From the fox trot to East Coast swing, Dallas has a spot to get your groove on. So grab a partner or pick one up at the club. Here are the top 15 dance floors in town.
Terri Tidwell and her husband Tom moved to Dallas just so they could DANCE.
If that notion sounds a bit strange, then you don’t know much about the social dancing scene here, and, chances are, you’ve never been to Fort Smith, Arkansas. That’s where Terri and Tom came from. Their particular passion is Push, a slotted swing that encourages improvisation and personal expression. Fort Smithers, apparently, don’t do much Pushing. So the fortysomething couple packed up their shoes and headed south.
"In Dallas, the dance community has enough volume to keep the clubs going," Tom says. Now the couple can easily find other Push dancers and teachers with the same enthusiasm, and weekend evenings are spent rock stepping, wrapping, and spinning on the hardwoods.
The Dallas scene is lively and thriving. And wherever dancers gather, you’ll find a striking crowd: in a town where people from different walks of life don’t often mix, dancing brings together folks from every social strata. "Here you’re not judged by the clothes you wear or house you live in," says Marilyn Myers, who’s strictly ballroom. "All that matters is how well you dance." At the north end of 60, Myers forces herself to stay home one night each week to pay bills and do family things. But every other evening, she’s out and about at dance events.
Whether you’re a self-proclaimed pro or cutting a rug for the first time, we’ve discovered spots all over Dallas and beyond where couples dance the night away. We covered everything from country western and ballroom to Latin and swing to bring you this insider’s guide to the friendliest and most fun dance halls in town.
COUNTRY AND WESTERN
COWBOYS. The corral-sized sunken dance area has been ridden hard and put up wet, but it’s a favorite among local dancers. Wednesday through Saturday you’ll see plenty of shuffle, waltz, and West Coast swing before and during live-music acts. Resident instructor Terry Faulkner indoctrinates newcomers to the intricacies of the Fort Worth shuffle. Over the years, she has single-handedly converted thousands of 20- to 60-year-olds—singles and couples—to the dance. 2540 E. Abram St., Arlington. 817-265-1535.
THE HORSEMAN CLUB. Cinch up those Rockies and Wranglers, put on your boots, and come on out for a shuffle. With four bar areas, it won’t be long until the three-steppers take over, so you’ll want to start your spins and wraps early while the floor is still accessible. This Cowtown club has a mix of country-and-western and rock ’n’ roll, providing the occasional polka, West Coast swing, and waltz. 4750 Bryant Irvin Rd., Fort Worth. 817-361-6161.
ROUNDUP SALOON. This clean-cut but alternative country-and-western saloon offers gay boot scooters and the occasional lesbian couple a lively mix of requests and up-tempo favorites. On weekends, the popular dance floor is a kaleidoscope of bare chests, leather vests, and cowboy hats. Tuesdays and Thursdays are for dance lessons. It’s a relaxed, party atmosphere. The real challenge: who leads? 3912 Cedar Springs Rd. 214-522-9611. www.roundupsaloon.com.
TIMES SQUARE. Boasting five different nightclubs under one roof, Times Square appeals to the barhopping crowd. Country-and-western enthusiasts decked out in cowboy hats and leather show off their moves in the San Antonio Room, where the entire back wall is a silhouette relief of the Alamo. Later in the evening, beer puddles the floor, but the DJ keeps the dancers moving by mixing up the tempo. 5640 Arapaho Rd. 972-701-9751.
TOP RAIL BALLROOM. Cowboy courtesy and stale cigarette smoke permeate this gritty Texas honky-tonk that has welcomed scores of boot scooters for more than 70 years. From 6 p.m. until the wee hours, a DJ spins country-and-western tunes; on weekends, the music is live. J.J. Jackson, an originator of the progressive double two-step, gives relaxed and expert dance lessons on Sundays and Mondays. 2110 W. Northwest Hwy. 972-556-9099.
NATIONAL HALL. Festive with balloons and a seven-piece band, the National Hall gymnasium is magically transformed into the Starlight Ballroom each Friday night. The 60-and-over crowd, decked out in sequined finery and toting liquor flasks, arrive ready for a gentle fox trot, waltz, or cha-cha with good friends. On first and third Sundays of the month, all ages are invited onto the gorgeous wooden floor to share an afternoon of polkas, waltzes, and down-home country-and-western dances. 3316 Roberts Cut-Off, Fort Worth. 817-624-1361.
PLANO SENIOR CITIZENS CENTER. Over 50? Then you’re welcome at this popular ballroom event, which runs from 7 to 9:15 p.m. every Tuesday. The live bands vary from week to week, but the atmosphere is always elegant and Glen Miller-esque. Take a break for free cake, then it’s back to the fox trot, waltz, and rumba. Dance hosts make sure that everyone gets a turn or two around the floor. 401 W. 16th St., Plano. 972-941-7155.
