By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
There aren't many cowboy boots here. At the edge of the floor, a guy wearing jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and Doc Martens twirls in circles to a throbbing techno tune--arms out, curly, brown hair flopping just above his shoulders in the smoky air. A few feet away, a mixed-sex circle of clean-cut, wholesome-looking revelers steps in place to the rapid beat. Not far from them, closer to the center, a number of couples in sleek, dark clothes dance connected to their partners, bumping and grinding to the music.
The huge dance club reminds 23-three-year-old Jose Luis Rodriguez of the venues he used to frequent back home in Guadalajara, Mexico's third-largest city--only 2009 is bigger. "I like to dance, and I like the music they play here. I live in an apartment and we can't play our music loud there," the construction worker says between turns in a laid-back pool game upstairs with a friend. The girls they came with are downstairs dancing. "You don't have to have a partner here," he says. "You can dance how you want...It's modern." Rodriguez's look is decidedly hipper than the cowboys in 2001; his hair is slicked into a neat, straight ponytail, and a tiny cell phone dangles from a belt loop. "In 2001, I can't dance by myself. They're going to look at me like I'm crazy."
Not far from the pool tables are a couple of double doors. They lead to Club Arriba, the flashy new salsa and merengue dance space within Club 2009. A frantic, clopping merengue beat blasts on the other side of the doors. A subtle mix of smoke, sweat and cologne is more noticeable in the smaller, packed space. Along the wall across from the entrance, a row of multicolored leather booths curve around little round-topped tables. A thin, white curtain runs behind the booths. An elaborate lighting system manipulates the brightness and color of the light that shows through the curtain.
Twenty-one-year-old Yolanda Sanchez kisses and cuddles with a new acquaintance in a booth with red background lighting. Many of the young women lived exclusively with their parents before immigrating to the United States, and they're experiencing their first tastes of freedom here. Sanchez, who came to Dallas from Mexico City about five years ago, hits 2009 with her roommate every Saturday. They usually stick around, dancing and meeting guys, until the club's doors close. When asked over the telephone what type of guys she looks for, she immediately responds, "The cutest ones."
Twenty-two-year-old Brenda Cruz, who works at a liquor store, has been hitting 2009 with her girlfriends almost every weekend since Club Arriba opened. Tonight, the four of them--all Thomas Jefferson High School graduates--are decked out in slinky black ensembles. They're taking a conversation break, standing in a circle in Arriba's bathroom.
"It's pretty big, so you get to see lots of different faces. When you get bored downstairs, you go upstairs, and when you get bored upstairs, you go downstairs. When they play salsa, we usually go downstairs. That's not most Mexicans' thing," says Cruz, who immigrated to Dallas from Guadalajara when she was 7 or 8.
She and her friends have tried 2001 but aren't as enthusiastic. "If you go with a partner, that's cool. But not to look for no guys. It's not the way I like guys to dress. I don't like them with the hat. I like them looking preppy."
While 2009 is similar downstairs to many a Dallas 18-and-up club, Arriba is a Miami-flavored venue. The dance floor is a collage of trendy black shoes with zippers, buckles and straps; the girls wear black Lycra pants, slinky dresses and pleated slacks; midriff tops and tight, ribbed shirts. The light catches lots of glittery eye shadow and dark, gelled hair. Hips swivel and arms swing to an incessant, pulsating merengue beat.
The performance doesn't last long. He soon stumbles--then falls--on the hard floor. His partner pulls him up the first time. The second time, he pulls her down with him. He manages to roll on top of her before a couple of acquaintances pull him off.
A number of brightly colored balloons, festive decorations tied in clusters here and there at the beginning of the night, have floated to the black ceiling, their once-dangling ribbons caught in the intricate lighting system overlooking these dancers' closing act.
Shortly before 3 a.m., both venues start shutting down. Patrons begin the long process of trickling in pairs and clusters into the night. Bartenders clean their prospective stations and close down the registers. Other employees stack chairs and stools, wipe off counters and tabletops, sweep the deserted dance floor and lock all the doors.