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Arts & Culture

Dancin' in the Moonlight: Connecticut Dance Halls

Chion Wolf

Today, we revisit our conversation about two Connecticut dance halls, each springing from the vision of two very different men who took their respective dance halls down very different paths. One's dream soared, bringing thousands of concert-goers to over 3,000 acts over an eleven-year history. The other's dream stalled, his elaborate dance hall sitting idle for decades.

Thrall Hall in East Windsor is a lot of things. By most accounts, it's a fascinating example of vernacular or folk architecture. Ed Thrall built the dance hall from materials he recovered from demolition projects, sometimes salvaging pieces of historical interest. He built it his own way following his own idiosyncratic ideas about architecture. Thrall Hall contains some engineering marvels including the use of recycled tractor trailer tires under the dance floor to give it adjustable bounce.

What Thrall Hall is not is usable. 

Ed is a peculiar and troubled man. He didn't work and play well with others and you'll hear today an occasionally hair-raising account of his battles with the town. Executive Producer Catie Talarski shares this heartbreaking story of lost dreams, betrayal, and redemption.

Thrall Hall was just about the only thing that could make the wild eleven-year run of the Shaboo Inn in Mansfield seem pale by comparison. That's the second story we tell today. 

Connecticut’s Shaboo Inn, a legendary 1970s and 1980s blues and rock concert dance hall, attracted over 100 top artists, including Bonnie Raitt, Miles Davis, The Police, Aerosmith, and Tom Waits to the former silk mill in Mansfield.

David “Lefty” Foster started Shaboo at the age of 19 when he wasn't yet old enough to be inside the building. He joins us to share stories from this long and storied Connecticut icon. 

Read and listen to Executive Producer Catie Talarski's feature here.

Leave your comments below, email us at colin@wnpr.org or tweet us @wnprcolin.


Catie Talarski, Betsy Kaplan, and Chion Wolf contributed to this show, which originally aired on September 30, 2014.