SOKOL RECREATION CENTER. Manager Ray Faraizl Jr. keeps a wraparound skirt handy for the occasional female visitor who arrives unaware of the formal ballroom dress code. His grandfather helped build this Czechoslovakian fitness club decades ago, and now the gymnasium welcomes public ballroom dancing two Saturdays a month. The flawless expanse of a gleaming wood floor and excellent live bands attract local instructors and their students, dance club members, and an occasional competition-level dance pair. 7448 Greenville Ave. 214-368-1661.
BLACKBERRY’S. Instructor Marco Antonio serves up sexy humor with beginner salsa lessons every Wednesday night. The kidney-shaped cement dance floor is hard on the knees, but the hip-swiveling regulars who strut their stuff after the class ends don’t seem to mind. The good-looking crowd is multiethnic and dressed for after-5, the atmosphere relaxed, and the music pulsing. It’s difficult to drag yourself away, even on a school night. 15203 Noel Tr. 972-490-3284.
SALON PAVADITA. It’s hard to imagine a more dedicated or enthusiastic flock of dancers than those who gather for semi-monthly tango gatherings, or "milongas," held upstairs in Lisa Ellison’s studio. Across the mirror-lined room, women in clingy black dresses kick up high heels while locked with their partners. The atmosphere is warm and faintly international, the crowd is focused on dancing, and everyone is eager to embrace newcomers. 2714 Greenville Ave. 214-288-5412.
BASS CLUB. Dozens of stuffed fish overlook a local drinking crowd during the week, but on Saturdays, the Dallas Push Club hijacks the large dance floor. Dance guru Terry Rippa and friends spin steadyrocking rhythm and blues that attracts dancers from as far away as the Mid Cities. You’ve got to earn your wraps, spins, and rock steps with the swing-styling thirty- to fiftysomething regulars, but it’s worth the effort. 3535 N. Buckner Blvd. 214-328-2277.
SAMBUCA JAZZ CAFE. A vaulted ceiling crowns this unique nightspot, designed so every seat in the house can view the stage. Monday nights heat up with live big-band music, when tables are cleared around the stage to make room for swing dancing. Kick up your heels next to local dance instructors and beginners alike. If you get there before 9 p.m., you might be able to nab a cocktail seat and avoid the $17 per person food minimum. 15207 Addison Rd., Addison. 972-385-8455.
SAMMONS CENTER FOR THE ARTS. The Dallas Swing Dance Society, one of the resident performing-arts groups at the Sammons Center, plays host to public dances on selected Saturdays in the pristine Meadows Ballroom. Lessons begin an evening animated by big band, rockabilly, and neo-swing, attracting athletic young adults and adventurous oldsters. If you go, plan to join the fun, because chairs are few and far between. 3630 Harry Hines Blvd. 214-520-7788.
SONS OF HERMANN HALL. On Wednesdays, this Deep Ellum landmark lures high school students upstairs to learn and practice the East Coast swing and Lindy Hop. After a 9 p.m. lesson for beginners, the generously worn dance floor comes alive to the sounds of big band, jazz, rockabilly, and lounge music. The atmosphere is relaxed, energetic, and friendly, with chaperoning parents occasionally rising from their seats to join the party. 3414 Elm St. 214-747-4422.
SOUTHSIDE PRESERVATION HALL. This elegantly restored building has become a community center offering family-friendly dances and other events. Tuesday-night swing lessons start the joint jumpin’ with pop turns, the Shim Sham Shimmy, and impromptu jam sessions. More than 200 dancers of all ages flock to the First Friday big-band swing event, many in vintage-style outfits. The event lineup has recently expanded to include a ballroom tea dance. 1519 Lipscomb St., Fort Worth. 817-921-3939. www.southsidepreservation.com.
Wendy Lyons Sunshine lives, writes, and dances in North Texas.
How to Speak Like a Dance Pro
Your feet may need time to catch up with your tongue, but you can learn the lingo with these tips.
We’re just being "social" here. "Social" dancing encompasses a variety of dances done at nightclubs and recreation centers for casual enjoyment. Social dancing requires lead-and-follow skills because the sequence of moves is improvised. By contrast, competitive dance is usually choreographed, with strictly controlled tempo and styling for judging at authorized events.
Be a "leader" or a "follower." The beauty of social dancing is that there’s no ambiguity about who does what (at least in heterosexual circles). The male’s job is to plan the moves and signal them wordlessly to the female, who follows. This silent communication is improved when both partners maintain good "frame," an upright and balanced posture in which each person fully carries his or her own weight.
Whose "ballroom" is it anyway? In social dance circles, "ballroom" includes smooth dances like the fox trot and waltz, and popular Latin dances such as cha-cha and mambo. International-style, competitive ballroom that takes a more athletic approach to the same steps, is called "dancesport."
