shoes on and ready to dance!

Be prepared to dance; that’s what I would tell everybody. As soon as the first person goes out onto a dance floor everyone tends to follow after that.

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Register for this free show on Eventbrite.

August 9th (New Date): See Andy Suzuki & The Method at Waterside!

Save the (new) date! Wednesday, August 9th, we bring you Andy Suzuki & The Method. (Rescheduled from July 12th because of the rain warning.)

Join us on the Plaza for this free, exciting show!

“Brooklyn’s Andy Suzuki and Kozza Olatunji-Babumba have been making music together for nearly a decade, but now with their third full-length album, The Glass Hour, a creative friendship has flowered into a formidable musical force. The pair first garnered wider attention with their buoyant, organic folk-pop album, Born out of Mischief, and soon found themselves opening for names as large as Ringo Starr, Eric Hutchinson, Joshua Radin, Marc Broussard, Delta Rae, and Tyrone Wells.

Fans fell hard for their combination of a “velvet voice” (NPR) and their “deadly way with melody” (TimeOut New York).”

Take a look at this video and you’ll get a idea of their infectious energy!

We can’t wait to jump around with them on the 9th!

Register on Eventbite.

You can read our interview with Andy here.


Music, Energy and Connection: Andy Suzuki & The Method – at Waterside

Few things invigorate than more music. And seeing the performers live brings a special kind of magic. We have three amazing summer concerts, we hope that you will love! Our events are free of charge so please attend and feel free to invite your friends.

And if you’re a Waterside Resident, the entertainment is right outside your door!

Andy Suzuki & The Method on Wednesday, August 9th (Note: This was rescheduled from July 12th.)

With soulful lyrics, lush sounds and fantastic instrumentals, Andy Suzuki and The Method often sound like more than the three-person band they are. Comprised of half-Japanese, half-Jewish American Andy Suzuki and Nigerian percussionhooist, Kozza Olatunji-Babumba, the NYC-based group often uses the personal to address the challenges “hyphenated” Americans face.

We spoke to Andy about their music – and their upcoming Waterside performance.

Andy Suzuki & The Method: At Waterside, NYC - July 12th, 2017

For people not familiar with your music, why do you think they’ll love it? What’s going to draw them in?

The energy, definitely the energy.

We’ve played so many shows all across the country for so many years and so we’re at home on stage. And I think people love to see that – see a band that is really comfortable up there and is having fun.

That’s key – that people have fun!

Yes, our live show is super exciting and fun. We call our style, “Future pop with an R&B vibe.”  And we’re going to have a full band.

What I enjoy most about a live performance is when I see artists taking risks on stage – and definitely our show is all about taking risks on stage.

Waterside has a very diverse community – and one of the focuses of your band is the cultural blend – the “hyphenated aspect” – of both your music and your band members.

Yes, my dad was born in Japan and met my mom after he went to college. So they met in New York City: They were working for the same company, at the Pan Am – now MetLife – Building, right above Grand Central Station.

My mom is from Queens, she’s a Jewish New Yorker, and they met – and here I am.

I went to Brown University, where I met my main collaborator, the other main band member, Kozza Babumba. His grandfather is a super famous Nigerian percussionist, a Grammy-winner, pretty much the first guy playing West African music in the US, Babatunde Olatunji.

Kozza was playing shows with him on West African percussion like Djembe since before Kozza could even really walk. Kozza’s father is Ugandan.

We hit it off at Brown, became friends and then started making music.

We’ve always had super eclectic music tastes and we both grew up with and still have a love for hip-hop – one of the things that brought us together. But we also love acoustic singer/songwriter stuff and indie and electronic stuff. So there’s a lot happening with our music.

Andy Suzuki & The Method: At Waterside, NYC - July 12, 2017

That diversity, all the different cultures and influences, is a huge part of New York.

That’s one of the best parts about New York.

What’s your favorite part of entertaining? What do you love?

