Dancing Under the Stars extended through September
September 20, 2023
As we transition into autumn, one of the most popular events in Niwot is coming to a close – the weekly "Dancing Under the Stars" event. A free dance lesson of varying genres followed by a public dance takes place every Friday during the warm summer evenings from June to the end of September. Originally scheduled to end Sept. 22, a "rain date" has extended the season through Sept. 29 with contra dance.
Dancing Under the Stars started out in Boulder at the University of Colorado, but when Catherine McHale – a Niwot resident who has been involved in the Niwot community for over seven years – heard that it was being canceled, she had the idea to bring it to Niwot. "I saw a great opportunity for having it in Niwot, and getting this community engaged and bringing people to the little businesses and things like that, so I felt like it would be a really good fit for this community," McHale said. McHale and Tom Masterson, the original mastermind of Dancing Under the Stars, have been running it in Niwot since 2019.
Each week a dance floor is set up in Cottonwood Square presided over by a DJ who plays music for dancing – unless the event has live music, which happens on occasion. At 7 p.m., dance teachers give free lessons for the first 45 minutes, and then the dance floor is opened for dancers to practice the moves they learned, and to dance the night away. Frequent instructors include Toqui and Graciella from Havana teaching Cuban salsa, and Boulder Swing Dance teaching the Lindy Hop and other classic swing moves.
Even though the most popular genres are swing and salsa nights, other nights have included waltz and contra music. These lessons are open to everyone, especially beginners. "Loads of people turn up for the classes, which I love," commented McHale. "And these are people who, maybe never danced before. There's always beginners so everyone's getting a chance to experience it for the first time, which is nice."
Even though most of the dance styles taught are partnered, you don't need to bring a friend. Part of the fun of Dancing Under the Stars is learning how to dance with strangers and acquaintances you might not know as well. Instructors make sure to push dancers out of their comfort zone by switching up the partners. Veteran dancers are always happy to help out a beginner as well. Whether you're dancing with your partner, your best friend, or someone you just met, the weekly dance is a fun social event for everyone.
Thanks to funding from the Niwot Local Improvement District (LID) and the Niwot Business Association (NBA) as well as sponsors from businesses in Cottonwood Square and donations from the public, the event is always free for everyone. McHale emphasized "I think it's really important to keep it free so that everyone can access it, it's just a really nice event."
The event has been going strong for four years now, with each week seeing 150-200 people from Niwot, Longmont, Boulder, and as far away as Fort Collins. "I really feel as though it's starting to get established in Niwot, and people are expecting it," said McHale.
Though the event is coming to a close, there are still two weeks left. Sept. 22 will be salsa dancing, and Sept. 29 will be a contra dance with live music by Tattered Lace, consisting of Niwotian Teri Rasmussen on keyboards and Julia Hays on fiddle. The last night was rescheduled from earlier in the season due to rain. The dance floor is set up in Cottonwood Square in front of Winot Coffee Company and Niwot Tavern. Lessons start at 7:00 p.m., and the dance floor is opened up to free dancing at 7:45 p.m. Be sure to get there a little bit early, as parking spots close to the dance floor can be hard to find.