Elliott Raisin hasn’t missed his Thursday night dance class since 1976.
Raisin, 86, is a regular at the Crescent City International Dancers’ class at the Starlight Ballroom, 5050 W. Esplanade Ave., Metairie. He also coordinates the New Orleans Israeli Dancers on Monday nights at the same place.
Dancing keeps him young, he said, and he enjoys the fact that most of his fellow students are female.
“I like to be outnumbered by women,” he said with a chuckle.
There are plenty of places to dance to live music in and around New Orleans, and many variations, from ballroom to tango.
And there are plenty of classes to get people into the swing — or the jitterbug, waltz or two-step. Lessons for beginners, often held at bars before bands take the stage, are free or cheap.
A folk dance with panache, Argentine tango is taught gratis by Ector Gutierrez on Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. at the Eiffel Society, 2040 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans.
Leaders learn how to wrap their partners around their bodies in seductive twisting and turning movements any guy could learn to love.
Dancer Ken Landriault says it’s a challenge.
“You’ve got to be tough to learn tango,” he said. Partners expect perfection: If a lead is weak, women will roll their eyes, Landriault said.
Lessons continue until 8 p.m.; then there’s tango dancing until 10 p.m. with $5 sangria specials.
Three times a week at three different downtown bars, NOLA Jitterbugs instructors teach the sassy six-count dance, said to have originated in the 1920s in Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. Swiveling hips and fast-paced turns are exactly right for dancing to traditional jazz bands playing in clubs along Frenchmen Street and St. Claude Avenue.
Newbies can learn to jitterbug at no cost Sundays at 5 p.m. at d.b.a. and at 8 p.m. at the AllWays Lounge, as well as 8 p.m. Mondays at Mimi’s in the Marigny.
And free country western dance lessons are taught at Mag’s 940, 940 Elysian Fields, every Tuesday, starting around 8 p.m.
A core group calling themselves the Big Easy Stompers includes gay and straight men and women who practice both line-dancing and couples dances, like the two-step.
“There’s a lot of forgiveness in country western,” said Geromy Moore, a Mag’s regular.
The bar’s friendly atmosphere offers free hot dogs and roses for the ladies. One of the instructors, Audra Rousse, said she prefers country western because that style is more amenable to same-sex couples.
“Anybody can dance with anybody,” she commented.
At Club Silhouette, 3505 N. Hullen St., Metairie, drop-in dance lessons offer a range of styles, including basic ballroom on Tuesday and Friday, Latin dance on Wednesday, line-dancing on Thursday and West Coast swing on Sunday. Those classes are $10-$12 each.
But most dancers just enjoy getting out on the floor and moving to the music, whatever the type.
“Dancing keeps me young because I stay away from old people,” Raisin said.