Arvada Center Blog

Dinner and a show this summer in Arvada!

Dinner Before the Show

by Leslie Simon

Let’s go out to dinner and see a concert! You’re yearning for a good night out on the town, and Arvada has so many great spots, how do you even begin to choose? This summer, we are making it easy for you by creating this concert and restaurant pairing guide that covers our entire Summer Concert Series.




June 15 – Riders In The Sky & Hot Club of Cowtown

Looking for a casual night of Western swing and country tunes? Grab some down-home cooking at 4 Barrel Bar & BBQ. Built in a former Texaco service station, 4 Barrel offers up ribs, pulled pork and all the other usual BBQ favorites. Make sure to try their special Arvada Hash- tater tots covered in pulled pork and green chili. It goes great with double-bill Riders In The Sky and Hot Club of Cowtown, two western favorites that entertain audiences young and old.

Riders In The Sky & Hot Club of Cowtown



June 29- Orquesta Akokán, with Baracutanga

Latin music makes us think Latin food and drink, and Global Goods and Coffee Shop makes the best cortado in town! Popular in Cuba, this coffee drink is an espresso mixed with warm milk, and goes great with their Panini-pressed sandwiches. Afterwards, head over to the Arvada Center for Cuban big band Orquesta Akokán, where driving mambo rhythms and exuberant horns will have everyone on their feet.

Orquesta Akokán Tickets




June 30: The Denver Brass: Awesome Summer Mix!

The Denver Brass: Awesome Summer Mix concert blasts to the past with popular songs like “Hey Jude” and the Ghostbusters theme, getting us in the mood for another blast from the past- pinball! Play the silver ball at SomePlace Else Brewery before the show and feel like a kid again.

Denver Brass Tickets


July 11: The Colorado Symphony presents Mozart Under Moonlight

With guitars available to play right there, we think Mozart would feel right at home in this live music friendly coffeeshop. A staple in Olde Town Arvada since 1993, La Dolce Vita serves up locally-made quiche, ice cream, coffee and live tunes. So grab a piece of coffee cake from this local favorite before seeing another local favorite- the Colorado Symphony performing Mozart Under Moonlight!

Mozart Under Moonlight



July 13: The Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra

Brewing up their own special beers and winning awards for it, New Image Brewing has really upped the brewery game in Olde Town Arvada. Head to their taproom and try out a Better Together India Pale Ale, then come over to the Arvada Center to hear another the music of a duo that is also better together- Ray Charles and Count Basie! The Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra graces our outdoor amphitheatre again this summer, this time playing selections from the 2006 album “Ray Sings, Basie Swings.”

CJRO Tickets



July 15: Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo

When we think New York City, the first thing to come to mind is pizza! Stop by Homegrown Tap and Dough for a soda and a slice before heading over to see one of New York City’s brightest stars- Pat Benatar. Pat Benatar and her husband Neil Giraldo have been making NYC-gritty music together for 40 years, but sound as fresh as if they just met a year ago.

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo



July 21: A Symphonic Tribute to Comic Con

As a kid, comics and cartoons went hand-in-hand with sugary cereals on Saturday mornings. Now that we are adults, we can have cartoon-colored breakfast cereals any day of the week. Head over to The Cereal Box for gourmet cereal with any toppings you want before seeing the Colorado Symphony Tribute to Comic Con show at our outdoor amphitheatre. Stay forever young as the symphony performs songs from video games and pop culture.

Comic Con Concert Tickets



August 4: George Thorogood and The Destroyers

Dive bar vibes and an old-school jukebox- definitely the kind of place where you can imagine George Thorogood sitting at the bar, or playing loudly over the speakers. Feel bad to the bone grabbing a drink at 12 Volt Tavern before jamming out under the stars to one of rock and roll’s most famous bad boys.

George Thorogood



August 14: Justin Hayward, with Michael Dawes

Justin Hayward from The Moody Blues brings a lot of class wherever he goes, so set the tone of the night right with a delectable pre-show seafood dinner at Smokin Fin’s. It’s the perfect start for a great night with someone you love. Opener Michael Dawes rounds out the night with an English fingerstyle guitar technique that will leave the audience intently listening to every note.

