Dance hall days in Catasauqua

Borough's Gas House Dance Hall offers swing, salsa, mambo and belly-dance classes in former gas station.

The new dance hall is located at 311 Front St. in Catasauqua

Unless you're a C-list celebrity or a washed-up professional athlete, gracing the stage of "Dancing with the Stars" probably isn't in the cards for you. This doesn't mean you can't learn the moves though.

The Gas House Dance Hall in Catasauqua, which opened Sept. 7, offers weekly classes in swing, salsa, mambo and belly dance. The business at 311 Front St. (near Blondie's Cupcakes) also offers instruction in yoga and drumming.

"We want to be the Lehigh Valley's go-to destination for people wanting to learn dance styles that are not typically found in one dance school," said artistic director and co-owner Hannah Nour, a Bethlehem Catholic High School and Muhlenberg College graduate. "A ballet school, for example, probably wouldn't offer other styles. We also hope to include African and Indian dance in the future."

Nour and managing director and co-owner Robynn Shannon, both residents of Catasauqua, named the dance hall after a gas station that operated out of the building in the 1930s. They also pay homage by displaying original oil cans, and plan to showcase two antique gas pumps when they are restored.

According to the duo, the most recent occupant before their arrival, Blocker's Service and Hardware, closed a few years ago. Wall shelving that once housed tools and parts now holds shoes, yoga mats and dancing accessories.

Work, which began in January, included the removal of drop ceiling, installation of wall mirrors and construction of a spring dance floor, which consists of a moisture seal, high-density foam, two layers of plywood and hardwood on top.

"It was very important that we have a proper dance floor — one that absorbs shock and is kind to the body," said Nour, who briefly attended New York's The Juilliard School before an injury.

Nour, who has toured with Miles Copeland's Bellydance Superstars and taught at Jacques d'Amboise's National Dance Institute and Ballet Tech, stresses that classes are meant for people of every age, size and level of fitness.

In addition to getting a workout, she sees other benefits to dance, including an increase in confidence and the promotion of positive self-body image.

"Belly dancing, in particular, is a way for women to express femininity in a very empowering way," she explained. "It also helps your posture, so we want people to leave here standing taller — literally and figuratively."

Belly-dance classes, taught by Nour and Shannon, are only open to women, but men are welcome to participate in all other classes.

Con Gallagher, a well-known dance instructor and choreographer in the Lehigh Valley, teaches beginner salsa, mambo and East Coast swing while Rami El Aasser, a Brooklyn-based tabla player and percussionist offers bimonthly drumming workshops.

Yoga classes are taught by three instructors: Ruth Huron, Amber Colson and Ram Gopalakrishnan.

Class fees are $45 to $65 for six weeks or $15 for a drop-in. The next six-week session begins Oct. 28.

The business also sells dancing apparel, jewelry and accessories. Info: 610-443-0707 or The Gas House Dance Hall on Facebook.

Next door to The Gas House, another female-owned business opened its doors June 6. Flawless Designs, a full-service hair salon, is owned by Breann Galgon.

The salon offers the following services: men's, women's and children's haircuts; color; highlights; updos; waxing; perms and chemical straightening; extensions; and bridal and children's parties.

Info: 484-245-0300 or flawlessdesignssalon.com.

West of Catasauqua, a business selling antiques and vintage-inspired decor and gifts opened Oct. 2 at 2895 Township Line Road in Orefield.

Barn Swallow, housed in the former Country Barn restored barn, sells everything from wreaths and jewelry to furniture and kids' toys. Owner Kate Hydro of Schuylkill Haven decided to open the store after outgrowing her Etsy shop online.

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