Wednesday Night Fever

They emerge from the darkness like a scene out of Night of the Living Dead, boys in tee shirts and girls in skintight halter tops. You can see the girls from the far end of the parking lot, with their sparkly earrings and glitter-smeared skin already glistening in the hot August night. It may only be a Wednesday, but you won't catch these kids at home watching West Wing reruns. This is their Saturday night -- at least for a couple of hours -- and no self-respecting teenager is going to start her evening by letting you see her step out of mom's minivan in her platform flip-flops.

It's hard to imagine that any parent with a clear conscience would let her kid out the car door with an exposed thong and push-up bra, but that's just the look of the day -- or at least the look of the evening.

It might resemble MTV, but this place is right here in Scottsdale. It's teen night at The Buzz, a sleek club that hosts a weekly underage dance party all summer long. Over the past four years, the high-end nightspot has become a destination during summers and school breaks for hordes of bored Valley kids who can afford a $10 cover and bottled water at beer prices. Many of them attend Scottsdale high schools like Chaparral and Desert Mountain, or private Phoenix schools like Xavier and Brophy, but some come from as far away as Fountain Hills or Queen Creek. Aside from the club staff, nobody over 20 or under 15 is allowed inside on Wednesdays. But this summer, management gave a New Times reporter and photographer a rare chance to hang out inside the teen mecca.

Kids come for a taste of grown-up (albeit smoke- and booze-free) nightlife, and for a few sweaty hours of parent-free freak dancing -- the new millennium's answer to dirty dancing. Ever since cave men banged rocks together to make music, people have been rubbing up against each other and calling it dancing. Patrick Swayze had a hit movie in the '80s with the '50s-era Dirty Dancing, and who could forget Lambada: The Forbidden Dance, in the early '90s? Don't be surprised if "Freak Dance" is next summer's blockbuster. The bump and grind style has swept American high schools -- and some have even banned it. (Despite rumors to the contrary, local school district officials say it hasn't been a problem.)

Teen nightclubbers at The Buzz say they come less to hook up than to dance -- and with the exception of a handful of obviously drunk or high kids, music is the most intoxicating thing in the place. Watching a guy smack a girl's ass in the name of self-expression, you do have to wonder where the dancing stops and the sexing begins. But if a Wednesday night in Scottsdale is any indication, music is all these kids need to get off.

Freak dancing would make real grown-ups blush.

Every time someone opens the glass front door at The Buzz, there's a blast of cold air conditioning and loud Justin Timberlake. A persistent beat shakes the sidewalk as kids line up at the velvet rope. The dress code isn't strict -- just about any kid with 10 bucks can get in. And you're more likely to get carded if you look too old rather than too young.

Inside, the club's been open for half an hour. Half a dozen guys and girls amble onto the dance floor to stand around and talk, occasionally glancing across the room in anticipation of actually seeing somebody dance. But in spite of catchy hip-hop songs vibrating out of huge speakers, no one's worked up the nerve yet. Look past the upscale club decor and the girls' provocative dress, and this place has all the tension of a junior high dance.

This early in the night, the glossy gray floor is just a blank canvas. The kids approach it with awe, swerving away to perch on stools, or people-watch from protective clusters of tables and chairs. Lasers flash and high-tech beams in acid-bright colors scan the empty dance floor for bodies, like searchlights.

One girl in a skimpy white tank top and tight, low-cut jeans chats with two guys. She moves impatiently to the rhythm, eager to dance.

Suddenly, she busts a move.

Arms in the air, hips gyrating, she twists her knees from side to side as she shimmies down into a squat. For just a few seconds, she's low to the ground, wiggling like a stripper at an imaginary pole. Heads turn. The boys stare in amazement. Then, just as quickly, the girl is still, slightly sheepish because no one else gave in to the beat.

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Michele Laudig
Contact: Michele Laudig