Revival of The Beat

Cigarette smoke melds with disco fog and the aroma of sweat to create a sweetish haze that intensifies the pale lights glowing from behind the turntables. It's Thursday night, College Night at this little hideaway in the South where funk is still the function.

Forestalling the electronic music that has become standard in more metropolitan areas, the DJ sticks to hip-hop radio hits and old school dubs. 50 Cent joins Rob Base in rocking the party, hard.

It's been years since I've ventured to a legit dance club anywhere near my old stomping grounds. Recent trips have left me disappointed, watching hicks kick shit to badly remixed rock. I began to fear the free-flowing vibe that dragged me out through my teens and 20s had withered in my absence.

But not here. The crowd bumps together in a state of euphoria reserved for religious revivals, prison riots and all-night dance parties. Changes have taken place, however, since my last foray into Southern clubland. White guys in tight tank tops and baggy shorts still vie with black for respect on the dancefloor. But these breakdance battles always end with high fives instead of hard feelings.

This openness spills out of the pits and infuses the floor with the air of an orgy. "Partners" swap out at the drop of a Kango with no one having a definitive destination. White girls & black guys, Asian girls & white guys, Latino guys & black girls, all popping to the rhythm methodically and spontaneously. Switch!

More so than in the past, dudes are willing to dance solo, do their things at their own paces with no requirement to mack, entice. But temptation is here for the asking. While the fellows have grown more low-key, the ladies have become the aggressors, acting eager to back that thing up on anyone capable of moving with them.

When the early morning strikes late, the cops arrive to shut us down. Within a minute or two, we're all on the street and ready to roll to our respective resting spots. But I got what I came looking for. In a few too-short hours, my admiration for this hidden blend of the South has been rejuvenated, strengthened over the original.