The Back Room


A Dance Hall Filled with Joy

By Jessica L. Knouse | Photography by Casey Martin

The Back Room is not just a physical space where people gather to dance; it is a haven of joy, rhythm and social interaction. Within its walls, the magic of movement and music intertwines to create an atmosphere that transcends the ordinary. The Back Room stands as a testament to the beauty of communal celebration, where individuals come together to express themselves, connect with others and immerse themselves in the enchantment of dance. 

The Vibe

Tucked away in downtown East Berlin, The Back Room sits off the cramped back street of South Avenue. Some folks weave their way through the full parking lot, shuffling their cowboy boots across the asphalt while a faint thrum of country music beats down the alleyway. Others enter the foyer in jeans and T-shirts. 

Everyone, however, has brought their dancing shoes and smiles to enjoy country music like we remember it to sound—with true “jam bands” and the crooning of classics from Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams and Patsy Cline. This is the place where we reminisce upon the dreams of yesteryear and celebrate life’s tiny blessings, like gathering in a dance hall once a week with friends.    

And speaking of friends, after spending an evening with the crowd at The Back Room, you will certainly be welcomed back again and again. “We’re like family here,” says Jean Doxen, who, with her husband Wayne, is one of the founders of these weekly gatherings. The Doxens have treasured this time spent with friends for almost 15 years now, and they invite new people to come experience The Back Room’s magic. “It’s a wonderful time,” says Jean. “It’s open to anyone, and if you love country music, then this is the place to be.”

“The Back Room exists without irony,” says longtime attendee Ron Arbogast. “It’s just a bunch of folks getting together to remember the conventions of their youth, and I think that’s unique.” There are no expectations for those who come to gather, dance and experience a night of affordable entertainment—except to have fun and enjoy good, old-fashioned country music.

What to Expect

The Back Room is a quaint space where all are welcome for a wholesome time. On Wednesday nights, you’ll experience a “jam,” as they say, which features a regular house band and allows guests to play and sing throughout the night. “Anyone who wants to sing can choose from the house band’s song book,” explains Barbara Gilson, another longtime attendee with her husband Tom. 

Indeed, guests can choose from an array of honky tonk-style songs to belt out for the fun-loving crowd. Perhaps it’s fitting that this music is the typical standard at The Back Room, as the genre reflects the joys and struggles of the common person. The “vibe” of The Back Room resonates with the air of a honky tonk bar, with its dim lights and open dance floor ready to entice you to kick up your feet and join in.

While Wednesdays are less formal and fluid, Saturday nights feature professional singers and performers. At the door you’ll likely be greeted by Nelson Boring. Between songs, he’ll tell you that 10 years ago he didn’t know anything about dancing or running events like this, but now he’s the main “go-to” guy for booking talent.

Another main character you will surely come to know is the emcee for the evening, Mike Bassin. A drag strip announcer at Mason Dixon Dragway in Hagerstown, Maryland, Mike is a fixture every Wednesday to make announcements, introduce singers or guest musicians, and provide general updates about the folks who attend regularly. 

“We like to keep folks updated,” says Mike. “We announce if people are going through health issues, and we say words of support for them together.” You see, not only do folks show up to The Back Room each week to hit the dance floor, it’s also an opportunity to mix and mingle with one another.

Mike is certainly the glue who keeps this event running smoothly throughout the evening. His welcoming confidence is like a magnet to the dance floor, and he’ll certainly encourage you to take a chance and sing along with the live band to your favorite country tune.

Both Wednesday and Saturday evenings have a cover fee: $5 for Wednesday-night entry and $10 for Saturday-night entry. The Back Room is open from 6 to 9 p.m. on both event nights. Guests are welcome to bring their own snacks, or light refreshments are provided by volunteers. 

Speaking of volunteers, The Back Room welcomes those who wish to join in on the fun and offer to donate pre-packaged snacks to this “family” of dancers. These events are perfect for anyone looking for an opportunity to connect with their community. All profits made at the door go back to the event itself, with a portion also going towards renting the space. No one is looking to turn a huge profit here; it’s all about gathering and spending time together.

Become a Regular

What truly makes The Back Room wonderful is the inclusive atmosphere it fosters. Here, age, background and dance expertise fade into insignificance as individuals from various walks of life come together. Guests make their way from distances far and near to join in on the fun, like Sharon Smith and Daryl Frick, who travel from West York each week.
“We like the old country music, and everyone makes you feel like family here,”  Daryl explains.

As the music plays and bodies sway in harmony,
The Back Room stands as a testament to the universal language of dance, capable of weaving connections that transcend boundaries and celebrate the sheer beauty of being alive. 

Take Camille and Donald Brady, for example, who have been “married for 72 years and dancing for 74,” as Donald claims. Yes, you read that correctly: Donald, 93, and Camille, 90, come each week in their matching country attire to dance and listen to country music. If they can dance, you surely can. 

It’s true that many of the dancers you’ll find at The Back Room are of the retired age, but all ages are surely welcome. Strangers become dance partners and friendships are formed on the dance floor. The sense of community here extends beyond the physical space, creating lasting connections amongst the music and movement. 

The Back Room

130 W. King St., East Berlin 

For information about upcoming shows and open dance nights, call Mike Bassin at 717-814-2189. The Back Room is looking for volunteers to help create its online presence; call Mike for more information. 


About Author

Jessica Knouse

Jessica Knouse is a native to Adams County and grew up at the Round Barn Farm. A problem solver at heart, she is also great at making connections and finding creative solutions to her writing assignments. She lives with her husband in Gettysburg, along with her dog Freddy Mayonnaise. She has three stepdaughters: Kiera, Delanee and Allana.

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