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'Lunch Beat' lures Colorado Springs office workers to wholesome, mid-day raves

June 16, 2015 Updated: June 16, 2015 at 11:08 am
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photo - Candace Datz, center, takes a lunch break to dance at Lunch Beat Thursday, May 14, 2015 at Ormao Dance Company. The event, which happens sporadically throughout the year at different location, promotes leaving the work behind to dance to a DJ for an hour during the work week. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette
Candace Datz, center, takes a lunch break to dance at Lunch Beat Thursday, May 14, 2015 at Ormao Dance Company. The event, which happens sporadically throughout the year at different location, promotes leaving the work behind to dance to a DJ for an hour during the work week. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette 

If it's your first Lunch Beat Manifesto - as per the roving event's "Fight Club"-esque rules - you have to dance.

Given the lack of apparent wallflowers, enforcement isn't going to be an issue today at this nonstop indoor rave at Ormao Dance Company in Colorado Springs; it's barely noon and the party's already thumping.

That's right, noon. On a workday.

Minutes into the lunch hour, more than a dozen dancers move to the pulse of DJ-spun anthems beneath a slow-turning disco ball. The space is photo booth dark, punctuated with multicolored strobes and lasers and the looping trails of glow-in-the-dark wristbands, issued at the door. There's just enough light to tell if - while caught up in Prince's "Kiss," for instance - you're about to sexy-dance yourself into, say, a 6-year-old or a woman holding a baby.

That's right, kids and babies.

For those who associate clubbing primarily with hangovers and regret, brace for a wholesome dance infusion.

"This is for everybody. All ages are in there. We've got babies in there on top of shoulders, we've got kids from a school ... people that came during their lunch hour from work; it's a very community thing," says Ormao's artistic director Jan Johnson.

"For me, it's just like a great opportunity to dance with no limits. You just come in, there's no alcohol. There's just dance. It's a beautiful thing to see that real, pure type of movement."

The first Lunch Beat was held in 2010 for a crowd of 14 in a basement garage in Stockholm. Within a year, the novel concept for a healthy, inclusive midday catharsis had expanded to other cities in Europe and earned its creator, Molly Ränge, a top spot on Sweden's list of creative entrepreneurs. Today, Lunch Beats have been hosted on every continent and in hundreds of cities across the U.S.

There's no regular schedule for the local dances, organized by University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Gallery of Contemporary Art (GoCA), which brought the first Lunch Beat to town in 2012. Keep an eye on the group's Facebook page for a heads-up about upcoming gatherings, which cost $5 in advance and come with a sandwich lunch.

The most recent dance, held in May and catered by Whole Foods Market, drew about 100 to Ormao's Spruce Street studios for the dance company's second turn at hosting.

Sixty minutes on the Lunch Beat floor was enough to entice David Corder from Peyton.

"Lunch Beat is, like, the most fun you can have in a lunch hour and it's a healthy lunch and you get to exercise at the same time," says Corder, a yoga teacher and personal trainer. "I try and catch every single Lunch Beat 'cause they're a great group of people and they're always fun."

Jessica Russmedovich of Colorado Springs has been attending the dances since they started.

"You get your endorphins going and it really kicks in those positive juices. Dancing is a very natural upper for the body," she says. "How can you not want to dance for an hour during the day ... and then go back to work and sit in front of a computer?"

Oops, that's one of those rules: You don't talk about work at Lunch Beat. Others lay out the structure: They're strictly one-hour events to be held during a weekday "lunch time." They can be set up anywhere, by anyone, as long as they're announced as public events, are nonprofit and adhere to the manifesto.

Another rule: If you're too tired to continue dancing at Lunch Beat, please eat your lunch elsewhere.

Dancing like nobody's watching, for a solid hour, is a tall order even for a preteen. Ask 12-year-old Zoe Manz-Jackson and her classmates from Little School on Vermijo, who stepped outside for a breather after boogieing till they were breathless.

"It's nice to just dance and not have to worry how you look or what you're doing," says Manz-Jackson, drawing nods of agreement from her peers.

Little School owner Sue Spengler organizes Lunch Beat field trips for her homeschool students several times a year, and the excursions serve as enrichment on many fronts, she says.

"They don't get a chance for a traditional middle school dance, and I think this is a lot more fun anyway because it's part of the community," Spengler says. "I think it's as much fun for me as it is for them."

Almost 1 p.m., last call. DJ Prominent cues a final tune, a slower number to wind things down before the lights come on and cleanup begins. As for exiting clubgoers, they do not scuttle off to bed like bleary-eyed vampires before dawn, but head back to work and class, a fresh rhythm in their step.

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