Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Madison bar hosts weekly dance lessons and parties

Get on your dancing shoes, head to Cafe CODA on Tuesday nights
Maria Brunetta

Cafe CODA is Madison area’s “premier jazz space,” offering live music performances, workshops and classes, all of which are often recurring events, including bachata lessons followed by a salsa/bachata dance party.

Bachata lessons are held every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. through Dec. 12, with three instructors who rotate to help facilitate the the workshop. The Badger Herald sat down with instructor Liz Schoonveld to talk more about the class Cafe CODA is hosting.

A University of Wisconsin alum, Schoonveld has loved dance her whole life. Though she didn’t go into dance professionally, working instead as a speech language pathologist at a local high school, she’s been teaching dance for over 10 years by helping friends in the circuit and then becoming a teacher in her own right.


Schoonveld likes bachata because it is relatively simple in terms of Latin dances. She’s able to lead, follow and feel confident in both. It’s less complicated than the other dance forms she teaches through a UW student organization, notably Cuban Rueda de Casino.

“I used to think it was very different [from] my day job, but it’s not,” Schoonveld said. “Really, dancing [is] about communication. When you’re partner dancing …you have to lead and follow by communicating with each other.”

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Dance is something that takes the stress out of daily life and adds a fun outlet to a dancer’s week — something she hopes for every dancer that attends her classes. It’s a way to forget about other things and create something from joy.

Before Cafe CODA, Schoonveld taught for years at the Brink Lounge, which was a hub for tango and salsa groups for 17 years before closing in April 2023, according to the Brink Lounge website. Those groups have now migrated elsewhere, many finding a new home at Cafe CODA. While the bachata lessons get the main floor in front of the stage, a tango group practices in the back room at the same time on Tuesdays.

Originating from the Dominican Republic, bachata is an eight count dance — four beats to every measure of music with a tap on beats four and eight — with an intuitive footwork pattern. It’s a partner dance, where the leader and follower stand closer together than in the salsa. There are many forms of bachata, but the one taught at Cafe CODA is the common form, not originating from anywhere specific.

Though each week follows the same core routine, Schoonveld says she tries to change it up slightly every week.

“I am inspired by moves found online from dancers that I admire, and then I take something and make it our own,” Schoonveld said.

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She added that the class helps her advance her own skills, both as a teacher and a dancer.

Even the lessons follow a rhythm. Each week, dancers start with a warm-up of foundational body movements and footwork, before settling in with a partner. Then, for the next hour, instructors demonstrate a movement which the students then follow. There are two instructors each Tuesday. Alongside Schoonveld, Kaitlyn Wallett and Saralita Marie Medrano also teach the class.

Schoonveld is an advocate for the basic skills in dance and is always trying to make sure they’re emphasized in her lessons.

“You can do five turns and be an unskilled lead, you know, and people won’t want to dance with you often because you don’t have the fundamentals,” Schoonveld said.

Those fundamentals often carry over into different art forms, so being confident in those skills helps any type of dancer, whether they’re only there for one night or have come back many times.

The attendees of each lesson range in skill level and age. Schoonveld has taught dancers aged 20 to 70, and encourages anyone to attend. Even if you’re a beginner in dance, there’s a place for you. Though she acknowledges there is fear in doing anything for the first time, Schoonveld repeats that most people, in dance especially, are focused on their own moves and steps more than anyone else’s.

Bachata is an especially nice beginner form, as the rhythms of the music are very easily distinguished. Even the untrained ear is able to pick up the changes in the music because it’s not as complex or frenetic as other dance forms may be. Even the core body movements are more grounded and less flowy than other forms may be, making them easier for newcomers to pick up.

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When asked what she hopes every dancer gets out of the lessons, Schoonveld smiled.

“To trust in their own creative self, however that’s expressed,” Schoonveld said. “Trusting in who you are and what you’re capable of … there isn’t a right or a wrong. You know you’re doing it right when you feel joyful, when you’ve connected with other people.”

If the dancers feel rejuvenated and joyful and like they’ve learned something new about themselves by the end of the night, Schoonveld would consider that a success.

Cafe CODA was founded in September 2018 by Hanah Jon Taylor. Taylor has performed worldwide as a saxophonist and flutist, collaborating with other musicians like Nina Simone and Richie Havens. Cafe CODA is his “dream” jazz club, according to the website. It’s a place where he brings outside artists to the Madison area but also focuses on developing local talent. Taylor has also emphasized bringing in younger audiences to performances, notably by hosting “Cool School,” a program which gives free music lessons to kids on the weekends.

Throughout the next few months, Cafe CODA will host a variety of events the bachata lessons, some swing lessons and a performance from the Madison Jazz Orchestra among them.

The cost for each lesson at Cafe CODA is $10, and any dancer of any skill level is welcome to attend. The lessons last an hour, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. After, the venue holds a salsa/bachata dance party. The party is $10, but if attendees to the lessons want to participate, they can join in at no extra charge.

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