Justin Hayward



August 17: Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals

With over 1,400 kinds of whiskey, School House Kitchen and Libations can get anyone ready for some “Groovin’.” Hit up this popular schoolhouse-themed bar and restaurant before Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals play at the Arvada Center- it’s only fitting since they were playing at the Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles when their first number one song “Good Lovin’” broke.

Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals



August 24: The Colorado Ballet – An Evening Under the Stars

Opened in 1933, the Arvada Tavern has a cozy speakeasy feel that can bring romance to any night out on the town. Stop by the tavern for a specialty cocktail before heading over to see the Colorado Ballet – An Evening Under the Stars. If the night goes well, you can head back to the tavern after the show for a late-night cocktail, as they stay open until 2 am on the weekends and 12 am during the week.

Tickets for the Ballet



August 29: Legends of Rock – 50 Years of Woodstock

Sausage, pretzels, beer….. sounds like the food court at a festival! Kline’s Beer Hall will get you in that festival mood with homemade sausages and local brews before we celebrate 50 years of Woodstock with Legends of Rock here at the Arvada Center. Come see Big Brother & the Holding Company, Vanilla Fudge and more as we revisit the vibes of 60s psychedelia with the bands that created the sound.

Legends of Rock Tickets



September 6: Squeeze, with X

This year before the Squeeze Songbook Tour at the Arvada Center, get “Tempted” by one of the everchanging beers on tap at Denver Beer Co. Their outdoor patio is the perfect place to get into a happy and light mood before you see bestselling English pop band Squeeze take the stage at our outdoor amphitheatre.

Squeeze Tickets



If you get hungry during the show- have no fear! Steuben’s Arvada will have a pop-up kitchen here at the Center serving many of their crowd favorites during each summer performance. Don’t miss their chicken and waffle cones or the vegan-friendly Impossible Burger. Full menu available at

Denver dance scene pivots and turns: 15 years with Wonderbound’s Sarah Tallman

By Leslie Simon


As Denver grows, so grows its dance scene. For 15 years, esteemed Colorado dancer Sarah Tallman has entertained fans with her fierce ballet performances with award-winning local dance company Wonderbound. 2019 marks her final year performing as a full-time dancer, but audiences need not be worried- she will still be working behind-the-scenes creating new works and guiding future generations of Colorado dancers through her unique and powerful choreography. We spoke to Sarah about her 15-year journey with Wonderbound, having transcendent experiences while performing, and what she sees for the future of our local dance scene. Join us here at the Arvada Center on June 14-15 for Wonderbound’s production of Boomtown and see Sarah dance in her final two performances.

Sarah Tallman and Ben Youngstone, photos by Amanda Tipton

Q: What has working with Wonderbound over the course of 15 years taught you about yourself?

A: Oh my goodness… I love this question. Over the last 15 years, I have had the opportunity to appear in over 30 Garrett Ammon ballets, which means there has been an enormous opportunity to explore different characters and emotional arcs that humans experience in the course of a day or even a lifetime. Through that exploration, I have observed myself navigating both the simple and the complex emotions that we all go through. They are all reminders that we are alive!

Each of these roles encouraged me to look within and explore myself. As I journeyed through creating the most authentic expressions of each of these characters and roles, it’s been an opportunity to explore the most authentic expression of who I am and how I interact in the world. The more I deepened into the nuances of who I am or who I think I am as an individual, the deeper I have been able to move through the art form. I have learned a lot about love and what it feels like to express that love. I’ve learned to be rigorous and have fun while doing it!

Image by Amanda Tipton Photography

Q: What’s your most memorable moment in working with Wonderbound?

