Style: blues, swing, two-step
When to go: blues (Tuesday, 8–midnight), swing (Wednesday, 8–midnight), Balboa (Thursday, 8–midnight), dance hall (alternating Sundays 4–7 pm)
The Lowdown: The view from the edge of the Sons of Hermann Hall dance floor during a Texas Dance Hall Sunday could quite possibly be the most authentic taste of Texas around. All charm and spin, from the six-piece band on alternating Sundays to the volunteer staff and cheap drinks, Sons of Hermann Hall wins top marks from both old-timers and newcomers. Go on Tuesday and Wednesday nights for blues and swing dancing, when singles never feel left out thanks to the cadre of great local dancers eager to get everyone up and moving. Go at 8 pm for a free lesson.
Style: West Coast swing, push
When to go: Wednesday and Friday at 7:30 pm; Sunday at 6:45 pm
The Lowdown: Dallas dancer Gary Long hosts free Sunday evening swing and push lessons and Jim Weber hosts lessons Wednesday and Friday. The classes are big, and the dance floor is large, so not only will you singles always have a partner to practice with, but you’ll also have enough room to avoid playing bumper cars with all the other learners.
When to go: Thursday, Friday, Saturday
The Lowdown: Drawing an older crowd (think 35 to 88), Post Time is the real deal if there ever was one. With a dance floor that can comfortably hold 60 couples at a time, free weekend lessons, and live dance music from Thursday through Saturday, this honky-tonk is a favorite of Dallas insiders. Regulars lovingly call it “a real hole” that’s “not frat-boy-country in the slightest.” Weekend nights retain that amiable good-old-boy bars-of-yore ambience, which is worth its weight in frat boys any day of the week.
Style: salsa, meringue, bachata
When to go: Friday, Saturday
The Lowdown: Gloria’s Addison location tears it up on Friday and Saturday nights when live music paves the way to a dance floor shimmering with pheromones and enthusiasm. When the band kicks in at 11, the line out the door can look ominous, but get there early or stay after dinner and you’ll miss the cover and the line. The band switches it up with a little salsa, a little meringue, a little bachata in ways that keep the crowd guessing and delighted. It’s crowded, but in a good way, so prepare to get cozy with your neighboring dancers, and forgive a little booty bump now and again.
Style: salsa, meringue, bachata, rhumba Latina
When to go: Thursday, Saturday at 9:30 pm
The Lowdown: At the risk of sounding corny, this little lounge attached to Masala Wok in Addison hosts a biweekly Latin party to beat the band. The LA-style salsa-bachata classes ($20 singles/$30 couples) led by the buoyant Dancing With the Stars contestant David Herrera start at 9:30 and contribute mightily to the full-immersion experience. While Thursdays can be laid-back, Saturdays are known for their frenetic floor energy and a line out the door to get in. Some folks may want to stray into the booty party in the adjoining room, but diehard couples dancers are more likely to stay put.
When to go: Friday, Sunday
The Lowdown: When I learned through the Latin dancing grapevine that La Joya is the spot where the “real” Latin dancers go to flaunt their considerable talents, I felt almost guilty spilling the secret. But La Joya is such a vortex of fun and talent that the secret must get out. With friendly and informal instructors who are more than willing to spin you until you drill a hole into the dance floor, La Joya is as ideal for beginners as it is for seasoned pros.
Style: mambo, tango, salsa, meringue
When to go: Friday, Saturday at 9 pm
The Lowdown: This West End hideaway on Lamar is people-watching heaven on weekend nights when sultry rhythms draw out some of the city’s more ostentatious dancers. Thanks to the live band and wooden dance floor worn smooth by hundreds of well-executed spins, Mambo Cafe attracts a crowd that thrives on a spicy, rough-edged good time. Go at 9 sharp on Saturdays for free hour-long salsa lessons taught by seasoned spinners with patience to spare. Mambo Cafe may not be the place for dancers seeking a pristine, elevated experience, but there’s fun to spare here, which is good enough for the rest of us.
