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The Groove is in the Art

John Ceglia, Tony Billoni, and David Butler.

Dance Your Art Off next Friday for the Give for Greatness

Town Ballroom, 681 Main Street. April 1, 9pm.

$15 advance (Artvoice, Town Ballroom,

People who say their partying days are long behind them are kind of sad. Age, having a family, work, and other factors can change the way you celebrate, but it shouldn’t stop you altogether. Has it happened, though? Have you really forgotten how to have fun?

Have no fear, the maestro of multimedia madness is back. Tony Billoni, creator of Artists and Models Affair, the Jam Club, and the Crash Club, is returning to the party scene on April 1 with Dance Your Art Off, an event designed to benefit the Give for Greatness campaign as well as gather in a possibly different set of arts supporters.

Billoni’s rationale is the same as it was when he started Artists and Models, an event inspired by the art-infused scene at former New York City clubs like Danceteria and Area. “People who go to clubs might not go to Hallwalls,” he says. “Let’s get the two groups together.”

Now director of the Erie-Niagara Tobacco-Free Coalition, Billoni put on the first Artists and Models Affair in 1984 as an after-party for the Albright’s In Western New York show. In 1994, Hallwalls took over the party as a fundraiser and has been running with it ever since—the 2011 A&M will happen May 21 at the Rock Harbor Yard.

This year, Western New York art lovers and club kids can have it all—they can experience an event that may be closer to the Billoni original as well as attend Hallwalls’ artful adaptation. What’s the difference? Dance Your Art Off, as the name suggests, is first a dance party and then an art party. “Artists and Models to me was as much a dance party as it was a multimedia art party,” says Billoni. “The DJ was always really important. The dance floor was going to be there. The coolness of dance music is that that stuff is always hip, it’s always good. It never went away. It got popular in the disco era—but after that a lot of it went back to the clubs.”

Town Ballroom will be transformed into an avant garde dance palace with the help of two people Billoni considers to be among Buffalo’s most talented: DJ John Ceglia and set designer David Buter. Ceglia is a respected deep house star from the height of the disco era and is famous for spinning at a long list of clubs, including New York-New York, Bonds, Underground, River Club, Studio 54, Ice Palace, and The Saint. He now lives and works in Buffalo as a sound engineer, coming out to mix on very rare occasions. He will be joined by DJ Cutler, a Buffalo-based artist who spins breakbeat, funk, and hip hop—on vinyl only.

It’s David Butler’s job to create a backdrop for the beats; Billoni describes his plans as “a crazy mix of flow, fabrics, and light.” And, then, of course, no party is complete without a healthy dose of fire—in this case, a simulated fire show, using LED spinners and other equipment, created by local collective Pyromancy, known for their performances at Infringement, Curtain Up!, and Party for the Parks. (They’ll also be at Trimania this Saturday, March 26.) Expect all available nooks, corners, and crannies to be filled with art installations.

It will be fascinating to see Billoni back at the helm of an art party—equally as fascinating will the mix that attends this event. I’m envisioning a brew of current followers of DJ Cutler, current and past fans of Artists & Models, and those who don’t want to miss a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the legendary Ceglia, who has never worked with Billoni before.

And then there are those who don’t need a reason to have fun.

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