In 1947, on New York City's Park Avenue, the first Fred Astaire Dance Studio—cofounded by the eponymous toe tapper himself—opened its doors to the public. More than six decades later, now boasting schools across North America, the dancing institution still adheres to the legendary Mr. Astaire's curriculum and instruction techniques.
Specializing in social ballroom and competitive dances, the schools' current consortium of professional instructors shepherds students of all ages and skill levels through dance lessons that span from classic ballroom and foxtrot romps to the modern steps of salsa, swing, or mambo. In addition to classes, the studio hosts social practice parties where up to 40 students hone newly acquired rug-cutting capabilities. As foot-charming music blares from the speakers, instructors work to cultivate a lively social setting where each guest can dance, mingle, and surgically correct their second left foot without fear of embarrassment.
As vaudeville heaved its last breaths in the late 1920s, RKO's Riverside Theater opened in 1928 and served as a performance hall for just a few years before Warner Brothers took it over to screen their films. Decades of neglect followed, reaching a nadir in 1966 when a carelessly tossed cigarette butt incinerated the proscenium's drapery, prompting the cash-conscious owners to replace the opulent teal velour with workmanlike duvetyn. A slated demolition in 1982 nearly replaced the theater with a shopping mall before a coalition of citizens convinced philanthropist Joseph Zilber to save the space. In the subsequent renovations, craftsmen installed plush red drapery, overhauled the obsolete lighting, and repainted the faded French Baroque gilding of the auditorium, restoring the elegant space to its former glory and inspiring it to get back out on the theater dating scene.
First Stage recently celebrated its 26th anniversary as a children's theater, producing professional productions and developing new plays. It has hosted 40 world premieres and worked with renowned artists and authors including Stephen Schwartz and Cornelia Funke.
Through its theater academy and education program, First Stage aims to inspire a love of learning amongst young people with active teaching tools and a curriculum that emphasizes imagination. The theater-in-education programs reach roughly 20,000 students every year through theater residencies and in-classroom workshops such as the Bully Ban workshop, which teaches students how to respect one another and prevent harassment through improvisational exercises. Schools can also partner with First Stage to bring the arts into their facilities with field trips, workshops, and arts-integrated teaching.
Until science allows customized breezes to play concertos through trees and tuned blades of grass, people must fetch their concertos from live musicians. Today's Groupon sings to the ears with premium orchestra-seat tickets to Ohlsson Plays Chopin by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for $20, a $57 value. In two performance dates at the stunning Uihlein Hall on Friday, April 2, and Saturday, April 3, at 8 p.m., pianist Garrick Ohlsson will capture and tame Frédéric Chopin's famous Piano Concerto No. 2 and two other solo piano pieces in celebration of Chopin's 200th birthday.
On Saturday, September 22, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett will gather local businesses, community leaders, and citizens between the two bridge houses of the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge. There, he will ceremonially raise its steel structure and announce a mission to revitalize the street. Following the ceremony, more than 20 motorboats and sailboats will surge down the river and under the bridge, each decked out in Milwaukee-themed decorations and bright colors. Near the bridge, Historical Society members will stage a reenactment of the Milwaukee Bridge War of 1845 and initiate a game of tug of war across the street; on the bridge, meanwhile, trainers from Gold’s Gym will lead lightly sweating groups through yoga poses.
Visitors drink and dine to the sounds of live music and multicultural dance performances as well as the sights of a one-act play on two stages on the Riverwalk. They can browse local vendors at a craft market, explore permanent sculpture installations, and stroke their chins while gazing at art pieces in paint, photography, blown glass, and other media from more than 50 local artists at booths along both sides of the river. As the crowd mills about throughout the event, artists from the Plein Aire Painters’ Association make art live, painting the beautiful city skyline and buzzing groups of people. A complimentary water taxi runs between both Riverwalks throughout the day’s festivities.
The Turner Hall Ballroom is an expansive performance hall complete with a stage and sweeping balcony that played host to social, cultural and political exhibitions throughout the early 1900’s. Due to multiple fires, the ballroom operators were forced to close its doors years ago. Now, however, this preservation trust is working to restore the historic structure to its former glory. As a potentially great venue for showcasing the arts, as well as a historic treasure, the restoration project is underway with great support from local residents and community businesses. The trust needs your help to restore this gem and reinstate a major portion of the city’s history.