Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Wednesday, May 22

Gapers Block

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My entire childhood was spent wishing I could attend a taping of Soul Train. Every Saturday morning, I'd sit there with my traditional Doritos breakfast and watch Don Cornelius introduce musicians like Run D.M.C., Berlin, Sheena Easton and New Edition. I had sense enough to know that I'd never be on American Bandstand, it was filmed in California, but I knew I had a shot at Soul Train. Forget about the fact that I could not dance to save my life, one day I'd be on Soul Train and groove down the dance line... Of course, it never happened, wasn't even close to happening, so I put my dance show dreams aside. Fast forward a couple decades and while watching TV, I'm flipping though channels and come across another dance show — only this one is for kids. Well, I didn't have any kids at the time, but that didn't keep me from getting sucked in.

Chic-a-go-go, produced by Jake Austen and Jacqueline Stewart, has been a cable access fixture since 1996. Hosted by Miss Mia and Ratso the Rat (a puppet) the show has a frenetic "Super Happy Fun Time!" vibe, but also feels as though it was filmed in your favorite aunt's basement rec room — friendly and familiar. It's entertaining to watch in a homemade movie sort of way; it's pure cheese, but good cheese.

Each episode features a lot of dancing, bits with Miss Mia and Ratso, and a performance by a band. Artists that have appeared on Chic-a-go-go have been diverse and impressive: The Cramps, Milt Trenier, Shonen Knife, The Shirelles, Alejandro Escovedo, and many more. Just about every genre of music has been represented on the show which is why Chic-a-go-go is as popular with adults as it is with children. The best part is the show is filmed at least once a month at the Chicago Access Network Studios on Green Street. So now that I had a kid, my dance show dream was alive. Chic-a-go-go, here we come!

A few of my friends had gone to tapings with their children and said they enjoyed it, while others who had watched the show incredulously asked, "You're actually going?" Not shying away from a new experience we decided to attend the December taping. Children as well as the adults are encouraged to wear costumes and outrageous outfits for the taping (tiaras, boas, vintage garb, masks are all par for the course), so the kid, the husband and I went dressed in black, red and white semi-matching outfits.

We headed out to the studio and showed up by 11:30am (taping began at noon). We entered the hospitality room where the only other person there was a girl about 16, in pink tights, shorts and a white jean jacket sitting on the floor quietly eating cereal from a Tupperware bowl. In the hospitality room was also a table was set up with snacks. Sodas, cookies, chips were laid out — sadly, the snacks weren't very healthy and anything I'd want to give my kid that early in the day.

By 11:50, a medium-sized group had formed; by 12:10 the place was packed, only I noticed it wasn't children who were there in costume anxiously waiting the taping, it was loud, obnoxious twenty-somethings who seemed to swallow up and overshadow the kids that were there.

Due to technical difficulties, taping was running late and the few children who were there were getting very antsy and annoyed. When we finally entered the studio, we were all introduced to Miss Mia and Ratso and given the taping rules and show overview. The small group of kids were placed in the front of the crowd, since it is a children's dance show — still the children to adult ratio was easily 1:10. (Hey! Twenty-somethings! Try to remember it's a children's show, not a showcase for your mad dancing skills.)

At this point, my kid and several other babies were hot from being under the lights and fussing, so we sat it out and watched from the side, off camera. We ended up leaving early because my kid was completely frustrated and being a crank. I decided it was best to keep our Chic-a-go-go exposure to TV until he's older.

While Chic-a-go-go is hokey, kitschy fun to watch on TV, and the bands that perform really get into it, I don't recommend attending a taping when your kids between one- and two-years-old. It's best if they are at least four and up to it and really understand what is going on. For younger children it may be too overwhelming.

So for now, my dance show dream is stuck in neutral. I'll have to wait a couple years before the kid and I can pop lock in front of a studio audience. That's OK; it gives us more time to practice in front of the mirror.

Tuesdays at 8:30pm and Wednesdays at 3:30pm
Channel 19
The show is taped at the Chicago Access Network Studios, located at 322 S. Green St. (one block west of Halsted).

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About the Author(s)

Alejandra Valera is a new mom and writer. If there's a baby- or kid-friendly place, product or event you think she should cover, email her at .

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