A: Wow. There are so many moments that I have cherished; it’s difficult to distill them into one! I absolutely adore performing and have had transcendent experiences on stage where I felt really locked in with the moment. In those instances, the technique and the emotions simultaneously clicked, and I became a conduit of the work rather than a person executing moves. Those moments feel almost like out-of-body experiences, which is funny because it’s through the body that they have taken form. Those experiences make way for a connection and a deepening of our own humanity. My hope is for at least one person to feel something move within them or to ask a deeper question of themselves. I have seen and experienced these moments with my co-workers as well. It’s quite remarkable.

I also value the relationships we create with our many community education programs. Very recently, I observed a 3rd grader completely change his physiological capacity within a matter of seconds after being exposed to dance. Dance is for everybody, and to observe its resonance with the community as an audience member or participant makes for memorable moments.



Q: What will you miss the most about dancing full-time?

A: I will miss working in the studio with Garrett in the creation of a new solo, and the time with Dawn as a coach. It’s been an unexpected gift to spend the majority of my career originating new roles in brand new ballets that re-awaken the art form. These types of exchanges come along once in a lifetime. I appreciate each one of them and hold them dear to my heart.

The nature of these experiences have allowed me to sink my teeth into the work and go deeper. That’s the secret, when you find work you love, keep going. I can compare it to seeing the ocean for the first time. The ocean is beautiful from the shoreline, but when you jump in and see what’s beneath, there is suddenly an entire world beyond what was witnessed at first glance.

The rigorousness of this type of process has inspired me to create these types of relationships with future artists as I continue my journey as a choreographer. I will miss the everyday vigorous nature of dancing full-time and the connections that are created with audiences and co-artists. I will miss performing, and at the same time, I look forward to discovering new realities through working on the other side of the room as an artistic team member at Wonderbound.

Image by Amanda Tipton Photography

Q: There is an important symbiotic relationship between your writing and your choreography. Can you walk us through your process in creating a new work?

A: Absolutely! Each time I create a new work, I know a little more about what might happen throughout the process, but no two processes are alike. Firstly, I spend a lot of time with the music before I’ve attempted to make even one step. The music generally will cultivate some sort of feeling within me that will then create images in my brain and off I go. My next step is to sit down with paper and pen and just start to free-write. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not. As I step into the studio for the first time, I have an outline of the beginning, middle and end of the work. That being said, it’s just as important to not get attached to the “plan” on paper in order to give space to what comes forward once the steps are created.

I’ll often go back to the writing throughout the process. The words help me to envision and create textures, nuances and concepts as the ballet begins to unfold. The next steps are sort of rinse and repeat. At the end of the day, I take what I have learned in the studio and start to form pieces of a puzzle until it’s complete. I lean into the dancers’ artistic voices and interpretations to help further the process and together we begin to make connections.


Q: How does your yoga practice affect your dance practice?

A: I first became a student of yoga at a summer program years ago. I initially fought the training, but then realized it allowed me to experience and understand technique in a different way. Essentially, I used it as a way of cross training. I soon discovered it also provided time to listen to my body and sense my environment differently. Yoga has helped to create a balance internally and externally which prepares me for whatever a rehearsal day or performance might bring.


Q: What changes have you seen in the Denver dance scene over the past 15 years?

A: Denver has changed so much over the last 15 years. It’s really become a city that values art and dance in particular. The level of awareness and our community’s artistic palate has become more diverse. There is no formula to what our audiences desire to experience, other than that they know it will always transcend and surprise. Art has been and will continue to be the heartbeat and grounding of a community. The more we push the envelope, the more we clearly carve a place for dance to exist. It’s impossible not to see art at the forefront of this city’s development. Simply driving down the street, one can’t help but notice the immersive quality of art. It truly is everywhere. I believe Wonderbound has been at the forefront of changing what we can do with our art form. Wonderbound’s collaborative vision has created a palpable energy, making it a stalwart for dance in Denver.

Image by Amanda Tipton Photography

Q: What changes do you hope to see in the next 15 years?

A: My hope for the next 15 years is that we continue to push the boundaries of what is being created. Curiosity, exploration, wonder. These are all important attributes that will carry Denver forward. It’s important to respect what has been and then give way to future moments as they unfold. Denver has a very real opportunity to become a destination city for art as much as it is for its environmental attractions. We can evolve a city that people come to in order to see world class dance.

