Local bar gives patrons dance lessons

By Matt Spartz

Early Wednesday evening, the outdoor seating under tan umbrellas at the Cowboy Monkey offered a quiet, urban feel. But by 8 p.m., the neon lights inside illuminated a crowd of passionate Tango and Salsa dancers.

Every Wednesday the bar hosts free Tango dancing, followed by Salsa dancing for three dollars. A shady nook on Taylor Street in the heart of downtown Champaign hides the Cowboy Monkey, one of the city’s bars that provides an alcohol-free getaway from the usual Green Street scene.

“We’re starting our third year (of tango dancing),” said Joe Grohens, Tango instructor. “We wanted to have a place downtown and in public and (have people) be exposed to it.”

A sultry couple sweeps across the dance floor; the dark-haired woman’s short red dress kicks with her red high-heels as they radiate with experience.

Not everyone at Tango night is an expert, though.

“The crowd is very open to new people coming in and the instructors are very open to new people,” said Brad Reynolds, shift manager and bartender.

The first hour of the night is dedicated to teaching basic Tango steps to all who want to learn. Once everyone discovers the feel of the silky Latin beats, everyone grabs their partners to see what they have got.

“You learn simple stuff,” said Iryna Malyarchuk, a graduate student. Originally from the Ukraine, she feels right at home dancing.

“(It’s fun to) just come and watch and dance and have a good time,” Malyarchuk said.

The other instructor, known simply as Carlota, described her love for teaching dance and giving people an opportunity to experience the Tango.

“It’s easy enough for them to learn,” said Carlota. “With the music, the women, the dancing – it’s just great.”

But the Cowboy Monkey is not the only place with inebriation-free fun.

Across the courtyard from the Cowboy Monkey sits the quaint Verde Gallery. According to their Web site, they host a free Bluegrass jam night every Wednesday at 7 p.m. Also, tonight at 7 p.m. they will be hosting a free spoken-word night entitled “The Truth”.

For something on campus, students can go to the Illini Union where Illinites holds weekly events for people looking to remember what they did over the weekend. Tonight, they will have inflatable attractions, karaoke, Mocktails, and 50 cent pizza.