We spend weeks, maybe months writing these songs, getting them on record and mixing in all the stuff. It’s this huge process that goes into about four minutes of music. But, live, I love how in those four minutes, there are all these nooks and crannies in the song that I didn’t even really know existed, that come from discovering and setting up how we’re playing it live. Where can we extend the song? Where can we put in a new drum breakdown? Where can we put in an audience participation part?

It’s different every night, even the same song is different every night because if you’re willing to do the exploration and take some risks there’s so much, so many things that can happen.

That’s what I love.

We’re so excited to have you play on the Plaza. Have you ever been to Waterside before?  

Yes! I used to live right near there and I would go run by the water and I’d be so curious about the buildings. I’d go on the steps, run around, it was all so cool.

Oh! That’s so great.

I actually went to a party there once. So I know exactly the spot we’ll be playing at and it’s beautiful.

What do you think like a band’s goal should be at an event?

My favorite shows are the ones where I feel like it’s a really an immersive experience and I forget that I’m a human and I forget everything that has happened that day and I’m just there.

I’m there, I’m fully present – and I’m engrossed.

That’s what a good performance is all about.

(Register here for the show)

Tango Forever Comes to Waterside!

Hana and Thomas are, respectively, the Founder and Executive Director, and the Director of Programs and Chief Instructor at Tango Forever. They both have a strong background in dance and an equally strong desire to bring the beauty and benefits of Argentine Tango to others.

Hana has organized and hosted Argentine tango events across Manhattan on a weekly and monthly basis with the mission of raising awareness of this art form and reaching a wide range of ages and ethnic groups. She’s also been a design professional for over 20 years. Thomas Reale has been a professional tango dancer and teacher since 1997. He is known for making Tango accessible to his students and has taught at the well-respected Sandra Cameron dance school and performed and given workshops at Carnegie Hall, Essex House, Four Seasons Hotel, and The Palace Hotel.

We interviewed them about the 5-week class they’ll be offering at Waterside, for the next 5 Saturdays, April 29th – May 27th (6pm-7pm), which is open to both Health Club members and non-members.

Hana - of Tango Forever Thomas - of Tango Forever

You had your first class, an introductory class, at Waterside in February – tell me about it.

Hana:                        As it was a first class, most didn’t know what to expect and some were maybe a little bit intimidated by the whole thing. But everybody walked out with a smile. And that says it all. People who have never taken a dance class before walked out hand-in-hand, very happy.

Dancing can be really intimidating. People who don’t know how to can feel that it’s a huge barrier.

So it’s a real endorsement that they left so enthusiastic.

Hana:                        It really was.

When does your class begin?

Hana:                           Saturday, April 29th at 6PM.

How would you describe what they’ll learn?

Thomas:                         People come into Tango with various ideas – that can be wrong. Some people have seen a Broadway show and others have ideas about Tango based on what they’ve been exposed to.

There are different types: One is ballroom tango and another is Argentine tango. And so the first thing we do is explain the difference.

I didn’t realize that there was a difference between Argentine Tango and Ballroom Dancing.

Thomas:                        Many people don’t. If you grew up in America, you usually are exposed to Ballroom Tango, which is completely, completely different: That Valentino idea – and the rose in the mouth.

Whereas Argentine Tango is an over 150-year-old tradition, which came to be through immigrants coming into Argentina, many from Italy. They just started dancing in the streets, and the music and the dance came together interestingly with this instrument called a Bandoneón.

(Photo of Bandoneón – Photo credit: Nico Kaiser via VisualHunt / CC BY)

Hana:                          Also one is developed in the studios and under the spotlights, and the other one is in the streets and much more organically developed.

So they are very distinct.

Yes, and in ballroom tango they use what they call the frame, which is the way that the couple dances, and it’s much more stiff. And, generally speaking, the heads are turned away from each other. Whereas in Argentine tango, it’s not called a frame, it’s called an embrace.

And that tells you everything. It’s a much softer, very active way of relating between two people.

Waterside has residents from all over the world so we are happy to be offering something with an international flavor at the Club.

Hana:                          Yes. And not only Argentine people can dance Argentine Tango.

If you have a heart, you can dance it.