Style: nonspecific swaying and dipping
When to go: Friday, Saturday
The Lowdown: In the mood for a loosely choreographed three minutes in the arms of an old love or fresh acquaintance? Gussy up and show up at Bailey’s on Park Lane for dancing à deux without a hint of boot-scooting. Loosen up with a Coco Chanel or Dry Ice Martini before taking to the dance floor. The live music (plus) can lean toward Top-40 (minus), but when it stays focused on classic romance, the result is catnip to the Park Cities crowd. Warm and high-beamed, the bar exudes a limb-loosening Venetian red sumptuousness that’s bound to inspire a hint of well-intentioned naughtiness.
Style: C&W, East Coast swing, push, ballroom
When to go: Tuesday through Saturday
The Lowdown: Yeah, it’s a hotel bar. What of it? If you’re in Arlington and you want that Holiday-Inn-meets-honky-tonk experience, this is your place. Go for the free midweek West Coast (Tuesday) and monthly rotating dance lessons (Wednesday) and return to practice with live music on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. You’ll be warmly welcomed, soundly entertained, and not too many steps from a bed if need be. No judgment.
Style: jazz, salsa
When to go: salsa (8–11:30, jazz, etc. (all other nights)
The Lowdown: A supper club in the truest yet most up-to-date sense of the word, Sambuca subscribes to a model of musical diversity evidenced by the mad mash-up of styles that rotates through on a weekly basis. Latin lovers show up on Thursday nights for dinner, live tunes, and spectacular spinning. Jazz prevails throughout the rest of the week (but don’t be surprised if some Top-40 sneaks in). This is one of those places where you can have just as much fun from the sidelines as you can on the dance floor. Okay, maybe not as much fun, but enough fun to record it in the memorable column.
Style: West Coast swing, basic waltz, two-step, progressive double two-step, three-step, Fort Worth Shuffle
When to go: Wednesday through Saturday at 7 pm at Arlington location; Thursday through Saturday at 7 pm at Dallas location
The Lowdown: Cowboys’ come-one, come-all atmosphere and thematic saturation appeal to a demographic that likes its nightlife large and bright. That being said, the variety and consistency of the dance lessons make Cowboys an ideal place for newbies to learn their steps, especially the shuffle that provides a solid foundation upon which to build your cowboy repertoire.
Style: blues, R&B
When to go: Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 9 pm
The Lowdown: Make a beeline for the royal blue canopy in Deep Ellum where the dancing is lyrical, close, and a wee bit dirty. Tuckers’ satisfies our deep need for the blues and the swing-like, slow, and groovy moves that go along with it, which can be as loose limbed and free form or wild and springy as the music dictates. The joint practically bursts with the weight of the musical talent passing through its doors. Tuckers’ manages to make you feel like an insider and dragoon your little blue soul into returning again and again.
When to go: Friday, Saturday
The Lowdown: Monica Greene’s namesake restaurant brings a saucy edge to the Deep Ellum dance scene. By being as outrageous as it is authentic, the restaurant’s dance floor has become a weekend default for downtown shakers. Think Mexico City meets Dirty Dancing (minus the Adirondacks vibe). Monica’s boasts live music, a lively crowd, spontaneous mambo lines, and great food and drink specials. Newbies can ease in by picking up some new moves from the sidelines. But with a vibe this rich and a band this tight, the chance that you’ll stay on the periphery is slim, at best.
Style: two-step, progressive double two-step, country waltz
When to go: Monday through Saturday
The Lowdown: Use those lazy midweek nights to perfect your fancy footwork with free lessons from local shuffler Lori Hayner on WWFairfield’s Texas-size dance floor. Tuesdays’ progressive double two-step lessons start at 8 with beginner level, 9 with intermediate, and 10 for advanced dancers; Wednesdays’ country waltz lessons get going at 7:30 and follow the same format at 8:30 and 9:30. Spend Thursday night practicing what you’ve learned, then return on Friday and Saturday nights to scuff your boots to live music amid WWFairfield’s throngs. Although the club suffered from some poor reviews in 2009, the addition of these dance-centric nights seems like a shuffle step in the right direction.