Eleventh Annual Dane Dances Season
A Multicultural Beat
dancer in the old days in New York City. One day my son said ‘Do you know that you would really like Dane Dances.’ I didn’t realize he
never had been there himself, so I came. It was probably about 7:30 p.m. It was just starting to get dark and the sun was setting over
the lake and the Capitol was lit up. There was a very tall, thin man swinging his daughter around and they were silhouetted. She had
long hair, ribbons and a skirt. She was around five-years-old. I thought ‘Isn’t that the prettiest thing I have ever seen?’ I was in a trance
and walked over and signed up to be a volunteer. Then I opened my mouth once too many times and I was chair of the publicity
One of Dane Dances’ strengths, according to Cooper is its family-friendly atmosphere. “It is an event that the whole family can
come out for and enjoy,” Cooper emphasized. “One of the great benefits is that it is a low cost or no cost event for the family. They can
eat dinner on the rooftop as well as listen to two great bands and a DJ. This year, we have broadened our perspective in terms of
providing more diversity in terms of the music and the bands and opportunities that people will have to enjoy different forms of
entertainment. This year — for the first time in a long time if not for the first time — we have a big band. Ladies Must Swing is very
good. They can play a variety of music. That is the beauty of it. They can play jazz, swing, polka, a little bit of it all and they do a very
good mix in keeping the crowd involved and engaged and it is all danceable. One of the key things about Dane Dances is it is all dance
music. Those who want to dance can get out there and dance and those who want to sit back and enjoy the music can also do that. So
it is a great night out for the entire family.”
In addition to Ladies Must Swing, there are two other new bands this year: The Jimmys and VO5. “The Jimmys formed out of the
West Side Andy/Mel Ford Band,” Standing said. “Jimmy Voegeli is just starting this band. He’s been in music for about 20 years in the
area. He’s formed a new group and he is ready to go with some rockabilly, pop rock, blues and funk.” VO5 is a funk and disco band
with a great stage show and presence.
Dane Dances will still feature some past crowd pleasers including The Eddie Butts Band, Grupo Candela, The Christopher Project,
Que Flavor and David Hecht and Primitive Culture. And of course, there will be DJ Laurie tying all together spinning line dance and
other danceable CDs.
With a 5:30 p.m. start time and tables and chairs going fast, people might want to make a night of it by coming up to the Monona
Terrace Rooftop right after work and eat at one of the three ethnic food stands set up on the Rooftop, Papa Bear’s BBQ, The Casbah and
Antojitos el Toril. Refreshments will also be available for purchase.
The Dane Dances organizers are proud that they have been able to keep the dances free for the past 10 years and this year is no
exception. It is free due to the generosity of businesses and foundations like The Peterson Foundation and the donations of people who
attend Dane Dances.
“We never want our dancing attendees to have to pay,” Standing emphasized. “But we have a lot of expenses that need to be
covered, so we need to put more focus these days on fundraising and having people make donations. The individual donations that
people make at the dances are an important part of our budget now as well.”
Cooper has done a lot of traveling nationally and internationally. He enjoys attending community events to get a sense of what the
city or country is like, what it has to offer. For him, Dane Dances is Dane County’s public face that allows others to see what our
community is all about.
“I always like to be able to help create an atmosphere where other people can enjoy themselves,” Cooper said. “I know when I
am traveling, friends and I go out to community events. Those are great things when you are traveling. It’s great to be able to go out and
hear music, especially when it is free, and hear good local bands. That excited me about Dane Dances. We try to showcase a lot of our
local bands as well as regional talent.”
Find out what Dane County is and can be at Dane Dances beginning August 6.
By Jonathan Gramling
What began 11 years ago as a modest event to promote positive race
relations has grown into Dane County’s signature August events as thousands
flock to the Monona Terrace Rooftop each Friday night in August to be a part of a
multicultural swirl of dance and rhythm that is Dane Dances. Staying true to its
roots, Dane Dances is organized by a diverse group of volunteers for a diverse
audience that enjoys a diverse variety of music that people can dance to.
“We attract people from small children to 80-90 years old enjoying
themselves,” said Alphonso Cooper, a Dane Dances volunteer. “That’s really the
beauty of Dane Dances. It’s for everyone. It’s not just for a certain segment of the
community. It’s rich, poor or whomever. It’s for people who love music and want
to dance or just be a part of the event. We call it Making Music and Magic. That’s
one of our themes. When people come for the first time, they really get to
experience the magic up here. There is no other place here in Madison that is as
beautiful as being up on the rooftop on a Friday afternoon.”
Norma Standing, this year’s coordinator, got attracted by the magic several
years ago. “I came here from New York,” Standing reflected. “I used to be a
Alphonso Cooper (l) and Norma Standing are two of
the crew that put on Dane Dances on the Monona
Terrace Rooftop every Friday during August.