On a Saturday night at The Membership, a gaggle of dancers carrying permed wigs, flashy silver clothes, and red-and-black bellbottoms transfer and groove throughout a colourful, light-up flooring. There are women and men, younger and previous. It’s not a scene out of “Saturday Night Fever”—though The Membership’s dance flooring did encourage the one within the film—however quite a mean night time for the Disco Amigos, an area 1970s-inspired efficiency krewe.
To know the Disco Amigos, it’s important to perceive their historical past—beginning in New Orleans. Conventional krewes (teams that throw balls and parades throughout Mardi Gras) all the time have been part of New Orleans’ tradition, however after Hurricane Katrina, marching krewes—a brand new kind of krewe—began popping up on the scene. These krewes started as social golf equipment and had been cheaper methods to take part in a parade, since members walked or danced within the parade quite than driving on a float. In 2012, the all-male 610 Stompers krewe was heading to New York Metropolis to carry out within the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Three of its members didn’t need to fly there, so that they as a substitute purchased a 1970s van to make the drive on their very own. On the way in which, they determined they wished to begin their very own krewe, and whereas in a Mexican roadhouse bar, they decided they’d be known as the Disco Amigos. Their mission assertion can be to protect and encourage disco, dancing, and a superb time for everybody. From there, the group grew quickly in New Orleans, but it surely wasn’t till a number of years later that it made its technique to Birmingham.
Birmingham chapter founder Toni Dennis was inadvertently launched to the Disco Amigos by Vickie and Roy Greucio, Katrina evacuees and Mardi Gras aficionados whom she befriended throughout their non permanent relocation to Birmingham. When Roy was recognized with a lethal type of melanoma most cancers, his associates (together with Toni) determined a superb time at Mardi Gras would possibly maintain some therapeutic energy. At one of many parades, they noticed the Disco Amigos carry out, and Toni mentioned to Vickie and Roy (who had since moved again to New Orleans), “You need to join this.” A number of months later, they known as Toni and advised her they wished her to hitch with them.
“They said to me ‘We want you to do this with us—you’re family,’” Toni says. “It was really sweet.”
Figuring out Roy doubtlessly solely had a couple of months to stay, Toni rented an condo in New Orleans for 2 months and joined the Disco Amigos. She says she was instantly hooked.
“It was such a bucket list thing that I didn’t even know was on my bucket list,” Toni says. “And it was also such a healing experience—not only for my friend. It was just energizing to partake in something like that. And today, Roy is still alive—and dancing.”
After three years of dwelling between Birmingham and New Orleans, Toni determined to deliver the Disco Amigos to Birmingham and have the brand new group debut on the annual Do Dah Day competition and parade.
She recruited three associates who lived in Highland Park together with her, they usually began practising in a neighborhood room at Park Tower. As different individuals within the constructing noticed them dancing, curious onlookers grew to become new members. And by the top of 2016, they’d 14 dancers. Carrying their very own ’70s gear, the group participated within the following Do Dah Day parade and formally grew to become the primary Disco Amigos chapter exterior of New Orleans in September 2017.
From there, they had been in a position to get official costumes and e-book performances at occasions such because the Rocky Horror Image Present on the Alabama Theatre. Now, the Disco Amigos have 59 members (ages 21 to 72) in Birmingham and will be discovered acting at virtually any parade on the town, in addition to at quite a few different occasions resembling charity advantages, live shows, and sporting occasions.
“Year one, people in Birmingham just thought we were this odd group of people,” Toni laughs. “People have to give themselves permission to have fun and not worry about what anybody else thinks.”
And that’s precisely what the Disco Amigos hope to perform. At every occasion, the krewe performs coordinated dances (that they observe each Tuesday on the Levite Jewish Neighborhood Heart), however additionally they all the time encourage viewers participation. And it appears Birmingham is getting used to them. Toni remembers that on the first parade they did in Mountain Brook, individuals weren’t positive what to suppose. The next 12 months, they had been smiling and taking photos. Hopefully this 12 months, they’ll dance.
“It’s fun to watch Birmingham see us,” says Leisha Harris, one among Disco Amigos’ authentic 4 members. “There’s not another group like us in the Birmingham area.”