There’s more to "country-and-western" dancing than boots. You can choose from the two-step, triple-step, double two-step, various shuffles, and down-home versions of waltz and polka. In most dances, the partners travel together around the floor like horses circling a corral. Couples seen dancing almost stationary in the center of the herd are typically practicing the West Coast swing, Push, or cha-cha.
Dallas and Fort Worth have different specialties. If you plan to learn only one country-and-western dance, consider where you hope to find partners. The double two-step is an easy-to-learn favorite in Dallas, while the quirky Fort Worth shuffle is popular in its namesake.
"Swing" is bicoastal and intergenerational. East Coast swing, a rollicking step popular from the 1920s to the 1950s, is enjoyed by everyone from teens to seniors, but it’s the younger dancers who dare the aerial moves. A mature crowd migrates toward the West Coast swing and its Lone Star cousin, Push, in part because it gives the female partners license to flirt.
Mind your dance-floor "manners." Dancers follow conventions to avoid injury, such as moving in the same direction down the line of dance and limiting aerial moves to "jam sessions" in which they have the floor to themselves.
Wine, Dine, and Dance
Secure a space at these popular spots for Valentine’s Day romance.
The Enclave. Candles, roses, chandeliers, and live music provide an elegant backdrop for romantic dining Monday through Saturday. Give the bandleader your song request, then get close with your sweetheart on the intimate dance floor. 8325 Walnut Hill Ln., Ste. 111 @ Rambler Rd. 214-363-7487.
Nana Bar and Grill. Savor a fantastic view and fine dining 27 floors off the ground. Afterward, linger at the bar for cocktails, live contemporary jazz, and dancing on a glistening new hardwood floor. Wyndham Anatole Hotel, 2201 North Stemmons Fwy. 214-761-7470.
Trail Dust Steakhouse. Kick back and enjoy a steak dinner before spinning your sweetie to DJ’d and live country music. Don’t worry about fancy duds or dance moves here. Just keep one eye on the ground so you can step over the tykes. 21717 LBJ Fwy., Mesquite. 972-289-5457; 10841 Composite Dr. 214-357-3862; 2300 E. Lamar Blvd., Arlington. 817-640-6411.
More Places to Dance
COUNTRY AND WESTERN
Billy Bob’s. 2520 Rodeo Plaza, Fort Worth. 817-624-7171.
Cowboys Red River. 10310 W. Technologies Blvd. 214-352-1796.
Daddy’s Money. 355 MacDonnell St., Lewisville. 214-222-4300.
Rodeo Exchange. 221 W. Exchange Ave., Fort Worth. 817-626-0181.
Stagecoach Express Ballroom. 2516 E. Belknap St., Fort Worth. 817-831-2261.
Texas Dance Depot. 101 North Rodgers, Irving. 972-253-1799.
W.W. Fairfield’s. 147 N. Plano Rd @ Belt Line Rd., Plano. 972-231-3844.
Dance Etc. 246 Spanish Village Shopping Center. 972-385-9453.
Dance Makers of Texas. 8674 Highway 80W, Fort Worth. 817-244-8500.
DanceMasters. 10675 E. Northwest Hwy. 214-553-5188.
Lockheed Martin Recreation Center. 3400 Bryant Irvin Rd., Fort Worth. 817-732-7731.
Ritz Ballroom. 3610 Forest Ln. 214-366-4880.
Cartagena. 2513 Rodeo Plaza, Fort Worth. 817-626-3444.
Carsons Palace. 17727 Dallas Pkwy. 972-267-8316.
Casa Vieja Restaurante. 1927 E. Belt Line Rd., Ste. 152, Carrollton. 972-416-8172.
El Círculo Italiano. 4817 Keller Springs Rd., Addison. 972-931-9167.
Gloria’s Restaurant. 5100 Belt Line Rd. 972-387-8442; 3715 Greenville Ave. 214-874-0088.
Hard Rock Cafe. 2601 McKinney Ave. 214-855-0007.
Lena’s on the Lake. 3830 Northwest Hwy. 214-351-0215.
Sipango. 4513 Travis St. 214-522-2411.
Stratos. 2907 W. Northwest Hwy. @ Webb Chapel Rd. 214-352-3321.
City Streets. 425 Commerce St., Fort Worth. 817-335-5400.
Feathers. Green Oaks Hotel, 6901 W. Fwy., Fort Worth. 817-738-7311.
Omni Dallas Hotel. 1590 LBJ Fwy. 972-869-4300.
Reflections Lounge. Ball Park Inn, Arlington. 817-261-3621.
The Rhythm Room. 1921 Greenville Ave., Ste. B. 214-826-8282.