As one gets older, some dreams begin to fade. One begins to realize that some far-out ambitions are simply not going to come to fruition – like mine, for example, of being hired as a back-up dancer on Beyonce’s world tour or for a Nicki Minaj music video.
Although I’m not a dancer talented enough for a back-up dancing career, much less a community theater production of a musical or even most dance parties, dancing is still my favorite way to get exercise and de-stress. Thankfully there are plenty of places to take dance classes in New Orleans, and no experience is necessary.
I have been to a lot of dance classes around town: I’ve learned Bollywood-style dances in a sweaty, cramped studio; I’ve taken hip-hop classes in a seedy space under an overpass; I’ve tried underwhelming dance-infused workouts at gyms. But my favorite place to take a dance class is the Dance Quarter (DanceQuarter.com), a veritable dance factory in Uptown that also includes a café.
Founded by a French swing-dancing champion, the two-story converted firehouse has several studios, all with high ceilings and plenty of room even when classes are full. There are a lot of partner dance classes, including swing, salsa and tango. A hip-hop class taught by Marissa Joseph is energetic and accessible, helping even the most rigid of movers find a strong, sexy dance persona within.
Dance Quarter also has the kind of dance workouts seen on the schedule at many gyms, like the late-night infomercial stalwart Zumba. The movements in those classes tend to be a bit more technical than your average aerobics class, but repetitive combinations make them easy to follow if you have somewhat of an ear for rhythm (if not, freestyling is acceptable). Zumba is a fast but easy-to-follow dance workout that mashes up salsa, reggaeton, African and other music and movement styles. For a slightly more challenging dance workout, there’s Dance Trance taught by Jess Leigh. The combinations are repetitive and connected to the songs’ rhythm, but slightly trickier to follow than Zumba. Dance novices can follow along and enjoy the current radio hits that dominate the class playlist, but trained dancers will still feel challenged – and completely out of breath by the end.
Dance Quarter classes typically cost $15 per class, with multiple class packages available. Many groups around town also offer free dance classes: Chard Gonzalez Dance Theatre offers free contemporary dance classes Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday evenings at NOCCA (email info@ChardDance.org for details); the New Orleans Ballet Association offers free adult ballet classes (firstname.lastname@example.org); the bars d.b.a. and Spotted Cat offer swing lessons. Even if your budget is tight, there’s no excuse to not find your inner dancing queen (or king).