Like any typical American bowling alley, the Badger Bowl Bar and Grill on East Badger Road is a bastion of cheap beer, silly shoes and good, old-fashioned fun.
I came upon it one cold Wednesday night not too long ago; there were the pitchers of Miller Lite on special, the bowling teams sitting around with matching shirts and matching bellies amid the smell of cigarettes (the bowling alley, situated within the town but not the city of Madison, is free of any smoking ban regulation.)
Mixed in with the clouds of smoke and the smell of sweaty socks and fried cheese curds, were the sweet sounds of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and other Big Band greats. The black light was on, but there certainly was no Journey playing.
The bar portion of the Badger Bowl Bar and Grill had been taken over by UW-Madison's very own swing dance club, Jumptown, as it is every Wednesday night. The Lindy Jazz Jam starts around 10 p.m., when the young folks take over from the older West Coast swingers, who have it from 8 p.m. The younger crowd literally brings their dancing shoes -- corners were packed with flung-off sneakers, the chairs were piled high with coats, and the tables were lined with glasses of water. Those dollar-off pitchers didn't sit too well with the jumping and jiving set.
The scene was a long way from the Savoy, but what it lacked in ambiance, it made up for in enthusiasm. The members of Jumptown were free of any hint of pretension, no snotty subculture here. Nor was the dance floor reserved for those who could actually dance, as I quickly found out. My repeated protestations and declarations of little-to-no skill were not only ignored, but were met with an excited, "I'll teach you!" as I was dragged from my chair and onto the floor.
I abandoned the floor for the faster songs, as the more experienced dancers needed greater space for the athletic frenzy of Lindy Hop swing-outs and air-steps.
The dancing ended promptly at midnight, with the appropriate "Baby, It's Cold Outside.' Like their bowling counterparts, the dancers replaced their shoes with streetwear, and bundled up to head out into the night. The bowling team was left behind, along with a smattering of people sitting around the bar. Dancing done for another week, they turned their attention back to the TV.