A little more than a year ago, Ken Tyrolf accidentally became a dancer.
“I was going to listen to a friend sing with a jazz band,” he said, recalling the night it happened. “I thought she was going to be in a lounge — a 'sit-down and listen to jazz music' kind of venue — but there was a swing dance event that night.”
After having a “little bit” to drink, Tyrolf joined a few swift-footed dancers on the dance floor, became friends with them and has been dancing ever since.
“I had never danced before. I didn’t even consider myself capable of dancing,” he said. “I just figured I had no rhythm."
Within the past year, Tyrolf has taken ballroom, East Coast and West Coast swing, and blues dance lessons at the Dance Quarter studios Uptown (1719 Toledano Ave.). He’s also on his way to becoming a swing dance instructor.
“I just dove into it,” he said, training nearly eight hours a week for the past several months — but not only because he’s unearthed his passion for a new hobby. He enjoys being with friends from the local dance community.
The atmosphere is fun and social, not amorous, he said. “They're just there to dance.”
Jump and jive
Dancers and deejays have found New Orleans to be a city where you can find a place to groove on any given night. Here are a few dance parties that span various musical genres and decades of the 20th century.
Most local swing dances begin with an hourlong lesson, followed by live music and social dancing.
The NOLA Jitterbugs’ Swingin’ Jazz Brunch takes place on Sunday mornings at 10 a.m., at The Maison (508 Frenchmen St.).
“It’s more of a performance, but people can social dance during it,” said Chance Bushman, the co-founder of NOLA Jitterbugs. “We talk about the history of American social dancing, from 1900 to 1950, do all the early dances, one-steps and two-steps, the Charleston, swing, and even rock 'n' roll dancing.”
Chance Bushman and Lisa Casper, members of the NOLA Jitterbugs, dance on stage during the Swingin' Jazz Brunch at the Maison, Sunday, March 10…
Swing dance events also happen on Sundays at 5 p.m. at d.b.a (618 Frenchmen St.); Sundays at 8 p.m. at the Allways Lounge & Theatre (2240 St. Claude Ave.); Mondays at 7 p.m. at Rock 'N' Bowl (3016 S. Carrollton Ave.); and Mondays at 8 p.m. at The Dragon's Den (435 Esplanade Ave.).
The Nickel-A-Dance seasonal series, which is held at The Maison, features live jazz music and dancing on Sundays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. throughout March. The entertainment roster includes Tuba Skinny (March 17), The New Leviathan Oriental Foxtrot Orchestra (March 24) and Roger Lewis & The Bari Out There Jazz Band (March 31).
Shimmy and sway
Sergio Zelaya says he launched the Bayou Movimiento salsa and bachata dance company about six years ago, after many local Latin night venues had shut down.
“Really, there was nowhere to dance,” said Zelaya.
Bayou Movimiento hosts Salsa By You dance socials on Thursdays, at 7:30 p.m., at Dance Quarter, along with salsa and bachata dance lessons.
Latin nights also happen on Tuesdays at 7 p.m., beginning with a salsa dance lesson, at Rock 'N' Bowl; and on Fridays at 11 p.m. at The Maison.
“The weekends are always kind of crazy,” said Zelaya. “There are events every weekend; you just have to figure out where they are.”
Twist and shout
Although DJ Ann Glaviano is a classically trained dancer, she hosts Heatwave! bashes that are all about freestyle shimmying and shaking to oldies music.
During these events, she spins “dance jams on vinyl,” including soul, “old” New Orleans R&B, psych, rock and pop hits, from the mid-1950s through the mid-1970s.
“If you don’t know what to do, you can do the twist. Everyone can do the twist,” said Glaviano. “You don’t need a specialized knowledge to come in and bop around.”
Glaviano warms up the crowd with a sing-along song, so that by the end of the night, “people are singing with their arms in the air, at the top of their lungs.”
Heatwave! happens at Twelve Mile Limit (500 S. Telemachus St.) at 10 p.m., on the second Saturday of the month; and at the Okay Bar (1700 Port St.) at 10 p.m., on the fourth Saturday of the month.
Like Tyrolf, Glaviano believes it’s important for guests to feel comfortable.
“I want this to be a safe and inclusive place to dance, where you’re not dodging unwelcome advances,” she said. “The dance floor is a great place to practice consent and respecting boundaries.”
Get into the groove
“Whenever I throw a party, I throw the kind of party that I would want to be at myself — one that features music that I like to listen to and dance to,” said Melissa Weber, also known as DJ Soul Sister.
During Hustle! dance nights, Webster spins underground disco, hip-hop, funk, blues and “things that (she’s been) collecting for years.”
“It's a party for everyone,” she said.
Hustle! happens at 11:30 p.m., on the first Saturday of the month, at the Three Keys NOLA in the Ace Hotel (600 Carondelet St).
When Weber runs the Soulful Takeover at One Eyed Jacks (615 Toulouse St.) on select nights, she spins “soulful music from the 70s through the mid-80s,” but tends to play songs that are familiar to her guests.
“It just depends on how I'm feeling that night,” she said. “People know that they're going to get what I give, and it won't be inconsistent or strange. It will always be something that I call ‘a right-on party situation.’”