For over 35 years, Las Crucens have been able to enjoy an evening out dancing with the Big Band Dance Club. For many decades dancers have enjoyed live bands performing those great old big band tunes, but recently they’ve expanded the types of music and dances they offer, prompting a move to rebrand the club as “Dance Las Cruces.”
The club has been as large as 120 members in its heyday at Las Cruces Country Club in the ’80 and ‘90s, but they are still strong with about 70 members who get together each Thursday evening to dance at Alma d’arte Charter High School/Court Youth Center. The night kicks off at 6:45 p.m. with a free dance lesson taught by members of the NMSU DanceSport team, focusing on one dance each month, then the club dance goes from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., with either a live band or a CD compilation of music that includes the fox trot, rhumba, waltz, merengue, Western, salsa, cha cha, tango, polka and swing/jitterbug.
Dances are $8 for members on CD nights and $10 for non-members. When a live band plays, it is $10 for anyone. Your first dance is free and membership is only $25 a year, pro-rated if you join mid-year. Two nights per month feature CDs and two have live music.
They have a music selection committee which chooses songs from each genre to put on CDs so there will something for everyone on each CD night. In addition, they play something the live band wouldn’t perform while the group takes a break, such as a Western song or a tango.
Don’t have a dance partner? Don’t worry — many other members don’t either. Club President Curtis Graham estimates that 80 percent of their members are single. He pledges, “Single dancers should feel free to come and I promise they’re going to dance.” He and other members greet new dancers and invite them out onto the floor. Mixers are offered two or three times a night, a dance when partners are changed multiple times in a song, providing an opportunity to meet the other dancers.
“We get acquainted with one another and we dance with one another and socialize with one another,” he adds. “If someone comes out and gives us a chance, they’ll be happy they did.”
Graham says, “I dance with all the ladies I can all night and so do some of the other men,” explaining that the group is about 55 percent women and 45 percent men, although there have been nights when the ladies outnumber the gentlemen. “The ladies love that!” he laughs. During the school year, two male students from the NMSU DanceSport program come out to dance with the ladies, too, helping to keep the ratio closer to 50/50.
The lesson taught by DanceSport students provides an opportunity for dancers to learn a new dance or improve their skills. “It’s made a big difference on how well our people can dance,” Graham notes.
Besides being a wonderful way to socialize with others, dancing is good exercise. “It’s a healthy sport — and it is a sport. It has been accepted as a sport by the International Olympic Committee,” Graham explains.
But, you may wonder, what do you wear for a night out dancing? Collared sports shirts and slacks for the men and a nice dress or slacks for the ladies will work. Shoes should be comfortable without heels that are too high and have a smooth sole to facilitate gliding across the dance floor. The club offers a few special events throughout the year where you can really pull out all the stops with your fancy dance clothes.
For former club members who haven’t been to a dance recently, Graham says, “We miss you. We invite all dancers and non dancers. Come give us a dance or two!” He adds, “If you know five steps in any dance, you can dance it and have a lot of fun.”
Dances take place at Alma d’arte Charter High School, 402 W. Court Avenue near Pioneer Woman’s Park. Dance lessons take place Thursday evenings from 6:45 to 7:30 and dances are from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. For more information about dancing with the Big Band Dance Club/Dance Las Cruces, call or e-mail Curtis Graham at 496-2761 or email@example.com.