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If there's an interest, there's a meetup to match

Melissa Portela of East Meadow and Alfred Pena

Melissa Portela of East Meadow and Alfred Pena of Valley Stream dance the Hustle at the 56th Fighter Group Restaurant in Farmingdale. The two belong to the LI Hustle Dancers, a niche social group that gets together a few times a month to share their interest in dancing. (Jan. 12, 2010) Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

They say "birds of a feather flock together" - but we flightless humans have the Internet to help us soar and find people out there with similar interests. has dozens (and dozens) of Long Island-based groups that plan in-person get-togethers for dancing, dining, card-playing and almost anything else one might imagine. Here are just a few of the currently active groups.


Who's in the group: Mostly women - many old enough to remember the original disco days.

Meets: 2-3 times a month to go dancing at spots like Sambuca (516-876-0393, and Mirelle's (516-338-4933,, both in Westbury.

Organizer: Angelina Capalbo, 29, West Babylon

Benefits: "I started this group because I love to dance, especially hustle," says Capalbo, a freelance business consultant. But it wasn't so easy to find places to go out and do it - or fellow hustlers to partner with. "What I truly love about hustle is that it can be danced to modern dance music," she says.


Who's in the group: Women 21-30 years old who are recent college graduates or young professionals

Meets: At least 3 or 4 times a month for free concerts, movies or get-togethers at restaurants, bars and coffeehouses.

Organizer: Ashley Balz, 24, Lindenhurst

Benefits: Although the group's name suggests a level of frugality in keeping with the economy, Balz says it's more of a declaration that fun will be had by these gals, whether it's well-funded or not. Fresh out of college and working in a small office as a social worker, Balz says "it was quite hard" to meet other people her own age. She struck up new friendships through the group and now enjoys coordinating its get-togethers. Still, "meeting new people can be nerve-racking," Balz concedes, so she makes an extra effort to curb the intimidation for group members.


Who's in the group: Mostly single and married women ages 20 to 60-plus, though men are welcome

Meets: At least once a month, generally at Barnes & Noble in Huntington Station (631-421-9886, and at various arts venues.

Organizer: Betty Philipp, 54, Wantagh

Benefits: These Long Islanders share a love of the arts - literature, foreign movies, performances - and meet to, say, check out a new exhibit at a local museum or watch a foreign film. Philipp, a pension specialist, says she plans to broaden the scope of interest this year by planning events involving nature walks, meditation and other active pursuits.


Who's in the group: Women, ages 30- to 60-plus

Meets: Monthly at the organizer's home

Organizer: Elana Rosof, 41, Huntington

Benefits: "It started mostly as a bunch of beginner poker players, where we could feel comfortable asking each other 'which is better - a straight or a flush?' " says Rosof, a clinical psychologist. Now the group has members of all skill levels who play low-stakes, just-for-fun tournaments. The ladies-only environment has encouraged bonding and livelier conversations about dating and relationships. Besides, she says, "men don't seem to have a problem forming their own poker games."


Who's in the group: Still forming, but more men than women right now

Will meet: First get-together planned for Feb. 18 at a bar in Huntington

Cost: No membership fee

Organizer: Justin Woodwell, 30, Syosset

Benefits: It's hard to find love when your passion is horror films, says Woodwell, a freelance writer and graphic designer. "I'm tired of perusing various dating Web sites looking for girls with even remotely similar interests." He's formed this still-fledgling MeetUp group hoping to unite those who enjoy this genre for conversation - and, yes, potential romance.

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