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A weekend of celebration as Capitol Hill’s Century Ballroom turns 15

(Image: Caroline for CHS)

Set in the early 20th century architecture of the Odd Fellows Building, The Century Ballroom is a seductive setting for dance that seems to have been there since the structure’s birth. But despite the antiquity of the building, Century turns *only* fifteen this weekend, a mere babe compared to the old-fashioned grandeur of its environment. CHS talked with owner and instructor Hallie Kuperman about the anniversary, the party and her years of sharing dance and more on Capitol Hill. Century is the only business to be part of both the early 90s pre-boom Odd Fellows and the modern incarnation where the rest of the arts organizations that used to call the building home are long gone.

In addition to the Ballroom, Kuperman also operates the building’s Tin Table restaurant and continues to expand the spectrum of what her dance space offers with events like movie nights and the weekly indoor flea market. “I’m always looking for new ways to keep bringing people into dance,” Kuperman said.

Friday-Sunday,February 24-26, 2012

It’s hard to believe, but it’s time to celebrate our 15th Anniversary!

Help us celebrate 15 years of memories and dreams come true.  We could never have done it without your support, so whether you are new to Century Ballroom or have been here since the beginning, please stop by and say hello.  Celebrate the past and the future with us!!  

3 Bands
1 Slide show
1 Movie
4 Movie shorts/documentaries
20 performances
25 DJs



CHS: How did you first get involved with Century Ballroom?

Hallie Kuperman: I used to own a company called Swing Girls for the gay and lesbian community. Actually, it was based out of what is now The Century Ballroom. The swing dance scene at that time was limited to all ages dancers; no alcohol, no food, no fun dance. We came in and promoted social dance across the board.

CHS: What changes have you seen over the years? Has Century suffered from the recession? Has there been a bounce-back recently?

HK: Not really. It’s the cheapest possible form of entertainment. Classes cost between 4-7 dollars. When rent tripled, we went to seven- on the weekend maybe ten. But we didn’t suffer in the same way [as other businesses] since we provide not only a way to exercise but also socialize and create a sense of community. Classes are actually bigger now than they have ever been.

CHS: This sounds like a really great business during the cold dark winters in Seattle.

HK: We try to offer something that people can do and want to do a couple times a week. We make it affordable. I am such a proponent of health benefits of social dance. For folks that don’t do the snow or go to the gym, we offer an alternative. It’s great physical activity. You can’t think about anything else when you’re dancing. It’s very different from other sports where you wait on the sidelines. Throughout the entire time you’re dancing, you’re very present. When social dancing, you have to be completely in tune.

CHS: Do you provide classes for couples? Or is it primarily for singles?

 HK: We’ve fostered [couples only classes] recently. In the past we never had couples only. We would always rotate partners in class. My belief is, the more you dance with other people, the more you learn. But then I realized, some people aren’t learning to dance because they want to dance with other people. They want to dance with their partner so we started offering them recently. But in general, there are more single/rotating classes. Often times people come to class with friends.

CHS: How do you find your teachers?

HK: Most of our staff has been students. Often times, staff will leave and in their place recommend students. So we give them a trial, we watch them teach. See how it goes. We have a lot of instructors, across the board we get responses about the clarity and enthusiasm of our instructors. I have a lot of trust. Actually 100 percent trust in them. They know more than I know now in the ways of other dances like the Lindy Hop.

CHS: What’s your most popular class?

HK: That’s hard to answer. Salsa and swing are probably the most popular. Each dance appeals to different people.

CHS: Moving forward, are there any exciting changes to look out for with Century?

HK: I think we are going to start co-producing a Bollywood class. The music is phenomenal, infectious. We met up with these guys from Portland and decided we would try co-producing. We don’t usually do this kind of thing (co-produce), normally we invite people to teach a workshop. 

CHS: When does this start?

HK: Probably the third Sunday in March; then third Sundays from there on out. People should look for it. It’s not on the web yet.

CHS: Surely you’ll have a cake at this weekend’s celebration. Any wishes when you blow out the candles?

HK: Our goal is to continue to do what we do well; get the community at large out there. Utilize everything we’ve got for the community. Stay knowledgeable. The environment [of Century Ballroom] is important to me. When I dance, I want a big floor, not a seedy bar, or a pick up spot. 

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9 years ago

Yay Hallie, thanks for keepign CB going! We love it so much and can’t imagine life without it. It is everything you say and more- a wonderful, comfortable place to socialize and experience the joy of dancing. Congrats on the anniversary.