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Thursday, November 30

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Dance Thu May 30 2013

Fabulous Ladies (of Fitness): An Interview with FLOF

Photo by Ky Dickens

Chicagoans, listen up. Do you like to dance? Are you ready for gorgeous ladies in amazing outfits? Are you ready to hear body-slamming beats that you've been missing for years, or maybe even your whole life? Fabulous Ladies of Fitness (FLOF) is where you need to be. Second Thursdays of every month at Cole's Bar, FLOF hosts a dance party that makes it impossible for you to have a bad time. Using only their dance moves, killer outfits, and their signature blend of '70s lite rock, '80s/'90s R&B and hip-hop, current dance hits (and the occasional TV theme song), FLOF will have you doing amazing line dances that make you feel super hip and also united with your fellow dancers in no time. I had a chance to ask Jennifer Boeder, Molly Kavanaugh and Dorie Silverman--the ladies responsible for this guaranteed feel-good event--about how FLOF got started and how they manage to keep making it more and more fabulous every month.

How did FLOF start and who were the founding members?

Boeder: FLOF currently consists of me, Molly Kavanaugh, and Dorie Silverman, but was started in 2009 by me and Jyl Fehrenkamp, pretty much by accident. Jyl and I were originally inspired by Chris Baronner's fantastic yacht rock party, Stay Smooth. I will never forget the first time I walked into Stay Smooth and looked out upon a roomful of people dancing wildly to Phil Collins's "Easy Lover." It was a magical experience and I was forever changed.

Jyl and I became devotees of Stay Smooth, but it was only thrown a few times a year; plus, we were both listening to a lot of '80s R&B and hip-hop on top of all the '70s stuff. We (understandably) couldn't find a venue that was playing the weird combination of music we wanted to dance to. We were talking about doing our own event when a friend offered us the opportunity to DJ a birthday. I think Jyl told them to bill us as the Fabulous Ladies of Fitness because we both teach yoga (I know, it would be so much cooler if we were welders). We got offered three or four gigs from that night alone and it just sort of snowballed from there. But mostly we just moved our personal dance party out of our kitchens and into the public eye.

What inspired you to start FLOF?

Boeder: Really, FLOF was about getting to play the music we wanted to hear when we were dancing with our friends. It was also about injecting humor and ridiculousness onto the dance floor--playing TV theme songs, cheesy lite rock, and guilty pleasures like Wilson Phillips and the Backstreet Boys alongside Snoop Dogg and De La Soul. Playing random tracks like "Dick in a Box" or the theme from "Knight Rider." We started donning silly exercise outfits for shows, mostly to entertain each other, but it seemed to loosen up the whole crowd, some of whom now show up in costume as well. It turns out people are less self-conscious about dancing when we're throwing ourselves around in mustaches and mom jeans. Dancing (and most everything else) is much more fun when you stop taking yourself so seriously. And you can't take yourself seriously when you're listening to Rick Astley.

How do you come up with your themes for each event?

Boeder: The themes are semi-random. We've got seasonal ones, like Deck the Hall & Oates (our annual holiday party) and Love is a Battlefield (Valentine's Day, songs of love, loss and heartbreak!). When Whitney Houston died, we had a tribute show in her honor; we did a Beastie Boys night when MCA died as well. Besides holidays and untimely passings, we do themes based on artists we're currently obsessed with that week: Michael McDonald, Mary J. Blige, Lionel Richie. We try to highlight musicians that might be under-appreciated or not get the props they deserve. But mostly it's just shit we wanna dance to.


Kavanaugh and Boeder at Deck the Hall and Oates. Photo by Mike Travis

I know you were involved in V-day's One Billion Rising. What else have you done in terms of outreach or activism in Chicago?

Boeder: One Billion Rising was so fantastic--getting to play positive, lady-centric music and leading a roomful of women in dances at an event like that was a dream come true! We spun a flip-cup contest for Rock for Kids (it turns out all the TV theme songs are perfect for drinking games). We held a fundraiser for Barack Obama's re-election campaign in August (Obama-Rama: A Vast Left-Wing Dance Conspiracy) and we're planning a fundraiser for reproductive justice in late summer as well. Dancing for a good cause is fabulous.

What do you love most about FLOF?

Boeder: I love playing the tunes I grew up on: Kool & the Gang, De La Soul, Sheila E. I love introducing people to artists they might have missed: Shalamar, D Train, Evelyn "Champagne" King, Patrice Rushen. I love getting to dance with my friends whilst sporting a ridiculous outfit and playing "The Super Bowl Shuffle." I love creating positive space on the dance floor, especially for women folks and queer folks, where people can dance unselfconsciously. FLOF is all about letting go and letting your freak flag fly.

Silverman: You know how people are always saying, "I wish I could be 20 again knowing what I know now"? FLOF takes you back in time, but then lets you be exactly who you are. You can bring all the parts of your freaky self out and express yourself in an atmosphere of pure love and acceptance. FLOF is deep healing. Oh, and I love leading 50 peeps in a pelvic thrust.

Kavanaugh: FLOF is pure. It is a dance party that mends souls and grows Grinch hearts super huge. It teaches you to unleash your most ridiculous and unencumbered self through super sick dorky moves.

What role has dance played in your life?

Boeder: My personal history with dance pretty much consists of my preteen obsession with Flashdance, Footloose, Purple Rain, Breakin, and Madonna's Virgin Tour. I wore out many a VHS tape in the '80s. And I got kicked out of a step class once for my lack of coordination.

Silverman: After seven years of ballet and tap, I overheard my dance teacher tell my mom, "Dorie will never be a professional dancer, she's just not good enough." I quit ballet, but I never quit dancing. Dancing is about self-expression. I dance in the shower, in musicals, with partners, in the grocery store, at the beach. My dad said once, "The secret of happiness is to keep on dancing," and I couldn't agree more.

Kavanaugh: I got uninvited to dance with a group of girls for a talent show in 4th grade because I was too spastic, I think. Years later I learned that I could do the worm and then made a big dance debut when my brother and I learned the Napoleon Dynamite dance at my cousin's wedding. Yeah, so, I'm a big deal. Don't be intimidated.

Molly Kavanaugh. Photo by Mike Travis

What is your favorite thing about Chicago?

Boeder: My favorite thing about Chicago is its diversity: racial, cultural, musical. FLOF just did a show at the Chicago Cultural Center where little kids, French tourists, homeless dudes, teenagers & old ladies were all grooving together to Hall & Oates, and it was magical. There were these incredible dancers on the floor who'd been part of the original Soul Train: I felt like that could only happen here. I love the diversity of bands/artists who hail from Chicago: Kanye West, Kid Sister, Chicago, D Train, Curtis Mayfield. And even though I hate the winters, they do truly force you to be creative & create awesome times indoors.

Silverman: The ability to go out and experience any kind of art that inspires you. From the MCA to murals along train tracks, from Earth Wind & Fire at Millenium Park to local bands in small clubs, from Broadway musicals to underground cabaret shows.

Kavanaugh: The Chicago accent. O's and A's are magical here. The phrase "dance at FLOF" just wouldn't be the same in another place.

Anything else?

Boeder: Everyone asks us if you have to do workout routines at FLOF shows. Answer: you do not! But you may dance so hard you could unintentionally become fit. Hydration is definitely recommended.


FLOF is free every second Thursday of the month at Cole's Bar at 9:30pm. Upcoming themes include A Justin Timberlake Jamboree on June 13 and a Lionel Richie Tribute on July 11.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

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