Experienced instructor Maria Alvarez leads solo hoofers or fleet-footed pairs through the steps, forms, and customs of more than 15 styles of dance. Private lessons—each lasting 50 toe-tapping minutes—cater to the ability of each individual student or couple, and the one-on-one interaction allows for the speedier learning of steps and the secret fox-trot handshake. Group lessons, which are usually composed of 10–30 participants, encourage students to boogie down with multiple dance partners, and each group outing focuses on a few steps. Newly acquired fancy footwork comes in handy at the monthly studio parties, in which students test out their skills in a fun social setting. Movement-friendly duds should be worn to classes, and more semiformal threads, such as dresses or tuxedo T-shirts, are welcome at the parties. All events require footwear with clean soles.
One of the oldest community theaters in the state, The Gainesville Community Playhouse has produced crowd-pleasing plays since 1927. In Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful, elderly Carrie sets out to escape the clutches of her cowardly son and his bossy wife by returning to her childhood home. A dedicated cast and crew of local volunteers ably enact Carrie's search for her past. Patrons peep through the fourth wall in the 210-seat Vam York Theater, which boasts facilities to stage the most demanding musicals or Shakespearean space battles.
Standing still in a cloud of free-flying butterflies, exploring the depths of a limestone cave, and gazing at the 14-foot bones of a 16,000-year-old Columbian mammoth skeleton—visitors can do all of this in just one afternoon at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Since starting in 1891 as a professor’s teaching collection of fossils, minerals, and human anatomy models, the museum has transformed into the home of more than 40 million specimens, creating a library of life that features one of the world’s largest collections of butterflies and moths.
Reflecting the museum’s impressive collection of winged beauties, some of its exhibits focus on the butterflies and moths that, unlike humans, can survive long flights without eating a single package of peanuts. At the Butterfly Rainforest, more than 1,000 butterflies from 60 to 80 species take to the air among tropical trees, orchids, bromeliads, and waterfalls cascading into a pond that bustles with fish and turtles. Feeding stations with freshly cut fruit dot the 6,400-square-foot screened enclosure, letting guests get up close as the butterflies feast. Live butterfly releases daily at 2 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. let onlookers watch them fly into an outdoor butterfly rainforest, and among the indoor butterfly exhibits, curious audiences can peer into a rearing lab where staff unpack and sort newly arrived pupae.
Rounding out the museum’s focus on Floridian biosystems, the Northwest Florida: Waterways & Wildlife exhibit invites visitors to wander through a full-scale recreation of a hammock forest, and the South Florida exhibit takes guests down the peninsula with a mangrove boardwalk and a palm-thatched Calusa leader’s house. The museum's internationally acclaimed fossil collection includes highlights such as "shark jaw row," extinction dioramas, and full skeletal mounts and sculptures. Meanwhile, outside, petals unfurl in the wildflower and butterfly garden.
Mary Hencher and her team of certified instructors lead Dance Trance classes that set high-energy dance moves to upbeat music. Because the classes emphasize the energy of the music, instructors don’t shout out commands; instead, they use a series of hand gestures and intuitive, easy-to-follow dance moves to guide students through the classes.
An endless amount of stories flicker across the screen at these cinemas, which offer stadium seating and digital sound. The theater plays films chosen from Hollywood’s newest releases, featuring stars just plucked from the vines where they grow in the California hills. Between whispered critiques of each preview, audience members can wash down fluffy kernels of popcorn with soda from the concession stand. The theater also opens its doors for birthday parties and large private screenings for up to 300 guests.
Each year, the Cinema Verde festival celebrates environmentally conscious films and art. Visitors flock to the four-day event to watch more than 30 films on issues such as water access, waste disposal, and sustainable practices. The festival also features live music, art exhibits, and eco-tours that highlight the lush, natural environment of north central Florida.