A crimson curtain rises to unveil the operas, nationally touring musicals, children's shows, and films that pass under the historic movie palace's gilded ceiling. Originally built in 1926 as a home for vaudeville performances and motion pictures, the grand venue has survived more than eight decades with the help of The Garde Arts Center, Inc., a nonprofit organization that formed in 1985 to both preserve the building and pursue its mission "to engage, enrich, entertain, and inspire the region of Greater New London." Today, the center stages a slew of performances and events that keep guests on the edges of all 1,472 seats.
At Summit Studios, aspiring singers and musicians can learn to play a variety of instruments and sing under the tutelage of experienced instructors. During the private, 30-minute lesson, students can saturate their brains and portable chalkboards with the theory behind guitar, piano, saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, or drums. Meanwhile, in the voice lessons, expert warblers can train croaky cords to emanate mellifluous vibrations through a focus on breath support, intonation, and sight-reading.
In every production, TheaterWorks aims to create a safe space for voices of all kinds in the midst of bustling downtown Hartford. Banners outside its newly restored Pearl Street home base playfully symbolize this mission with a lion bearing a live mouse within its jaws as tenderly as a child carrying a frog that’s probably magic. The company specializes in high-stakes dramas with social implications from playwrights such as Moises Kaufman, Richard Greenberg, and David Mamet.
Hartford Stage, a resident theater company backed by talented actors and professional-quality production values, delivers a diverse collection of modern and classic plays each season. Its version of Charles Dickens’s Yuletide ghost story draws inspiration from Dorothy’s journey in The Wizard of Oz, earning accolades from MassLive and the grudging respect of winged monkeys wearing Santa hats. Bill Raymond, a veteran actor who has appeared on The Wire and Law & Order, morphs into crotchety miser Ebenezer Scrooge for his 12th consecutive season amid other famed characters such as Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim. As spirits from the past, present, and future hover across the stage in the spooky yet touching tale, Scrooge discovers the true meaning of Christmas and the use-by date of spiced eggnog. Teeming with carols, snowflakes, trapdoors, and Victorian scenery, the family-friendly show mesmerizes eyes and warms hearts with its lesson about hope, love, and forgiveness.
The consortium of professional instructors at Fred Astaire Dance Studios, 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 and mechanical dancing shoes preprogrammed to do the Charleston. Patrons can learn how to cavort through classic waltz and fox-trot 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, demonstrations, and amateur firewalking.
Ballroom Factory Dance Studio's brigade of experienced instructors takes students with two left feet and whips them into dancing dynamos. Light trippers of all ages and skill levels learn the ins and outs of dance styles that range from ballroom basics and American waltz to international tango and advanced hokey pokey. Private or group classes twirl gracefully through an airy studio space, characterized by sleek wood floors and walls lined with mirrors. The studio's expertise also extends to voice and piano lessons for both children and adults in which pupils master scales, harmonies, and the ability to read music.