If you live in New Orleans, you probably — at least to some degree — like to dance.
But there’s a huge difference between the kind of dancing I do — where my arms flail so far from my body I’m afraid they’ll never return while my right and left legs look like they’re listening to two different songs — and the skills so many of my fellow New Orleanians display.
Whether it be at Mardi Gras, festivals, second lines, random Saturday nights, weddings or even funerals — I often find myself wondering, “How in the world did they learn to move like that?!” But every time I look to the far corner and see someone doing the robot, I know I’m not alone.
So I hit the streets, talked to friends who actually have control of their bodies and came up with this list of best spots in town to work on your moves. And whether you want to take a formal and organized dance class, a series of classes, burn some calories, release some endorphins, improve the function of your brain (!) or just want to drop in at a bar to learn a few steps and meet new friends, this city has plenty of great options!
So put on those dancin’ shoes, follow me, and let’s cut a rug!
In the Studio
New Orleans is home to some amazing studios and instructors. If you’d like to join an organized class, these are a handful of popular places to start!
Whether you want to learn hip-hop, jazz, contemporary, Latin, ballroom, tap, ballet, yoga, bounce, fitness or more, this St. Claude Avenue studio is here to help. “It’s so welcoming,” said Kelly Burgess, a student at Dancing Grounds (3705 St. Claude Ave.). “And the most affordable dance classes I’ve found anywhere!”
A single class is just $12, and a month of unlimited classes is $33! And the reason for these amazing prices is twofold. First, the studio wants anyone who’s ever thought about taking a class — whether it’s for the very first time, to restart after a hiatus, or to continue professional-level instruction — to feel like Dancing Grounds has a place for them.
“I’ve noticed so many adults are nervous about taking a dance class,” explained studio director, Laura Stein, “either because they’re afraid of dancing in front of others, or anxious about learning choreography. But we want everyone to be able to access the healing and joyful powers of movement. Everything we do is designed for that reason.”
And, as if that wasn’t enough, Dancing Grounds is a nonprofit organization, with the tuition from adult classes contributing to its myriad of youth programming and courses!
Click here to learn what classes they have coming up!
New Orleans Dance
Katarina Boudreaux, the owner of New Orleans Dance — the umbrella organization encompassing two studios: Dance Quarter and Rhythmic Arts Center — said dance helped to welcome her back when she first returned to New Orleans as an adult. “One of the first things I did when I got back,” she recalled, “was to go to a tango community event. I made friends that — six years later — are still my friends today. That’s what happens in the dance community!”
That’s the kind of community she hopes her studios can help to build for New Orleanians who attend their classes. Even the locations — with Dance Quarter situated Uptown (1719 Toledano St.) and the Rhythmic Arts Center downtown (2358 St. Claude Ave.) — allow her and her instructors to serve a wider swath of the city.
“Dancing is multi-everything,” Boudreaux said. “Multi-generational. Multi-stylistic. And it welcomes all walks, shapes and shades of life. Dancing is a natural expression of enjoyment. It’s happening in the NOW, and it’s exhilarating.”
The studio offers a range of classes at both locations. For a solo dance or fitness experience, you could sign up for Dance Trance, Belly Dance, and Dancers Bootcamp. (Plus there’s a hip-hop class for kids.) These classes are $15 per class, with 10- or 15-class passes available at a discounted rate.
If you’re interested in learning partner dances (you can come alone, by the way — no need to come with a partner!), there are a ton of options for you: swing, salsa, West Coast swing, ballroom, blues, Argentine tango and zouk — just to name a handful. Dance Quarter offers classes that range from four weeks in length, all the way to 10 weeks.
Its next seven-week series starts May 13 at a price of $100 per person, or $185 for two people or two courses.
For a list of drop-in classes and multi-week courses being offered, check out their calendar!
Pole Perfect Fitness
This French Quarter studio (in the Shops at Canal Place) bills itself as a place “for fun and fitness!” Classes teach students beautiful pole choreography, as well as build their strength. Pole Perfect Fitness promises you’ll see the difference physically and mentally.
