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Explore the city inside and out with this fun expert

for The Brooklyn Paper
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You’d think that with all the time she spends coordinating activities, booking events and calling clients, Grace Dantas - also known as the Fun-Guru - would, quite frankly, be tired of such a steady intake of excitement.

This week, for example, Dantas and others will be bar-hopping in Midtown, karaoke-ing in the Village, dining on Brazilian cuisine, bowling in New Rochelle, brunching in Brooklyn and, finally, capping off the weekend with a little belly dancing.

Sounds exhausting. But since August 2002, when Dantas and her husband, Atiba McLein, started Fun-Guru, a service dedicated to planning your social life, high-energy activity has been a regular part of this Brazilian’s day-to-day schedule.

"Basically, we combined my lifestyle with his business plan and that’s how we started," Dantas said between sips of spring cherry tea at the Court Street Barnes & Noble in Downtown Brooklyn. "The lifestyle started in Brazil, but the business started here."

The plan is simple. Dantas and McLein book activities ranging from Yankees games and vegetarian dinners to more inspired events like rock climbing, Twister and Lasertag. Mirroring her life in Rio de Janiero, where she was born and lived until moving to Pennsylvania in 1998, Dantas’ weekend starts on Thursday and doesn’t end until Sunday night. Despite the stretched social calendar, she already has events lined up through January.

"They’re just ideas that popped into my mind," said Dantas, her Brazilian accent fading since learning English five years ago and moving to Flatbush. "I’m looking for things that are different, something that just gets out of the everyday stuff."

That includes such oddball activities as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a trip to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and hip-hop trivia, although Dantas is quick to admit that not every event is necessarily her idea of fun.

"I’m not too crazy about hip-hop, but that’s why on some days we have two events," she said. "It’s not always about what I like."

Although many of the events take place in Manhattan in order to please commuters from the tri-state area, Dantas said that lately she’s been getting requests for more activities in Brooklyn.

On June 28, she’ll hold a brunch at The Greens, a vegetarian restaurant on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights. And in July, Dantas said, even more local events will be planned, including such obvious destinations as Coney Island and the Ice Cream Factory at Fulton Landing, a personal favorite.

"The idea is to have events in all five boroughs, but we’re trying to have more stuff in Brooklyn, and people seem to like that," said Dantas. "Let’s make it happen in Brooklyn."

The difference between her service and, say, Social Circles, a similar business, is that membership isn’t necessary. Although Fun-Guru offers memberships ranging from a monthly fee of $24 to $99, Dantas said that curiosity seekers are welcome to drop by for a single event, which runs anywhere from absolutely free (watching the sunset in Battery Park) to $110 (a helicopter ride over Manhattan). Often, she says, an activity like kayaking will lure long-time members and first-timer non-members alike.

"If you don’t want to be a member, then don’t be. Let’s just have fun," she said, dropping the word ’fun’ as if it were her personal plaything. "Why not go out and have a little fun and try to release a little?"

But why not just pick up a copy of GO Brooklyn for event listings? Because, says Dantas, her way allows like-minded people - young and old, rich or poor - to meet on a social level.

"New York is a big city and people are here from all over the world," she said. "What I’ve noticed is that a lot of them are lonely. What we do is connect people with common interests."

Frank Jones, a single father with two teenagers, said that he’s become a regular at Fun-Guru and even bought himself the $99 monthly membership, what Dantas calls the "Fun-Atics package." It includes discounts on events and free passes to other activities every three months. Dantas said that married couples and singles alike find their way to the Fun-Guru, but Jones, 43, said that the service is ideal for single parents such as himself.

"I’m constantly checking her Web site now," said Jones, who lives in Crown Heights. "The first event I went to was a comedy show and there were about seven or eight of us. The networking opportunities were great."

Dantas, who sits on the membership committee of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, also offers packages for small businesses, which, she said, can benefit because they could leave the organizing to her.

With Dantas, however, the subject always returns to one thing: "Let’s go out and have fun, because life is too short not to have fun."

 

Here are just a few of the Fun-Guru’s events planned for Brooklyn in July. Call Grace Dantas for event locations and a complete listing of upcoming events at either (917) 292-GURU or (718) 253-9496 or log on to www.fun-guru.com.

Spend the Fourth of July with Dantas at the Ice Cream Factory, near the Brooklyn Bridge at Old Fulton Street and the East River, a prime spot for watching the evening’s fireworks display. Fee is $15.

On July 5, join the Fun-Guru for a picnic at Prospect Park at 11 am. Fee is $7.

On July 18, the Fun-Guru will be hosting a wine tasting in Park Slope at 6 pm. Fee is $15.

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