You see in the tango community in New York that there are people from everywhere.  It’s very eclectic. And not only from different ethnic backgrounds – but different age groups. It’s very inclusive of all age groups. Which is rare.

That is rare – very rare.

Is the class for beginners?

Thomas:                      Well, since most of the people will be beginners, it will probably briefly start that way and then develop through intermediate – which is where most people are even when they’re dancing for years.

We start every class with the basics. The basics are the essence of the whole dance. So you always start with the same exercises and move up from there.

Even when you master this dance, you learn the secret was always in the basics. Even the masters come back to the basics.

That makes sense: If you have a really solid base then you can expand upon the dance.

Hana:                          Exactly.  Because it then becomes your own. Rather than teaching people pre-made steps, you teach them the basics and then it becomes their own vocabulary that they can develop and use to express themselves. So that’s our philosophy.

It sounds like an actor learning their lines. Once they learn them, they can speak through them. It gives them a structure that allows them to provide an interpretation.

Hana:                          Right.

I am impressed that this dance is accessible to people of all ages.

It’s dance that you can dance as a young person, sure, but you can really continue dancing well into your eighties and even nineties.

We have somebody who is 98 years old that still goes out at least once a week, dresses up and goes to a social tango. And that keeps him going. And it’s amazing.

And it’s a form of staying in shape that’s gentle enough and you can take it to any level that you are comfortable with. And it actually improves with age. As opposed to say ballet after a certain age you kind of retire from it or other forms of dance, perhaps like salsa, that can be more strenuous. This, you can just keep doing.

Tango classes - Waterside Plaza

Part of your mission with Tango Forever is to improve aging peoples’ health and well-being through the dance of Argentine tango. Why is that important to you?

Hana:                          Yes, this is our organization where we go to senior centers in the various boroughs of the city and we teach them classes at no cost to them.

When I started in Tango, I just started noticing around me that there were so many people well into their eighties that were in such great shape and in good spirits. And I always compare it to people who I know in my own family of that age who were not doing as well.

There is a lot of research –  that correlate this form of movement to health and well-being because it is improv and you’re always in the moment. So this mind-body connection is always cemented and refreshed and it keeps all the nerves and the connections to the brain aligned as opposed to slow degeneration

Also with this dance you are in close contact with others, you feel good – and you are moving.

And so it’s no wonder people keep coming back to it and keep doing it. As opposed to going to the gym, sometimes you have to force yourself to do that.

Here, there is a social connection, there’s a bond, there’s an emotional connection.

You don’t often find all those components in an exercise class: Keep in shape –and have social connections.

Hana:                          Yes. And the music takes you on an incredible journey. The music alone is fantastic.

You mentioned it was like improv, that you have to be in the moment. Why is that essential?

Hana:                          The pace of our lives, especially in New York City, we’re on our phones or on the computer. When you go to Tango, no one is on their phone. It’s a phone-free, unplugged zone. And that is incredibly rare.

Now, you’re in the moment. You’re in the middle of a dance. You’re with somebody. And you change partners all the time, so each time you have to re-calibrate what the lead is asking for, how to follow it, how to respond to this.

It’s a back-and-forth: So you have to present. It’s like a game of chess that’s happening on the spot. You can’t be on the phone.

Is this class offered as a drop in class?

Hana:                          Yes – but we do suggest people come for at least an entire month so you can see a full session of 4 weeks and evaluate. Most people want to continue.

Do they need to wear anything specific?

Hana:                          We ask that women wear leather soled-shoes – doesn’t have to be heels – and men wear leather-soled shoes as well.

What would you say to people who feel trepidation about taking the case because they feel uncoordinated?

Thomas:                      I think when you feel uncoordinated, that feeling may be based on certain experiences you’ve have had.

But it doesn’t apply to everything. And it depends how you learn a thing. We can teach you how to coordinate – that’s what the whole dance is about; it’s about learning to coordinate. My whole philosophy has to do with taking the complex and making it simple.

So it’s not the end of the road if you feel that way. This dance is based on very simple ideas  – like walking. It’s an attitude, it’s an embrace. And it has a very simple base. So everybody can learn.

Tango classes - Tango Forever