It seems that more locals are taking the term "mover and shaker" literally following the release of Silver Linings Playbook, last fall's romantic comedy about two depressed acquaintances preparing for a dance contest. The film's premise was a little silly, but leads Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper proved that pizzazz is at least as important as skill when it comes to social shimmying. Here are four ongoing events made for learning your next moves and showing off the ones you've mastered.
Gates of Heaven, Tuesdays, 7:45-9:45 pm
You don't need an iota of experience to enjoy these get-togethers. The co-op describes contra dancing as "making new friends, set to music," but there's a little more to this cousin of square dancing. A live band acquaints the group with different types of folk music as a caller guides them through a series of moves, which get combined in different sequences. The caller even teaches each move before the music begins, making contra dancing especially inviting to newcomers.
If you bring a partner, don't expect to hang on to him or her for long. Practicing the moves with different dancers is expected, and it's the best way to connect with others, whether you're flaunting, flirting or simply giggling at your four left feet. Those seeking a love connection will be pleased to learn that intense eye contact is integral to this type of dancing. The dances are often followed by a potluck or a trip to a nearby tavern.
Brink Lounge, Tuesdays, 9-11:30 pm
These sultry dances aren't for the faint of heart, but they're not limited to the most dashing people in the crowd. Local dance school Wisconsin Tango hosts these free events, plus a similar dance party the second Saturday of each month at the Cardinal Bar from 7 to 10 p.m. The Cardinal edition costs a few bucks more but includes an hour-long lesson beforehand.
Monona Terrace Rooftop, Fridays in August, 5:30-9:30 pm
With performers like Grupo Candela (Aug. 30) and Orquesta de Kache (Aug. 2), there are lots of opportunities to salsa and merengue at this summer's Dane Dances events. Hip-hop jams will make a strong showing as well when DJs Pain 1 (Aug. 9 and 16) and Vilas Park Sniper (Aug. 2, 23 and 30) hit the decks. Whether you study Beyonce's latest videos, attend hip-hop classes at Dance Fabulous, or put your own spin on the Humpty Dance, you really can't go wrong.
Main Street Yoga, Sundays, 4-6 pm, and Wednesdays, 7:30-9:30 pm
If challenging convention is your thing, then contact improvisation may be your dance style of choice. Conceived by choreographer Steve Paxton in the early 1970s, this form of partner-based movement stresses invention and evolution, like a physical manifestation of a free-jazz duet. Some dances explore stillness, while others are positively hyperactive.
Experts impart basic techniques like turning upside-down and lifting a partner safely at Sunday events, while Wednesday events invite participants to let loose right away.