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The Right Moves

Bandleader Caitlin Simone has had a front-row seat to some bad dancing. But she says you should keep trying.

Caitlin Simone, co-bandleader of the Ken Arlen Evolution Orchestra

After 10 years onstage fronting bands in the Chicagoland area, there isn’t much Caitlin Simone hasn’t seen on a dance floor. The reserved nodders and toe-tappers. The adventuresome shoulder-swingers. The goofball butter-churners. And, as the night wears on and the drinks flow, there’s always at least one shirtless dude. “I’ve seen some really cute dance moves,” says Simone, who doesn’t imbibe while performing. “I love to see guys open up.”

Her new gig may at least offer glimpses of better-dressed dancers; this winter, Simone was named co-leader of the Ken Arlen Evolution Orchestra, one of the area’s top party bands. Along with black-tie galas and weddings across the country, the orchestra has performed at presidential inaugural balls and has a standing New Year’s gig at the Bellagio in Vegas. With about 20 full-time pros—horns, guitars, rhythm section, rock violins and six vocalists—the polished, powerful group can convincingly cover everything from classical to Kesha.

Stunning and soulful onstage, the 34-year-old Simone often serves as event emcee—bolstered by her completion of improv training at The Second City—and handles much of the band’s logistics. While she has astonishing vocal versatility, music, she says, “only ends up being half of the job.”

A Freeport, Ill. native, Simone began performing at age 5 in her sister’s homespun production of Cinderella. Critiquing men’s party prowess is more of a hobby. And while Simone is always flattered when guys ask her to come down and show them how it’s done, she’s sorry—she’s there to work. But don’t let that stop you. “A man who can dance is really attractive,” she says. “So don’t be afraid to let loose.”