Benny Soto Reflects on the Last Dance.Here.Now at Cielo

New York City’s dance music community took a one-two punch to the chin this fall when Cielo and Output both announced that they would be shuttering at the end of 2018.

For many, the writing had been on the wall for some time. The building that housed Output in trendy Williamsburg, Brooklyn, had been sold in 2014, and there was little doubt that the property would be eventually be transformed into a luxury condo, office building or perhaps a hotel.

With Cielo based in Manhattan’s now swanky Meatpacking District, there had been sporadic rumors of its closure for some time. But through it all, the Dance.Here.Now. party held court for over a decade, regularly bringing in the hottest DJ upstarts and living legends to grace the decks. (Honestly, it’s a little weird mentioning the party in the past tense.)

As Dance.Here.Now prepares for one last dance on December 29 with Murk’s Oscar G at the helm in association with Nervous Records, we caught up with DHN promoter extraordinaire Benny Soto and asked him about his party’s amazing history and the final party.

In the candid interview below he offers nothing but gratitude and tells us, “I think and hope that Cielo closing doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the road for Dance.Here.Now.”

How long have you known the last dance was coming? How have you been able to wrap your head around it?

Benny Soto: We had an idea that the last dance was approaching for a year, but around October, [owner] Nicolas Matar decided that he was going to close the club at the end of this year. I accepted the fact that it was closing pretty easily, because we had set out and accomplished what Nicolas had envisioned. He had created a world-class venue that was very different from anything seen before, and we had a very successful run. So it wasn’t difficult for me to process that it was closing.

What are some of your favorite memories from Dance.Here.Now.?

Danny Tenaglia playing for my birthday was pretty epic. Carl Cox was great on Tuesdays. Joseph Capriati graced the decks long before he was the mega star that he is. Nicole Moudaber’s first show in NYC. Numerous shows with The Martinez Brothers, Chris Liebing, Seth Troxler, Gary Beck.
And of course Oscar G, Chus and Ceballos, Boris, and Victor Calderone. All the many local DJs who played for us. Too many to count. And let’s not forget Mike Weiss of Nervous Records. We had quite a few good parties with Mike.

There’s something very special about Cielo. Its size is intimate, and the sound is fantastic. What will you miss most about the space?

Cielo has a very intimate vibe and the design makes it feel very warm and inviting. Anytime I visit the room, it always felt like it was home, just like in a protective womb. Anywhere you are standing in the room, you can see the DJ – so you always felt connected.

“It has been 16 years I wouldn’t trade for anything and it certainly won’t be the last time you will be hearing from me. I am looking forward to my next journey.”

So many DJs have graced the decks for your party. Are there any who you just couldn’t get for logistical reasons?

That’s a tough question because almost everyone we wanted has played the room at some point. People wanted to play the room, so it made it easy.

Can you give us any more hints about the special guest(s)?

The special guest will be Dance. Here. Now. superstar Oscar G. Oscar played too many times to count, and he’s a NYC favorite, so we thought it was fitting to have him back to play the last Dance.Here.Now. at Cielo.

Oscar G

Oscar G at Cielo for Dance.Here.Now. Image by Studio F Photography.

When all is said and done what are you hoping people will say about your party at Cielo?

At the very least I would love for people to remember that they enjoyed themselves, had a good time and heard some amazing music; because at the end of the day, the most important thing is the music. Cielo is very focused on the music. It’s created by a DJ for DJs.

What’s next for the party? Do you think you will be able to relocate?

I always think that the party is really made up of the people who come to enjoy themselves and dance. Without the patrons, there is no party. I think the most successful parties are the ones that can go anywhere and still keep the spirit and the vibe alive. And I think and hope that Cielo closing doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the road for Dance.Here.Now.

Best of luck with the final party. Anything else to add?

In closing, I would also like to acknowledge my former partner, Rob Fernandez, and remember his spirit and bigger than life personality. We miss him and love him. He inspired many of us to succeed.

Benny Soto Rob Fernandez Clubworld Awards

Benny Soto and Rob Fernandez and Benny receiving the Best Party Award for Dance.Here.Now at Clubworld Awards. Photo courtesy of Benny Soto.

On a personal note, he took me under his wing and helped me quite a bit. He wasn’t the easiest person, but through those difficult moments, I ended up growing the most. I’m eternally grateful to him and his contributions. I would also like to thank all the staff at Cielo, all the patrons, all the DJs and thanks to all the promoters that contributed to all the nights as well. In NYC, we all work together many times to make an event great, and without them, some of the parties couldn’t be as great as they were.

And I would like to thank Nicolas Matar for his vision and creativity. Nicolas trusted me with both his venues. I’m also very grateful and I feel fortunate that he gave me the opportunity he did. It has been 16 years I wouldn’t trade for anything and it certainly won’t be the last time you will be hearing from me. I am looking forward to my next journey. 29 flyer

Featured image by Yuliya Skya

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Darren Ressler

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