In the 1930s, big bands and lauded musicians played a famous bar called Weilers and would one day become Memories Dinner Theater. The music bounced off the very same 2,500-square-foot maple dance floor, tamarack log ceiling, and twin stone fireplaces that remain today, though Memories has since expanded its entertainment options beyond song and dance.
As guests feast on three-course meals, the theater's roster of top-notch actors tackle dramas, musicals, audience-interactive murder mysteries, and comedies. The laughs continue on Chicken Comedy nights, when funnyman Rob Haswell hosts renowned comedians whose jokes keep diners chortling in between bites not of rubber, but of roasted chicken and food from an unlimited buffet.
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.
There aren't a lot of theater stages that can claim to have hosted presidential speeches—and fewer yet for which that president was William Howard Taft. Opened in 1883, the Grand Opera House has seen performances by the likes of Mark Twain, Harry Houdini, and John Philip Sousa, among other culture-makers of distant generations. Across a century and a quarter, the magnificent auditorium has played the parts of a vaudeville venue and a movie theater, and it wasn't until the mid-'80s that the stage resumed its duties as an opera house. After a sweeping referendum, the city acquired and restored the building, and in 1986 it reopened with a new staging of The Bohemian Girl—the same work that had first lifted its curtains more than a 100 years earlier. Today, 660 can enjoy the opera house's historic magnificence: an enormous, staggered chandelier, cherubic murals across the ceiling and flanking the balcony, and an unmatched ambiance of crimson and gold grandeur.
For more than 30 years, the dedicated instructors at Valley Social Dance Studio have shared their joy of ballroom dancing with students of all experience levels. These certified teachers make it fun by making it easy, leading group and private lessons at a slow pace while making sure that everybody remains engaged.
Hosted by WBAY's chief meteorologist George Graphos and Frank Hermans of Let Me Be Frank Productions, Starstruck showcases talented local performers in “A Starry, Starry Night." Comprising horns, keyboards, and percussion, Bay City Swing accompanies performers, recalling that golden era of music before the Electric Slide squashed the jitterbug. Audiences can aim ears at St. Norbert College’s Knights on Broadway, an apple-cheeked band of student crooners that don fetching formalwear when oscillating between Broadway showstoppers and holiday ditties. The program features vocals from local talents such as Dino Biloti and Jennifer Stevens, a dulcet remedy for ears still ringing from that morning’s space-shuttle launch, as well as jazz clarinet from Kevin Van Ess of The Talk of the Town.
For the students of To The Pointe Performing Arts, no dance step is just a dance step. Because the school follows a holistic approach to learning dance, every step comes with a bounty of knowledge—its place in the style, its cultural origin, the muscle movements it requires, and the discipline required to master it. Whether they're 6-year-olds encountering their first tap shoes or high-school students refining their skills in Russian ballet technique, the team of experienced dance instructors make it their business to forge not only great dancers but educated citizens of the world. In addition to youth classes, the studio also offers DanceFit and tap classes for adult students.