Shall We Dance?
Take a partner or find one on the dance floor at these spots that offer a one-of-a-kind night out.
photo by John Altdorfer
We’d like to think Gene Kelly would be proud of Pittsburgh’s modern dance scene. No matter what night of the week it may be, you can find someone, somewhere, to teach you a few new steps in a variety of styles. Most organized outings offer a beginner’s lesson followed by a few hours of open floor, where the regulars gladly will reach out a hand to help you find your footing. Whether you’re swing dancing on the North Side, Ceili dancing to an Irish fiddle or practicing the basics in a ballroom class, Pittsburgh offers plenty of ways to move to the beat.
Salsa dancing happens at multiple spots across the region every night of the week, but it’s hard to beat the scene at the Cabaret at Theater Square. Every Friday, the venue — with the stage still set up from that evening’s theater performance — welcomes the public for a brief introductory lesson before at least two hours of open floor. Latin music pulses and longtime dancers and newcomers circle one another with ease. (Find a full list of salsa spots, including Seviche (pictured), at salsapittsburgh.com.)
[655 Penn Ave., downtown; 412/881-9237]
James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy opens the old-timey ballroom upstairs every Friday for a night right out of the 1940s. Enjoy a sazerac at the bar, order dinner (the full menu is offered) and swing to the music of a live band — a one-hour lesson is followed by three hours of open floor. Swing dancing encompasses multiple forms, so you may learn a little of the blues, the Lindy Hop and a range of other basics.
[422 Foreland St., North Side; 412/904-3335, pghswing.com, jamesstreetgastropub.com]
Steel City Ballroom is the place to start for any traditional steps you want to try. There are beginners, intermediate and advanced lessons — available in private or group settings — seven days a week and an open ballroom party the last Friday of the month, where anyone can gather and show off their stuff. Every other Friday, there’s an open practice session alternating between ballroom and Latin styles. If you want to put your new skills to the test, Steel City preps students for U.S. Pro/Am competitions so you can turn your hobby into a certified sport.
[702 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon; 412/531-8320, steelcityballroom.com]
At Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle on Tuesday nights, you’ll find an older crowd than you might at some of the other spots listed here — but you’ll have trouble keeping up with them. Ceili, an Irish social dance, is similar to a square dance; there’s a caller, live music complete with fiddle and couples and groups moving around one another in circles or lines with jig-step movements. The Pittsburgh Ceili Club hosts the evening, with lessons beginning at 7:15. This dance style will take you back to an earlier time when you bowed to your partners before taking their hand.
[2329 Penn Ave., Strip District; 412/642-6622, harpandfiddle.com/ceili.html]