Still, "there's definitely some kind of a time-machine thing happening here." So says 32-year-old instructor Paul Maranto as his studio fills with twentysomethings aping bygone icons ranging from James Dean and Bettie Page to Lucy and Ricky Ricardo.

Watching his students sign waivers absolving his studio for any "physical, mental or emotional" injuries, Maranto offers up another reason for the appeal of the rambunctious dance.

"It can be dangerous," warns Maranto. "And for some of these people, I think that's half the thrill."

Elgin MacMillan, a jitter-maniac who boasts that he's been out dancing every night for nearly two months, agrees that the pastime can be "terribly violent." In fact, he still sports an angry scar where he took his partner's elbow in his eye on a crowded dance floor a few weeks ago.

It was not MacMillan's first ocular mishap on the dance floor. Several weeks earlier, the surface of his eye was scratched when a woman he was dancing with lost her grip during an airborne maneuver and frantically grabbed onto his face instead, using her partner's eye sockets as bowling-ball holes.

"Everything turned out okay," explains partner Ruth Wilson, a jitterbug casualty in her own right. (She split her nose open in a separate incident.) "But I did wind up with a lot of Elgin's eyeball juice under my fingernails."

For the time being, however, everybody's having too much fun caroming around the dance floor to spend much time licking his or her wounds. And nobody, it seems, is worrying too much about what happens on that inevitable day when all this high-flying enthusiasm comes crashing to earth.

Conceding that the sudden trendiness of jitterbugging will ultimately plateau, Paul Maranto insists that hard-core fans will keep the dance alive forever.

"The jitterbug has never really gone away," he says, pointing out that less acrobatic forms of the dance have been a staple of dance studios and contests for nearly 50 years.

"The jitterbug is not a fad dance. We're not talking about hip-hop or the lambada here.

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