The Next Big Thing- Orquesta Akokán

By Leslie Simon

The Next Big Thing- Orquesta Akokán

Mambo! You can hear the hustle and bustle of the streets of Havana on Latin collective Orquesta Akokán’s self-titled album.

Signed to the independent New York City label Daptone Records, this Cuban big band has the ethos and sound to match the rest of Daptone’s acclaimed roster of funk and soul musicians. Led by the attention-demanding vocals of José Pepito Gómez, Daptone’s first Spanish-language release is a groove-infused album of all original songs, paying homage to the old school banda gigante sound of the ‘40s and ‘50s and the mambo kings.

The Yoruba (a western African people with a longstanding community in Cuba) word akokán means “from the heart,” and it is apparent by their authentic sounds and hot-Havana-nights rhythms that they truly are making music from the heart, for the heart.

Fans of Buena Vista Social Club will love their celebratory lyrics and textured orchestral sounds, and they really get the crowd moving with driving Afro-Cuban percussion. Sounding simultaneously 21st-century-fresh and timelessly vintage, Orquesta Akokán has been met with critical acclaim and bigger crowds at every show. Their album of mambo, salsa, and cha cha sounds was recorded live in three days at the legendary Areito Studios in Havana and released last spring, with the band touring the United States for the first time then as well- even playing the Lincoln Center!

Fiery, upbeat, joyful, infectious – Orquesta Akokán’s music will find a special place in your heart and their rhythm will stay in your bones. This summer sees them making appearances throughout festival season all over the United States and Europe, exposing them to ever-increasing audiences. See them at the Arvada Center Summer Concert Series this year, and you can say you “saw them when.”

Grab a dancing partner and see Orquesta Akokán at the Arvada Center on June 29th!

Physics meets movement: 3rd Law Dance/Theater

Who knew that dance could teach you a science lesson?

By Leslie Simon

Photo by Annabelle Denmark

3rd Law Dance/Theater has been considering the physics of movement for almost two decades. Beginning their life at the start of this millennium, this award-winning dance company creates conceptual performances that explore current societal events through metaphors and the freedom of dance.

3rd Law Dance/Theater asked their audience for their favorite moments and then dug back through years of original choreography to put together a retrospective of their work. They bring this piece of artistic history to the Arvada Center on June 1!

Collaboration is key as 3rd Law combines the input of current Artistic Co-Directors Katie Elliott and Paul Fowler, the lasting influence of Co-Founder Jim LaVita, their dynamic troupe of dancers, and influence from the physical spaces that dance pieces are specifically created for. We spoke with Katie Elliott, 3rd Law Dance/Theater’s Co-Founder and Artistic Co-Director, to find out how they work, what we can hope to see in the future, and the physics behind the whole thing.

Photo by Catrine Turillon

Q: What is the genesis of 3rd Law? Can you explain the principle behind the name?

Katie Elliott: Isaac Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion – every action has an equal and opposite reaction – is the philosophical and physical backbone of the company.

3rd Law Dance/Theater is an award-winning contemporary dance company that has been pushing the boundaries in movement, media, visual art, digital construction, theater and music since 01.01.01, the first day of the new millennium.


A: What is your creative process when creating new work?

KE: At 3rd Law Dance/Theater the creative process is dynamic and collaborative, the push and pull of ideas is alive between choreographer, dancer, and composer. Equally important is the connection with the audience through the power of live, in-the-moment performance – a cornerstone of the company’s vision.

Photo by Annabelle Denmark

What are some of your favorite moments since the company began in 2001?

KE: All of our favorite moments have grown out of all the different communities and collaborators with whom we have connected. Highlights include: Boulder Bach Festival, The Denver Art Museum, Denver Botanic Gardens, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and a variety of individual artists.


Q: What do you hope to see for the future of 3rd Law?

KE: Expanding the communities we’ve built through our Dance for Parkinson’s Program, Open Space showcase of Colorado choreographers, our classes serving the beginning to professional level dancer, and our educational outreach programs which support young art makers.


