You'll hear a tune
That's gonna lift you out of your seat
It could be sweeter
But then the meter
Was written especially for your feet
-- Irving Berlin, "Everybody Step"
If the term "tea dance" evokes visions of grannies a-go-go shuffling their walkers to elevator music, a bit of history might be required. And Jim Borzym is only too happy to supply it. "It has some parallel to the history of syncopated music," explains Borzym, a Boulder-based acoustical consultant and founder of the American Vernacular Dance organization. "There was a period of cultural shift in 1895 that included ragtime. In 1900, the one-step was very popular, and people did it everywhere. They'd dance in the aisles in restaurants. Society ladies would hold teas and have a salon orchestra, and people would dance.
"The tango was brand-new to North America and Europe then, and the foxtrot came along about 1910," he adds.
Re-creating those footloose days is a goal of Borzym's that is shared by the Colorado Friends of Old-Time Music and Dance (CFOOTMAD), which co-sponsors the Tea Dance series that begins today and runs through May. The Mont Alto Ragtime and Tango Orchestra provides the music for 100 or more dancers whose idea of fun is an afternoon tripping the light fantastic to waltzes, tangos and sambas (and maybe a swing dance or two). "It's not a moldy-oldie orchestra," Borzym says, and the dancers aren't relics, either; they tend to range in age from thirty to sixty-plus.
The emphasis is on making people "happy and comfortable," Borzym says; with that goal in mind, the first half-hour of each session is devoted to teaching dance steps. "We want them to feel confident, and we teach several moves for leading and following."
Experience levels of the dancers range from none to some of the best ballroom dancers around, Borzym continues, and singles and couples are welcome. The Tea Dances are dressy affairs -- jackets and ties for men -- and every attempt is made to cultivate a genteel atmosphere: Flowers decorate tabletops, and pastries are served on silver platters. "It's all very pretty," Borzym says. "It's not your ordinary PTA kind of thing. We try to do it with a touch of class."
The dance, which costs $14 per person, runs from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. today at the Temple Events Center, 16th Avenue and Pearl Street. For more information, call 303-449-5962 or log on to www.cfootmad.org. -- Karen Bowers
Carousel Goes Around Again
In the 1980s, oilman Marvin Davis sponsored a splashy annual charity event that is now the stuff of legend. Because Davis was also tied to films, Hollywood celebrities would descend, too, adding star power to the Mile High backdrop. In 1986, Bob Engle, owner of BJ's Carousel, decided to start a "poor man's version" of the party, to benefit Denver's gay and lesbian community -- an alternative Carousel Ball. And while Davis and his celeb-studded bash are long gone from Colorado, the alternative ball returns tonight for its eighteenth whirl. This year's bash begins at 6 p.m. at the Gothic Theatre, 3263 South Broadway in Englewood. "It will be a mix of lip-synch and live entertainment," promises Colorado AIDS Project spokeswoman Jackie Long. "An evening of entertainment."
A $15 ticket buys entrance to the party as well as a chance to bid in a silent auction, which has helped organizers raise more than $400,000 over the years. For more information, call the AIDS Project at 303-837-0166 or BJ's at 303-777-9880. -- Ernie Tucker
The Adams County Museum salutes pioneers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries today when, for the first time, two big annual events will be combined: Family Heritage Day and the Transpo-Expo. By bringing together everything from blacksmiths to hot rods and showcasing events from butter churning to tractor pulls, the museum staff hopes to appeal to family members of all ages and persuasions. There should be plenty to keep car buffs occupied: Past years have seen as many as 150 autos and vintage military vehicles on display. History buffs can tour an 1887 home, watch mountain-man and Civil War presentations and try their hands at gold panning. Continuous live music, face-painting clowns and the Shady Ladies of Central City round out the day's entertainment; early risers can fuel up for the day's activities with an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, which costs $4.
The Family Heritage Day & Transpo-Expo will roll from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today at the Adams County Museum, 9601 Henderson Road (west of Highway 85 on 124th Avenue); admission is $5 (free for those twelve and under). For information, call 303- 659-7103. -- Karen Bowers
Viva la Fiesta
Craving an authentic taste of Denver? Then loosen your belt and samba on over to the tenth annual El Grito: Starting today, the 800 to 1100 blocks of Santa Fe Drive come alive in a vibrant street spectacular. Dance to mariachi music, feast on top culinary cuisine, and celebrate Mexico's Independence Day as five stages and a posse of chefs provide the continuous sights, sounds and tastes of a Mexican plaza. The scene features traditional dances, costumes and Latino music, including celebrity headliners Lorena Herrera, Conjunto Amanecer and Tropicalismo Apache. Organized by NEWSED Community Development Corporation, El Grito translates to "the cry" and refers to a plea from Father Hidalgo in 1810 that united Mexico, helping to gain the nation independence from Spain. The festival benefits the non-profit NEWSED, which provides social services, youth outreach and revitalization of neighborhoods for the Hispanic and Latino communities; its setting, in the heart of the Santa Fe Arts District, makes it a local favorite. "We are proud to produce this in Denver, where we have such a great acceptance of the diversity in our community," says Pauline Johnson, NEWSED director of events. "El Grito celebrates culture while commemorating the history and freedom of the Mexican people."
The free festival runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and tomorrow. Call 303-534-8342 for more information. Olé! -- Kity Ironton
Oktoberfest is about to flow
Starting tonight, Larimer Square will feel a little bit like Bavaria for two weeks, as Denver's 34th annual Oktoberfest gets under way. Festivities commence at 6 p.m., with the tapping of a wooden keg of beer flown in from the Fatherland by German beermaker and event sponsor Paulaner. Besides lapping up lager and staring at grown men in lederhosen, there are a couple of other highlights you won't want to miss at this, the nation's second-largest fall homage to sudsy brews.
At the Corporate Night Games, starting at 6 p.m. September 19, local firms field teams for such offbeat competitions as keg rolling, beer-stein relays and pretzel tossing. And at the Sea of Accordions concert, 2 p.m. Sept. 21, over 100 accordion players from throughout the West will meet in Larimer Square to squeeze out a joyful noise on the festival's final afternoon.
Oktoberfest runs from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 7 p.m. Sundays through September 21. Admission is free; more information is available at 303-685-8143 or www.larimerarts.org. -- Hart Van Denburg
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