To hitch the Disco Amigos, which is a nonprofit group, no prior dance expertise is required—simply the flexibility to do fundamental choreography in addition to some turns and jumps. There aren’t any tryouts, however Toni does suggest potential members attend a couple of practices first to see in the event that they get pleasure from it.
“Most of the time, people who are drawn to us love to dance,” Toni says. “People will say, ‘Well, I’m not the best dancer.’ Well, you don’t have to be. We do want you to be an entertainer of sorts, but even that develops over time. We’ve taken the shiest of the shy, and now they’re just out there having a blast.”
All of Disco Amigos’ dances are choreographed by the New Orleans group and set to ’70s and early ’80s disco funk music. One of many Disco Amigos’ main occasions is a yearly journey to New Orleans to take part in Mardi Gras. The krewe masses up in a bus and heads to the Crescent Metropolis to bop within the Mystic Krewe of Nyx parade. Whereas in New Orleans, the Birmingham chapter additionally has the choice to stroll in further parades with the New Orleans chapter.
“You’re incredibly exhausted. Your feet take a pounding. Your body takes pounding,” Toni says. “But the music’s always amazing. And the energy from the crowd keeps you going—there are thousands of people there.”
One of the crucial essential elements of the Disco Amigos that its members all the time appear to spotlight is the flexibility to tackle a unique persona and simply let free and have enjoyable.
“We’re all business owners. We’re all business people. We’re all doctors and EMTs, and I own a bus company,” says Alan Thrasher, founding member (and the primary man within the group). “But coming on Tuesday [for practice] you totally forget it, you wipe it away. It’s like cleaning that slate over. You can dive into a different personality.”
Provides Toni, “All of a sudden, you start looking for a wig store out in Hoover or Irondale, or you look for cheap jewelry that’s got huge hoops and lots of sparkles to it—people create these new wardrobes for themselves.”
However there’s a aspect to the Disco Amigos that goes deeper than glittery tennis footwear and afro wigs. It’s one which unites individuals of all completely different ages, races, genders, and beliefs—one which places apart all of these variations within the title of disco.
“I have one rule,” Toni says. “And I will say it every time we have new members because it is something that we live by here in Birmingham. And that is that we bring nothing divisive to class. I tell people, this is your break from all that. You can go back out into your world and be exactly who you are—and we want you to be who you are in this—but here we focus just on the fun side. I’ve told people before ‘No drama at the disco.’”
And up to now, the group has caught to that precept.
“One of the guys in New Orleans said, ‘You’re having more fun than we are,’” Alan says. “So, we hope to keep that momentum going and keep showing how much fun it is.”
“It’s a great group of people,” Leisha says. “The people are there to support you, and you want everybody to succeed.”
Because the Disco Amigos boogie down on the dance flooring, they will’t disguise their smiles, and it’s obvious that they’re genuinely having a superb time—and so is everybody round them.
“It has brought so much joy to so many people, whether you’re in the organization or whether you attend an event,” Toni says. “It almost makes me tearful. I’ve had members come up to me and say, ‘This came to me at the most perfect time of my life.’ So, there’s been this healing aspect. And then there’s been this happy aspect to it. And then there’s this fellowship and friendships that are created by it. And then you’ve got your audiences that just have a blast. It’s just been this beautiful experience. It’s almost a little bit magical.”
Catch the Disco Amigos at these upcoming occasions:
October 10 First Gentle’s “Dancing with the Stars of the Magic City” on the Lyric Theatre
October 18 Rocky Horror Masquerade Ball on the Alabama Theatre
October 27 Homewood Witch’s Trip (the theme this 12 months is disco)
October 31 Mystics of Mountain Brook Halloween Parade in Crestline Village
November 8 Disco Amigos Takeover Uptown: Previous to the KC and The Sunshine Band live performance, the Disco Amigos will likely be internet hosting a self-produced dance get together to KC and the Sunshine Band music, in addition to a dance contest and a parade to the doorway of the live performance
To study extra concerning the Disco Amigos, go to discoamigos.com.