“It’s a historic anniversary for a non-profit organization that is basically operating on volunteers to put together a program that we do for the community that reaches across all sectors of the community,” says Dane Dances Board President Al Cooper. “To be doing that for 20 years is a monumental accomplishment for an organization like us.”
Dane Dances, one Madison’s most diverse summertime events in Madison bringing together people of all ages, races, and ethnicities, is celebrating 20 years this summer. The event is held every Friday (rain or shine) in August on the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center Rooftop.
“The goal of the event is to bring the community together around diversity issues and improve race relations and to make everyone feel like they are part of the community. We want to make them feel like they are valued and that their experiences are shared at this event through dance, music, and food and the conversations and interactions they have with each other,” Cooper tells Madison365.
‘We make a conscious effort to actually market and interact with all sections of the community,” he adds. “We try to partner with different groups from the community that work on diversity issues as well as providing services to diverse communities within our larger community.”
Cooper has been involved in Dane Dances for a dozen years.
“I’ve been president for 7-8 years now. I love watching people really enjoy themselves at Dane Dances,” he says. “People come with a smile on their face and happy and they leave even happier. It’s a very joyous occasion for people who are able to experience it. For me, to see the little bitty children all the way up to 80 and 90-year-old people really enjoying themselves – that makes me very happy.
“Dane Dances is the place where people see other folks that they sometimes only see once a year or once that season at Dane Dances,” Cooper continues. “I get comments all the time like, ‘I see people that I never see except when I come to Dane Dances.’”
If you’ve ever been to Dane Dances, you’ve seen the incredible amount of volunteers they have to make sure that every Dane Dances goes smoothly.
“For the season, we need about 120 volunteers,” Cooper says. “We always need greeters. It’s not a lot of work and it really makes people feel welcome and they are able to ask questions that people in the community might have, talk about upcoming activities, pass out schedules, or talk about Dane Dances. Greeters make people feel more welcome when they come by the place. Some people come to the event by themselves and they don’t know anybody and the greeters make them feel welcome.”
This summer’s performers include diverse acts like Orquesta MAS-Madison All-Stars, VO5, Heatwave, Grupo Candela, The Voices, Eddie Butts Band, Orquesta Salsoul Del Mad, Fantasy Band, and Motown Reflections.
“We have a really good mix of bands that have performed many times before that people love and new bands playing for the first time at Dane Dances,” Cooper says. “We have a couple groups out of Chicago that will be new to Madison. For the 20th anniversary, we’ve tried to dress it up and, again, be more diverse with what we offer. This year we’ll have a couple of Hip-Hop artists who will briefly perform on the last night.”
The big celebration night will be on Aug. 9 when Dane Dances brings in legendary funk band and two-time Grammy nominee Heatwave.
“Our older attendees will really enjoy them and our young attendees, even if they don’t remember the group, will remember the songs and the music like “Boogie Nights’ and ‘Always and Forever,'” Cooper says. “It will bring back some of the historical perspectives on how soul music and dance music and how diverse groups even back in the ’70s brought people together.
“Music is the conscious of the nation and the world. It’s universal,” he adds. “Heatwave really represents that. In looking for a group that really represents what Dane Dances is all about, they were the perfect choice.”
Dane Dances kicks off on Aug. 2, 5:30-9:30 p.m. with Orquesta Mas Madison All-Stars & V05.