Best Hippie Dance 2003 | Middle Eastern Peace DanceMercury Cafe | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
The Mercury Cafe's indomitable life force, Marilyn Megenity, has seen it all -- good, bad and ugly -- in the many years she's been running the place. So if she personally endorses something, it's gotta be good. Right now she's touting the Middle Eastern Peace Dance, which is held the last Saturday of every month and features live music by Sherefe and the Habibis. It seems to encourage what Megenity calls "that old wild hippie freestyle," a sweet-vibed communal phenomenon some of us haven't seen since 1970 -- give or take a few Phish concerts.

First of all, there's no need to arrive single, but if you do, there's no need to be shy. Nor do you have to be accomplished on the dance floor, though you'll see plenty who are. Known for its friendly regulars and non-threatening atmosphere, the forty-and-over Sunday-night Sharp Images dance has endured for at least fifteen years, for reasons that will become obvious the minute you step in the door.

Wife-swapping is dead? It simply ain't so. If you've always wanted to have group sex with a charming, friendly group of people -- and do a little drinking and dancing beforehand -- you've just hit the jackpot. Formed in 1969, the Golden Circle is Colorado's oldest and most legitimate swingers' club, a strictly couples-only affair for people who believe that swinging isn't sleazy, just an alternative lifestyle.

Collecting art has never been an inexpensive hobby. But even the poorest aesthete can build up a cachet of original works at an Art Trading Card swap, where painters, drawers and doodlers convene to barter tiny masterpieces. The cards are only two by three inches -- about the size of your average baseball card -- so you'll probably still need to find something for the wall above the sofa. In the meantime, go forth and trade: Outside of what it might cost you to create or reproduce your own cards, this club is absolutely free.

The homegrown blockbuster Retrospectacle, which opened last fall at the Denver Art Museum, has been described as a "Dianne Vanderlip lovefest." That's because it highlights Vanderlip's 25 years as curator of the museum's modern and contemporary art department, a job that was created specifically for her. The exhibit includes many of the great New York artists, including Robert Motherwell and Andy Warhol, who are joined with Colorado stars such as Clark Richert and John DeAndrea. Retrospectacle was not only one of the best bets of the past year, but of 2003, too, since it will stay up through the summer.

After World War II, American pop culture hit Japan like a tsunami. Tokyo, for example, is filled with Yankee Doodle standards like skyscrapers, neon signs and McDonald's. This influence extends to the arts, as well, and Cydney Payton, director of Denver's Museum of Contemporary Art, tapped into the trend with POPjack, a show combining American pop art with Japanese art based on it. The exhibit ably demonstrated how two worlds could collide and converge at the same time.

Denver sculptor Emmett Culligan made a splash when he first emerged on the scene a few years ago, and since then, he's gotten relentlessly better. His latest efforts were featured in Emmett Culligan, at Judish Fine Arts in February. The fabulous monumental sculptures on display had gravity-defying features, with big slabs of native Colorado stone soaring at preposterous angles. There is a whole new generation of young sculptors -- many of whom are very good -- that has emerged in the past few seasons, but Culligan stands out as the best of the current bunch.

If your ideas about Western art are limited to bronze statues of cowboys and Indians, Salient GROUND at Robischon would have quickly dispelled them. In this show, two great Colorado painters translated the familiar tradition into something new. Don Stinson romanticized the ruins of motels, gas stations and drive-ins by depicting them in magnificent natural settings, while Karen Kitchel created a conceptual installation out of 96 related plant paintings that led the viewer through the four seasons. Though distinct, the artists' individual styles both expressed a single coherent theme: the West right now.

It's hard to believe it's already been four years since William Havu opened his flashy gallery in the Golden Triangle, and even harder to remember that the neighborhood -- now an urban enclave - was simply a deserted mess. For his anniversary last fall, Havu dedicated an exhibit to some of his favorite artists, most from Colorado. The place was decked out with creations by the likes of Martha Daniels, Emilio Lobato, Amy Metier and Sushe Felix, among others. With some of the state's best artists on board, Anniversary Show was truly something to celebrate.

The growth of modern painting from 1900 to 1950 as it played itself out in Colorado was the topic of the impressive Colorado Collections II, which hung in the Denver Public Library's Vida Ellison Gallery. All of the big names from that time were featured, including Birger Sandzén, Vance Kirkland and Charles Bunnell. The show was put together by Kay Wisnia, a staff member of the DPL's Western History department, who used her relationships with major collectors such as Hugh Grant and Kathy Loo in order to borrow important pieces. With access to these private troves, Wisnia gave viewers a rare opportunity to see things that have almost never been exhibited publicly before.

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