Maybe it was the heat and humidity. Whatever the reason, a segment of Columbus came down with a bit of dance fever Friday night.
That’s when the Los Angeles-based Groovaloos moved and grooved their way into the collective heart of an estimated 1,000 people at the Columbus Area Arts Council’s Live On the Plaza event. The fourth annual concert, with a theme of “Find Your Groove,” was presented free at the Bartholomew County Public Library Plaza.
“How are you doin’, Indiana?” asked Bradley Rapier, the group’s founder and leader, in his opening greeting. “It’s cooling down now. The shade is coming.”
But then he and his group heated things back up with an energetic, instrumental jazz-track opener that featured back flips, spins and one dancer finishing the tune frozen while balancing partly on her head.
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“Remember — it’s not the move,” Rapier said. “It’s the groove. You’ll eventually run out of moves.”
The comment is Rapier’s often-repeated mantra for people who tell him they don’t normally dance. He grew wise to those types immediately, spotting a man with his arms firmly folded across his chest near the back of the crowd while others were waving their arms as Rapier had instructed.
“I see you back, there, Mr. Red Shirt Guy,” Rapier said. “I’m waiting on you, sir.”
Eventually, with the crowd coaxing him a bit, the man joined in on the simple wave. Others in the crowd had heard that the Groovaloos lightheartedly pull people from their audiences to join them on stage.
Chad Buehler, a young father, laughed at the idea.
“I really don’t plan on it,” he said.
His dad, John Buehler, however, seemed open to busting a move in front of others.
“You just never know,” John said with a smile.
Ralph Haywood said he loves loves to dance so much that he said he wants to be in “Dancing With the Stars … Columbus Style,” the city’s annual January fundraiser. And he said he wouldn’t mind if the Groovaloos pulled him from his lawn chair seat near the right side of the stage.
No matter what, he was prepared for a good time with three grandchildren in tow, including 7-year-old Miyanna Haywood, a former dance student.
The urban, freestyle troupe, which has performed on national television shows from “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” to “Dancing With the Stars,” was fresh from a couple of motivational teaching sessions earlier in the day at the Bartholomew County Youth Services Center. The group was such a hit there that a staff member brought several of the young people to the evening event two hours early to get them spots in the front row.
Tami Sharp, the arts council’s program director, said she loved seeing the dancers and crowd interact. Friday was her last day of a 15-year stint with the nonprofit agency before she moves to California.
“It was great just seeing the kids laugh and have a great time being engaged in such a positive way,” Sharp said.
Rapier appeared in opening segments of the 2016 award-winning film “La La land,” and other troupe members were in scenes from the movie “Step Up 3D” from 2010.
“Before now, I didn’t know their name,” crowd member Nancy Sadauskas said. “But I’d heard that they’d been on the TV shows.”
Live On the Plaza was launched in 2014 by the Columbus Area Arts Council to highlight acts somewhat apart from the norm in Columbus.
The arts council hosted classical/hip hop duo Black Violin in the debut concert, circus-style musical performers MarchFourth! in 2015 and an a cappella group, Naturally 7, last year.
Kathryn Armstrong, the arts council’s executive director, said Live On the Plaza serves as an example of the non-profit agency’s mission statement to “integrate arts and cultural experiences into community life.”
Learn more about the Groovaloos by visiting groovaloos.com