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Where to dance in Tampa Bay: salsa socials, swing lessons, disco clubs and more

Looking for a place to get your groove on? Here are some ideas.
 
Myra Rivera and Daniel Gordon dance during RELPro Dance Promotion's salsa class and social on Saturday, July 1, 2023, at the St. Pete Pier in St. Petersburg.
Myra Rivera and Daniel Gordon dance during RELPro Dance Promotion's salsa class and social on Saturday, July 1, 2023, at the St. Pete Pier in St. Petersburg. [ CHLOE TROFATTER | Times ]
Published Oct. 26, 2023|Updated Oct. 31, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG — We set out into the sweltering Florida evening with one objective: Find a place to dance.

It was a random September night, and our quartet had plotted for weeks about when and where to go. We texted photos of potential outfits. We pre-gamed with happy hour cocktails and dinner. We wore comfortable shoes. We were ready.

Our first stop was Goodnight John Boy, a 1970s-themed club next to Jannus Live in downtown St. Petersburg that opened in April. The No. 1 rule about this place is you have to get there early if you want any room to move your limbs. I mean really early. Like, 6 or 7 p.m.

My friends knew this, but our indulgent dinner ran a little too long and by the time we turned onto Second Street South, it was clear we were too late. A line stretched down the block, boomers and Gen Z alike standing shoulder to shoulder, some in bell bottoms and sequined dresses. Inside, there was barely an inch of space between those crowding the dance floor. We decided this was not the scene for us.

Itching to groove, I suggested El Cante, a Latin club in the basement of the old Ceviche restaurant on Beach Drive. The space was far less packed, and pulsing with bachata beats. But there was another problem: a $10 cover charge. We tried to haggle the price down, but in the end we couldn’t bring ourselves to drop $40 when we weren’t sure how much longer we were going to be out.

There was one more option: Take a Lyft to the EDGE District, where one of our friends had recently had a memorable night dancing at Enigma Bar & Lounge. The LGBTQ-friendly bar draws a crowd of imbibers on its front patio daily, but we hadn’t been inside on a weekend night before. As soon as we walked in, we knew the vibe was right for our group of 30- and 40-somethings.

It wasn’t crowded, but it wasn’t not crowded. There was chatter and loud music and a gaggle of friends celebrating a birthday. And the dance floor was intimate yet inviting, with plenty of room to stretch out. We ordered drinks and bounced around to the 1990s hits of our youth.

When we were told the DJ was taking requests, I was not shy about asking for Olivia Rodrigo’s “Vampire,” which was brand new. None of my friends had heard it. I was content to belt it out alone until a trio of 24-year-olds appeared. “We heard this song on the street and had to come in!” they said.

That’s the thing about a really good night of dancing: You never know where it’s going to take you.

Where to dance in Tampa Bay

Ian Sowell and Jenna Menn dance during RELPro Dance Promotion's salsa class and social on Saturday, July 1, 2023, at the St. Pete Pier in St. Petersburg.
Ian Sowell and Jenna Menn dance during RELPro Dance Promotion's salsa class and social on Saturday, July 1, 2023, at the St. Pete Pier in St. Petersburg. [ CHLOE TROFATTER | Times ]

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Goodnight John Boy: If you get here early enough, you can have a lot of fun. The St. Pete club that opened in April is heavy on 1970s paraphernalia, with a giant picture of Farrah Fawcett looking over the dance floor and drinks served out of mini disco balls. The crowd is diverse and eclectic, from Gen Z folks rocking flare jeans and sequins to people who grew up listening to the music of the ’70s. In my experience, if you arrive after 9 p.m. on a weekend, you will encounter a huge crowd inside and a long line outside. But this place is hopping even on weekdays and early in the evening, so you’re bound to find some fellow dancers any time you go. On a recent Saturday, the DJ was spinning tunes from the ’80s and ’90s, too, a joyous blend of nostalgia perfect for all ages. 16 Second St. N., St. Petersburg. 727-486-9467.

El Cante: This Latin club in the basement of the Ponce de Leon Hotel on St. Petersburg’s Beach Drive is open just Fridays and Saturdays, with live music each night. There’s a cover charge, which might be a deterrent for some, but it probably helps keep the crowd (somewhat) manageable. This place is small and gets packed later in the night, but if dancing to Latin rhythms in an underground nightclub is your thing, it doesn’t get better than this spot. 10 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg. 727-623-0020.

Latin dance events: Whether you’re an experienced dancer or eager to learn, there are plenty of ways to get your salsa on in Tampa Bay. Several local events are hosted by RELPro Dance Promotions, a company that’s been organizing Latin dance parties in Tampa Bay since 2020. Most of the outdoor events are free, while the indoor ones charge usually $10 to $15 per person. Check their Facebook page for a full schedule.

  • Latin Beats at Coastal Creative: This Latin dance party happens monthly at the downtown St. Pete venue. There’s a dance class led by instructors at 9:30 p.m., then social dancing begins at 10 and goes till 2 a.m. Music includes bachata, salsa and merengue, and the crowd is usually full of pretty serious dancers. Come with a buddy, or be prepared to get whisked away. 2201 First Ave. S., St. Petersburg. 813-452-9799.
Kayla Meza, 30, and Kevin Hernandez, 27, dance during RELPro Dance Promotion's salsa class and social on Saturday, July 1, 2023, at the St. Pete Pier in St. Petersburg.
Kayla Meza, 30, and Kevin Hernandez, 27, dance during RELPro Dance Promotion's salsa class and social on Saturday, July 1, 2023, at the St. Pete Pier in St. Petersburg. [ CHLOE TROFATTER | Times ]
  • Salsa at the St. Pete Pier: This event happens the first Saturday of every month at the St. Pete Pier. There’s usually some instruction first, followed by open dancing under the stars. It goes from 6 to 9 p.m., but fair warning, based on recent experience: If you don’t see the group set up right at 6, wait around just a bit longer. When the weather is right, you can’t beat the setting here, and the crowd is friendly and casual. The next event is Nov. 4. 600 Second Ave. NE, St. Petersburg.
  • Salsa Dance Party on the Tampa Riverwalk: Tampa’s outdoor version of this event happens monthly on the Riverwalk. A local dance school teaches a class at the beginning of the event, which takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. The next event is Oct. 28.
  • Salsa at the Factory: This multi-use arts venue in St. Petersburg is home to a monthly salsa dance party. Part art gallery and part warehouse, it’s a fun place to shimmy the night away. The next one is at 9 p.m. Nov. 17. 2606 Fairfield Ave. S., St. Petersburg.

The Dallas Bull: Grab your cowboy hat and make your way to this Hillsborough County club that offers free line dance classes Thursdays and Fridays. The classes, which are taught by professional instructors, happen from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. both days. 3322 U.S. 301, Tampa. 813-987-2855.

Dirty Laundry: There’s live music often at this Cuban-themed speakeasy on St. Pete’s Central Avenue, but the genre changes depending on the day. In September they introduced a Latin Night on Wednesdays, with rotating live bands and food and drink specials. It brings a lively crowd of dancers, who salsa and bachata their way around every corner of this intimate spot. 1742 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. 727-493-0040.

Gulfport Casino: This historic venue at the end of Gulfport’s main drag hosts plenty of opportunities for dance. You can take lessons every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday here, from Argentine Tango to general ballroom. And they host themed dance nights monthly: There’s a disco party every second Friday, line dancing on the first Monday and ballroom dancing on the third Sunday. Find the full schedule here. 5500 Shore Blvd. S., Gulfport. 727-893-1070.