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.
At Underwater Connection, southeast Wisconsin’s only PADI five-star instructor-training center, an award-winning course director and a team of skilled instructors educate both undersea novices and emergency-service professionals in the art of scuba diving. Following safe, low-stress basic diving courses in a pool, teachers and students move to the open water to cover techniques that include rebreathing, underwater videography, and recovering toy-boat wrecks from flooded bathtubs. Underwater Connection provides all equipment for classes, relying on its factory-trained equipment mechanics and Aqualung Master Technician, who refill tanks and do in-house repairs on gear from brands such as Dive Rite, Poseidon, Oceanic, Aqua Lung, and Scubapro.
Every year, a crew of landscapers draws on a palate of bricks, wood, and water, as well as foliage and flowers, to fashion sweeping terraces and murmuring aquatic features. This year, in its 88th iteration, The Realtors Home & Garden Show explores the hours of the day through designs focused on facilitating morning meditation, afternoon cookouts, and evening film screenings. One installation rises from the work of international chalk artist Julie Kirk Purcell, who teases the eye with mural of a chalk garden that seems to leap in three dimensions from the floor of the convention hall.
Chatter drifts to the model patios and gardens from more than 250 exhibitors and vendors, who showcase home-improvement and landscaping techniques alongside designers of windows, cabinetry, fences, and saunas. A culinary area stands out from the rows of home wares with daily demonstrations from five chefs, including some nominated for James Beard awards. The sessions focus on topics including plating, raw food, and French dishes, all using organic ingredients from local farms. Nearby, a market bustles with guests toting potting supplies, gardening tools, and makeup kits for vain scarecrows. Outdoor furniture begs to perch on patios alongside lawn ornamentations that hint at European and Asian art traditions or highlight work by local artisans.
Every night the notes of renowned jazz, blues, and R&B performers echo through the glimmering walls of 88 Keys Piano Martini Lounge, where martinis and small plates meet beneath mood-setting blue lights in West Allis’s downtown stretch. The relaxed spot was conceived by co-owners Greg Barczak and Suzy Ball who, as West Allis Now reporter Mark Schaaf notes, “hope the city is turning a corner and want to make something more of the downtown” by attracting a younger crowd and lending the area an intimate, upscale nightlife option.
Inside the low-lit lounge, glass windows open and close to bathe guests and performers in a cooling breeze. Artwork and Wisconsin gangster memorabilia, including John Dillinger photographs and high-school report cards, beam down upon pots of fondue and gourmet pizzas. Behind the glowing bar, master mixologists blend a lengthy list of 28 specialty martinis and fill glasses with wine and beer.