Check out their schedule here, and you can sign up for pole dancing classes at a variety of levels (including sessions for total beginners!), as well as free weekly community Pilates classes! They also offer discounts for new pole fitness students.
(Oh, and if you know of a bachelorette party coming into town — they offer plenty of fun options for those crowds, too!)
Fleur de Dance
Tammy Duke is the owner of the Fleur de Dance studio (6610 Fleur De Lis Drive) and co-owner of the West Coast Swing Academy of New Orleans, which shares a space. She believes the learning process is a unique focus at her studio. “We create an educationally based environment perfect for a motivated student,” she explained. “And our students enjoy the focus of being surrounded by a positive and nurturing facility with true curriculum-based courses.”
All classes are taught by Duke and her partner at West Coast Swing Academy, Byron Bellow — both certified dance instructors and adjudicators. Beginner, intermediate and advanced West Coast swing classes are offered at the studio, as well as beginner and intermediate country two-step classes.
On the weekend, you can attend classes as varied as salsa, cha-cha, Argentine tango, romantic sway, foxtrot, rumba and more!
Class prices range from $15 to $20 per class per person (or a subscription option for unlimited classes for $100 per month!), and private lessons are offered in ballroom, Latin and swing styles at a price of $75 for a 55-minute session.
Here’s where you can find a full listing of classes offered at this Lakeview-area studio.
Crescent Lotus Dance Studio
Crescent Lotus Dance Studio has been serving New Orleans for 12 years. Owner, Kryss Statho, remembered “our tagline, then, was to ‘find yourself in dance’ and that remains the case today.”
Statho hopes students at her studio are able to use dance to process and relieve stress, and to feel connected and find a community. “And, then, we hope it helps them motivate change in their life outside of the studio,” she said.
Located Uptown, Crescent Lotus offers public classes and private instruction for everyone from complete newbies to advanced dancers. They offer classes in belly dance, salsa, pole dancing, and even a Pound Rockout Workout class, which Statho explained, “You get to rhythmically hit things with sticks so you don’t really notice you just did 400 squats!”
There’s also a dance meditation class “for those who wants to slow things down with meditation, but simply can’t sit still,” and a music class that teaches musicians how to play the music that goes along with belly dance!
You can check out the calendar of classes here. They’re in the range of $10 – $25, but most instructors also offer discounts when students sign up for multiple classes.
Take it to the bar
Outside of the above-mentioned formal (and nurturing!) studio settings, it’s also not uncommon to find dance classes offered at bars and clubs, followed by an open dance session with live music. Here are two I’ve heard lots of people talk positively about!
Every Sunday night, swing (*wink*) by this Marigny club for swing dancing lessons at 8 p.m., followed by live music and a chance to practice your newfound skills from 9 p.m. until midnight! There’s no cover, but a fair one drink minimum is required per set.
On Monday nights, the second floor of The Dragon’s Den — the historic two-floor music venue and event space on the edge of Frenchmen Street — also hosts a donation-based swing dance lesson at 8 p.m., followed by the opportunity to dance to a live swing band beginning at 9 p.m.!
“It’s a great date spot!” said frequent attendee, Trish Parker. “Or just a really good way to meet new people. It’s a fun mix of locals and visitors moving through town.”
Dance and movement has been a part of the human experience nearly as long as we’ve been standing on two legs. It’s a part of civilizations, regardless of where on the globe those civilizations grew, and New Orleans is no exception.
In fact, it feels like New Orleans has doubled down on humanity’s love for dance. It’s a part of who we are. And this city gives each of us ample opportunities to get out there and embrace it.
Check out The New Orleans Dance Network, which strives to promote the visibility of dance in the Greater New Orleans area, and has a nifty calendar of some of the classes happening in town each day.
And if you feel like I missed a class, studio or event you love — and I’m sure I did — then please feel free to let me know in the comments section of our Facebook page so I can make sure to include it in the future!
MATT HAINES LIVES, WRITES AND HAS HIS BEST LIFE IN NEW ORLEANS. FOLLOW HIM AT MATTHAINESWRITES.COM, AND ON FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM AND TWITTER.