Murray Arts Centre Ballroom Dancing Comes To End After 35 Years

Dec 30, 2019, 9:33 PM | Updated: 9:35 pm

MURRAY, Utah – A digital sign at the entrance to the Murray Arts Centre read “End of an Era.” While other Utah dance halls had come and gone decades ago, the dance hall tradition lived on at 4868 South State Street for 35 years.

But on Nov. 29, 2019, patrons flooded into the ballroom for one last dance because the “MAC” was closing its doors.

Dick and Verda Rinaldis, Dick and Verda were there. They were there when the MAC first opened and they weren’t going to miss closing night.

“We’ve had a standing date every night, every Friday night,” Dick Rinaldi said.

They came to dance and they came to see their friends.

Verda and Dick Rinaldi attended both opening and closing night at the MAC.

“Because that’s what we’re going to miss,” Verda Rinaldi said. “We’re going to miss the people that we’ve met and that we love here. It’s hard to talk about because we know that we’re not likely to see those people that much anymore.”

Proprietors Bill and Susan Wright weren’t really ballroom dancers – Bill had been a baseball player and Susan danced ballet – and they weren’t planning to open a dance hall.

Thirty-five years ago, though, a secretary at their ballet studio asked them to host an after-hours dance there. The Palladium, a venue in Sugarhouse, had closed and dancers were looking for a new dance floor. The Wrights welcomed the ballroom dancers.

They eventually bought a warehouse next door and turned it into the MAC.

MAC proprietors Susan and Bill Wright.

“As our crowds grew and grew, we just kept expanding it,” Susan Wright said.

They built more than a dance hall – they built friendships.

“It’s truly a community,” Verda Rinaldi said.

As the years passed, patrons aged off the dance floor.

“Most of us old guys, there’s not a lot of us left anymore,” Dick Rinaldi said.

“Most of these people have passed away,” Bill Wright said as he looked over old pictures of dancers in action. “Got to love ‘em. Got to know ‘em and love ‘em. It was like family to us really.”

The Wrights sold the property to the city of Murray, which is going to make improvements to the business district.

“When they mention they’re gonna close, I cried all night,” said Teleni Togisala, who’s been coming here for more than 30 years.

Teleni Togisala attended the MAC for over 30 years.

She arranged a grand Pacific Islander “thank you” for the Wrights. While the band, the Ken Foster Trio, took a break, Teleni’s family members danced and showered the couple with dollar bills.

The Wrights were happy to get their Friday nights back but were sad to see the MAC go.

“It’s not celebrating for me, it’s sadness,” Bill Wright said.

At the end of the evening, Bill Wright sang his goodbyes with a Peggy Lee song.

“Your health, good friends, and here’s to you,” he crooned. “Chin, chin, good friends, and din skol, too.”

Susan Wright thought her husband would have a hard time getting through the song, but he kept his composure. The sadness, he said, would come tomorrow morning.

“And my friends, here’s to you,” he said.

A man walks towards the MAC on closing night.

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Murray Arts Centre Ballroom Dancing Comes To End After 35 Years