OAKLAND — The Night Owl could be at the Oakland International Film Festival, sipping wine at Zza's new wine bar or learning to tango, rumba or — hottest of the hot — salsa.

But she won't. This birdie's wings have been clipped and all she can do is dream of flying the coop.

Definitely no dancing. Crutches just don't go with slinky dance dresses, and what good is it to tango or cha-cha without one of those?

But, I can dream about twirling like Ginger.

I said dream.

Maybe all the films in recent years about the ugly duckling with two left feet turning into a hot salsa swan ("Step Up," "Strictly Ballroom," "Take the Lead") have given me false hopes and a madness for merengue (swing those hips, now).

Or, the wish to waltz might be inspired by hearing the Oakland Ballet is rising from the ashes (the company hung up its tutus in 2006 because of funding trouble).

Really, I chalk it up to watching "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" too many times.

Maybe not.

Oakland has plenty of instruction options for twinkle-toes to choose from.

The ABC Ballroom Dance School, Salsa dancing with Juan Gil ("Learn to dance salsa! No partner needed ..."), Just Dance Ballroom and Allegro Ballroom (in Emeryville).

Between them, a danseur could hoof it to everything from country and western to Viennese waltz, with hip-hop, paso doble, East Coast swing, hustle ("Do the hustle!") and a list of other dance styles thrown in.


Advertisement

I will tell you another time about the night I was forced to learn the hustle with two former world hustle champions.

Not a pretty story.

But there's also plenty of belly dance classes and even instruction in Turkish gypsy,Bhangra or Zimbabwe steps for those looking for something more unusual.

What to do with all that fancy footwork is another question.

There's a dance hall — well, actually, nightclub with a dance floor, but hall sounds better — to be had just about every night of the week in the East Bay: Wednesday nights at the Shattuck Down Low Lounge in Berkeley or the Trio Bistro by Lake Merritt; Thursday nights at Karibbean City; Fridays at La Taza de Cafe; and weekends at Montero's in Albany (voted No. 1 by East Bay Express for the "sauciest salsa dancing"), Ashkenaz, La Pena and sometimes Yoshi's.

Most of these nightspots offer to teach novices the moves to match music played later by live bands.

From hatchlings to hoofers.

Then there are the clubs where sweaty bodies move to music in whatever way feels right — no training necessary.

Bench and Bar hosts several naughty dance nights. The dance floors at the Ruby Room, Luca's Tap Room, the Easy Lounge, and the infamous (in a wacky way) White Horse always welcome boogie-loving feet.

And there are so many more yet to be discovered.

Now for the rest of the week. If the Night Owl were going to be hanging out from tonight to Oct. 26, here is a list of places she might be. If, however, you want to read more about where she went or find events that didn't make it in time for this calendar, visit the Night Owl blog http://www.ibabuzz.com/nightowl.

Same goes for anyone who wants to chime in with their favorite dance spot.

-The sixth year of the Oakland International Film Festival kicked off Thursday with several short films followed by "Namibia: Struggle for Liberation."

The story of Sam Nujoma, the first president of Namibia, is part of seven nights of independent films from around the world and from right here in Oakland. The films will be screened at the Grand Lake Theater, 3200 Grand Ave. After-show schmoozing will be held at Zza's Trattoria, down the street at 552 Grand Ave. A full calendar of events and films is available at http://www.oiff.org.

-Come for a float, stay for the art tonight at the reception for the opening of "Masks of Africa" at the FLOAT Art Gallery and Floatation Center, 1091 Calcot Place, Unit #116 (located in a storefront loft in the historic Cotton Mill Studios.) For more information, visit the Web site http://www.thefloatcenter.com, e-mail infor@thefloatcenter.com or call 510-535-1702. The exhibit of African masks from around the continent will be on display until Nov. 15. The giant, enclosed floating tanks are always there. And you thought the float came with root beer.

-Back to the dance world, the Just Dance Ballroom has dance classes Fridays and then a ballroom party for people to strut their stuff. In one hall are world salsa champions showing intermediate students the moves from 8 to 9 p.m. Then it's salsa mania from 9 p.m. to midnight. Beginner lessons are 7 to 8 p.m. Mondays, followed by an 8 p.m. intermediate lesson. Same story with the classic dances. Tonight students learn the foxtrot and cha-cha at 8 p.m. followed by a foxtrot and cha-cha ballroom party from 9 p.m. to midnight.

Oct. 26 is cha-cha and Argentine Tango. No partner required. Beginners welcome. The address is 2500 Embarcadero, the Web site is http://www.justdanceballroom.com and the telephone is 510-436-9888.

-And, speaking of film, the Film Oakland Outdoor Cinema Series wraps its summer al fresco movie viewing Saturday with the showing at dusk of that tale of the plucky pig "Babe." The show begins at sunset, or about 7:30 p.m. these days, on the wall of the 9th and Washington streets parking lot. Fresh popcorn and refreshments are provided, but bring your own chair. Free parking is available at 8th and Washington streets. For more information, call 510-238-4734, e-mail filmoakland@filmoakland.com or visit the Web site http://www.filmoakland.com.

-The Oakland museum kicks off its annual celebration for the Days of the Dead (Dias de los Muertos) noon to 5 p.m. Sunday with hands-on crafts, demonstrations, music, dance, food, and a mercado, plus performances by Ensembles Ballet Folklorico de San Francisco, Orquesta La Moderna Tradicion, Tamborazo Zacatecano El Herradero, Danza Cuauhtonal, Isim-Tinamit, Balamcoatl and Yolanda Aranda. The Oakland Museum of California is located at 1000 Oak St. For more information, visit the Web site http://www.museumca.org/pdf/DOD—2007.pdf, or call 510-238-2200.

-Moving in a different direction, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is coming to the Cerrito Speakeasy Theater 9:15 p.m. Thursday, starting off the countdown to Halloween.

And it's not just any old Buffy TV episode. Fans get to go back to the start of the dark heroine in the film that sparked a cult: The 1992 "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

In keeping with the dead theme, "Death at a Funeral" starts at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $6. The Cerrito Speakeasy is located at 10070 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. The Web site is http://www.speakeasytheaters.com and the telephone is 510-814-2400.

That's all for now, ladies and gentlemen. But if you have a cool shindig, e-mail me at awoodall@bayareanewsgroup.com.