Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Dance Revolution

Each Friday night in August, Laurie Mlatawou has job to do: Get Madisonians up and dancing and don’t give them a reason to sit back down.

Mlatawou—better known to some as DJ Laurie—provides the “pre-dance” music at Dane Dances, an annual event held on the Monona Terrace rooftop intended to bring together people of diverse backgrounds to break down barriers and enjoy a night of free entertainment.

At 5:30 p.m. Mlatawou starts the music and gets the crowd prepped for the first band at 6 p.m. Then she does the same at 7:30 p.m. before the second band hits the stage at 8 p.m.

“I only have thirty minutes to get people up and dancing,” she says.

Mlatawou draws on a handful of group-dance songs that are popular with the crowds. “They never fail to get people out and that’s my goal, to get people out dancing,” she says. “Because once they’re up, they don’t sit down.”

This summer marks Mlatawou’s fifth year of DJing at Dane Dances. But she’d attended the event for years as a member of the dancing public.

“For me, it’s the most beautiful multicultural event that Madison has,” she says. “Everyone is happy and smiling and feeling like a community together. It makes you really proud to be a Madisonian.”

While Mlatawou has DJed clubs and private event for years, playing music at Dane Dances is different—and an experience she always looks forward to. “It’s a huge audience,” she says. “There are literally thousands of people dancing to the music I play.”

She enjoys the diversity—of ages, shapes, ethnicities and abilities—that the event draws and how music and dance bring everyone together.

“It’s just super fun to watch everyone literally coming together,” she says. “Everyone is happy and smiling and feeling like a community.”

Mlatawou, who also hosts PanAfrica, a program Sundays 2–4 p.m. on WORT, says her DJ work complements her other work nicely. She’s a law student at UW–Madison and plans to be a civil rights attorney. The atmosphere at Dane Dances is something she hopes to create in her career.

“This is the way I want my world to be,” she says.

Dane Dances kicked off August 1. Here’s the lineup for the rest of the season:

August 8
DJ Laurie, 5:30 p.m.
In Black ‘n White, 6 p.m. Reggae, rock, soul and jazz.
DJ Laurie, 7:30 p.m.
Streetlife, 8 p.m. R&B, smooth jazz and contemporary.
Monona Terrace rooftop (rain location at Allliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall)

August 15
Unity the Band, 5:30 p.m. World beat and reggae.
DJ Laurie, 7 p.m.
Felicia Alima, 7:30 p.m. Urban R&B.
DJ Laurie, 9 p.m.
Duce Duce, 9:30 p.m. Hip hop and R&B.
Memorial Union Terrace (rain location at Memorial Union Rathskeller)

August 22
DJ Laurie, 5:30 p.m.
David Hecht & Primitive Culture, 6 p.m. Reggae, funk, world beat and R&B.
DJ Laurie, 7:30 p.m.
!Que Flavor!, 8 p.m. Traditional Afro-Cuban and Latin.
Monona Terrace rooftop (rain location at Allliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall)

August 29
DJ Laurie, 5:30 p.m.
Nellie Tiger Travis Blues Band, 6 p.m. Urban R&B.
DJ Laurie, 7:30 p.m.
MadiSalsa, 8 p.m. Traditions of Cuba, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic.
Monona Terrace rooftop (rain location inside Monona Terrace)

Photos courtesy of Bill Patterson.

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