The consortium of professional instructors at Fred Astaire - Fort Myers, which was cofounded by the legendary toe tapper himself, shepherds students of all ages and skill levels through lessons that span the style spectrum. Low-pressure private sessions allow enthusiastic teachers to fine-tune individual students' techniques and form using their expert eyes. Patrons can learn how to cavort through classic Waltz and Foxtrot romps or swivel through the modern steps of Salsa, Swing, or Samba. For dancers hoping to hoof it up in a social setting, the group practice parties provide a one-night extravaganza of instruction and demonstrations.
Celebrating his 17th year as Gulf Coast Symphony's music director, Dr. Andrew M. Kurtz leads his fine-tuned squad of melody crafters through programs that beautifully showcase classic works. "Brahms/Rachmaninoff" features fiddler Timothy Schwarz giving life to Brahms's Violin Concerto, navigating the piece's legendary difficulty with virtuosic aplomb and the pinpoint timing of a hoop-jumping dolphin. Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances brings all the master composer's skills to bear on a three-movement summation of his career featuring shimmering tapestries of sound and a thundering finale. Concerts kick off with an informative speech from maestro Kurtz, immersing audiences in the upcoming works, deepening appreciation, and pushing used-car-commercial jingles out the other ear.
If you part the branches of Mixon Fruit Farms? citrus trees, you might spy an unusual sight: Burmese pythons, an alligator, a crocodile, and African land tortoises basking in the sunlight, surrounded by cages of roosting falcons.
The farm that began in 1939 as a 20-acre roadside fruit stand has stayed true to citrus farmer Willy Mixon?s vision of showcasing the region?s natural splendor. But in addition to an extra 50 acres of fruit trees, the farm has expanded its focus to include a wildlife refuge, where rescue volunteers nurse injured animals back to health and educate visitors on native and exotic species. The farm also hosts an on-site tropical garden along with dazzling koi ponds, and has a magical maze open to kids of all ages.
Along with daily tours of the grove and sanctuary, Mixon Fruit Farms also spotlights Florida?s bounty with citrus-infused ice cream and salads at Groveside Caf?. Homemade fudge and orange juice also populate the 14,000-square-foot gift shop
As a local non-profit, the State Theatre has vivified the cultural landscape for nearly a century through applause-worthy performances and engaging community programs. Come February, Stomp will explode onto the stage with percussive rhythm and movement, and Glen Burtnik & Friends will honor John Lennon's 70th birthday by serenading a Fab Four-loving crowd with beloved hits such as “Strawberry Fields Forever” and lesser-known tunes such as "Tangerine Terrain Temporarily." Surrender your eardrums to the marching band musicality and show-stopping steppers of DrumLine Live, or treat a theater-craving youngster to the food-fueled metamorphosis of The Very Hungry Caterpillar for a black-lit puppet presentation of a childhood classic.
The independent Evolution stimulates the Lakeland scene by selling an eclectic selection of both mainstream and underground music while providing an intimate venue for local and touring musicians to present their craft. Evolution's stock consists of T-shirts ($10+), CDs and vinyl records ($1+), and posters for music fans to coat their empty walls with artist admiration. Peruse Evolution's thousands of vinyls, from timeless classics, including The Beatles and AC/DC, to exciting new artists (though Bob Dole's ambient-metal album is currently sold out). Evolution hosts shows nearly every weekend, featuring artists advancing the cause of rock, hip-hop, folk, and more.
Though entertainment fads come and go, movie theaters remain, tempting audiences with fantastical stories new and old. The film buffs behind the Tampa Pitcher Show understand this craving for narrative connection, filling their movie hall and bar space’s calendar with first-run films, alternative events, and live music that helped them take home the prize for Best Kept Secret in Creative Loafing's Best of the Bay 2011 Reader’s Poll. Within the theater, projectors hum to life with current hits and cult classics every night; weekends welcome special happenings that include Rocky Horror Picture Show shadow-casts, art bazaars, and comedy shows. The Take 2 Lounge dispenses a sprawling menu of bar fare, including burgers, pizzas, and beers such as Magic Hat #9, Southern Tier, and Florida Avenue Ale flowing from 13 tap lines.