3rd Law Dance/Theater performs a retrospective of their work in the Arvada Center Main Stage Theatre on June 1. Come celebrate Colorado dance – tickets are on sale today!

Heather Gray Photography

A Conversation with Trav’lin – The 1930s Harlem Musical’s Gary Holmes

By Leslie Simon


Travel back to the time of the cultural hotbed that was the Harlem Renaissance – the music was swinging, bands were big, and the jazz scene continued to rise in popularity and influence. A funny and heartfelt look at love, Trav’lin – The 1930s Harlem Musical rediscovers the music of prolific songwriter J.C. Johnson in a story about love, set in Harlem when the culture defined cool and the scene was hot. We spoke to Gary Holmes, Co-Bookwriter of Trav’lin, about his inspirations, J.C.’s music, and the journey this musical has taken since the beginning of its creation.

Q: The Arvada Center is excited to produce the regional premiere of Trav’lin – The 1930s Harlem Musical. Why do you think this story set in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance is so appealing and resonates with audiences outside of Harlem?

A: TRAV’LIN is a story about LOVE.  That is what J.C. Johnson wrote mostly about and was the main factor in my determining what tales TRAV’LIN would tell.  The show delves humorously into the follies of love and then digs deep into the hurt that love can be. And those foibles and hurts go beyond a time and a place. The three couples of TRAV’LIN represent three different stages and aspects of love, with all of them are trying to figure what it’s all about! Add to that the energy and raw feeling of the music and era underlying it all and….

Q: It is almost one hundred years since the setting of Trav’lin took place. What is it about the songs of J.C. Johnson that make them so timeless, and why do they still resonate with audiences so strongly?

A: J.C. wrote very simply and directly. His lyrics go right to the core of whatever emotion the song required. And if he was just composing the music, as he often did, he had the ability to exactly match the tone of the lyrics, whether it be a big band, jazz or blues beat. He often said he learned his craft on the streets. I believe that’s where his got his ability to hone in on what the tune or lyric was about, and go right there. No flowery words or heavily intricate tunes. And he really knew how to write a tune!

Q: How has the musical grown and evolved since its debut at the New York Musical Festival?

A: I started developing the show while I was at the Dramatic Writing Department at Tisch. The basic structure, plot and characters in the show were pretty much set back then and are essentially the same to this day.

The New York Musical Festival experience was great. NOTHING helps you figure out what needs to be done with a show more than putting it up in front of an audience not made up of friends and relatives, and having it done with excellent actors and crew. This describes the presentation at the New York Musical Theater Festival, which was extremely well received. And while the basic structure, character and plots have stayed constant since the show was first conceived, that and succeeding productions have shown and allowed us to refine and deepen the show to balance out the lighter and more serious parts. We even changed some of the characters’ intentions and foibles.

We have been blessed to see several sets of excellent actors do full productions of the show – and each production and each actor has brought new revelations. Some were like “How did we NOT see that flaw in the writing before” to “Wow, that actor really opened up other possibilities. Let’s think about that and expand on it!” And we know that the wonderful actors at Arvada (under Rod’s direction) will teach us even more!

Q: What was the most important lesson you learned from your mentor, J.C. Johnson?

A: OH, this is easy! Respect your fellow human being and don’t be too quick to judge. Also, he enjoyed the little things in life, he noticed the little things in life – and he respected them, which is what made him such a good creator and person.  One interviewer of J.C. wrote about him: “He was a gentle flower of a man.” And he was.

J.C. Johnson

Q: What do you hope Arvada Center patrons take away from the musical?

A: I certainly hope they are entertained and enjoy the songs and characters’ roller coaster ride, but I also hope they are touched by J.C.’s music and his message about love. And while TRAV’LIN is anything but a history lesson, I hope the music and stories encourage folks to be open to discovering more about J.C. and the amazing place Harlem was (and is) and that era and the everyday folks who lived it.

Trav’lin – The 1930s Harlem Musical closes this Sunday, April 28.