A pastime as tried and true as the aged oak barrel whiskey that fuels it, country-western dancing is swinging with opportunities for Valley residents looking to visit a local honky-tonk and two-step the night away.
It doesn’t matter how much twang is in your vernacular, if you’re able to hold a dip of chewing tobacco in your lip for more than 20 seconds, or whether you drive a convertible or a pick-up truck — there is something for everyone. We scoured the city to bring you a list of the 10 best boot-scooting boogies (in no particular order) for anyone in the Valley to enjoy.
Still hesitant because you don’t know all the words to “Achy Breaky Heart,” or worried you will look like a fool trying to line dance in sync with everyone else? Well, we can’t help with your Billy Ray Cyrus shortcomings, but included in our list below are details for even novice country-western dancing enthusiasts to receive lessons at the local honky-tonks before showing off their chops on the main floor. So, without further ado, grab your boots, because we’re goin’ dancin’.
10. Wednesday Nights at Handlebar-J in Scottsdale
Unlike most dancing fads specific to the youngsters of the current era, country-western dancing bridges the age gap between dance lovers of all generations. As unchanged as the rocky Arizona landscape, there are few better places to celebrate the timelessness of country-western dancing than at Handlebar-J’s, self-promoted as “Scottsdale’s last authentic Western style steak house and saloon.”
Featuring Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame inductees The Herndon Brothers Band as the house’s live entertainment, HBJ brings country music and dancing in spades to both locals and tourists. While HBJ offers live music every night, be sure to check out “Back to Mr. Lucky’s Night” on Wednesdays as the marquee centerpiece of the saloon operations. The night recreates the atmosphere of the now-extinct longtime Arizona country hot-spot, Mr. Lucky’s, by putting The Herndon Brother’s Band on stage alongside the HBJ Horns and local Valley country stalwart J. David Sloan. The music and the dancing kick off at 7:30 sharp. Feel free to prepare yourself for “Back to Mr. Lucky’s Night” by attending one of HBJ’s dance lesson nights: Free on Thursdays, and $5 per person on Tuesdays and Sundays for line dancing.
9. Wednesday Nights at Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row (Tempe)
Homegrown country music superstar Dierks Bentley’s name may be on the door, but the real mastermind behind the country dancing experience at Whiskey Row in Tempe is DJ Steel. Spinning country hits from opening bell to last call, Steel has made Wednesday nights, starting at 9 p.m., a way for Mill Avenue to host a country-western shindig for local college kids, and any other Valley residents, to conveniently enjoy.
Whiskey Row blurs the line between a country bar and a regular nightclub most days of the week. DJ Steel describes this by saying the bar is “more like an introduction to country music on the weekends. Any person can walk in and not feel alienated; it’s about building the culture and the crowd.”
All of those nights are building blocks toward Wednesday, when country lovers can strap on their shiniest belt buckles, and leave it all out on the dance floor.
“Wednesdays are a true country dance night,” Steel says. “We start out hardcore country dancing, and we end the night hardcore country dancing.”
With more than 25 years as a DJ in multiple genres, Steel says that people should experience country dance nights because “country music is a totally different group of people. They are positive, upbeat, and down to Earth. They are fun people to work for.”
8. Friday Nights at Cowboys Saloon
One of the newly minted watering holes to grace the Valley is Cowboys Saloon in North Phoenix. By hosting some larger touring country musicians as headliners on their stage, Cowboys Saloon is already building a solid reputation in the local country scene. But in order to keep the house full in the interim, they have put together plenty of weekly parties where legions of country dancers can break in the soles on their new boots. Every Friday, starting at 10:00, Cowboys Saloon brings together a combination of live music and DJ spinning for a night of country fun and dancing dubbed “Daisy Dukes and Cowboy Boots.”
Bonus Night: For any parents raising an up-and-coming country-western dancer, head to Cowboys Saloon on Wednesday nights for “Family Night” where free line dancing lessons for kids are given from 7:00 to 7:30.
7. Wednesday Nights at Moonshine Whiskey Bar & Grill
Moonshine Whiskey Bar & Grill offers a buffed and polished dance floor, and brings a little bit of country livin’ to the bar club district on Mill Avenue in Tempe. Line dancing is the style of choice at Moonshine, and “Whiskey Wednesdays” is a perfect place to be immersed in the younger, energetic, college-aged crowd while still sowing your country dancing oats to the musical stylings of DJ Vela.
When considering what sets country dance nights apart from other dance clubs, DJ Vela explains that “people go out specifically just for country dancing. They want to go out and show off their new line dance moves, and two-stepping moves. We get a lot of regulars at country nights.”
A free, two-hour lesson provided by AZ Outlaws Dance begins at 8:30, and the line-dancing extravaganza stretches until last call. While there may not be any sawdust on the floor, or cigarette smoke hanging in the air, the ambiance at Moonshine still captures the essence of the West and brings on an enticing urge to grab your guy or gal and carelessly spin, dip, and twirl into the night.
6. Thursday Nights at Whiskey Rose
Nestled inside the Westgate Entertainment District of Glendale is a country loving honky-tonk known as Whiskey Rose. The Westgate area is primarily tailored to the modern professional sporting complexes in the vicinity, but Whiskey Rose is one of a couple country joints on site to inject some Old West culture into the crowd. On Thursdays, be sure to check out the dancing night that encourages all the cowboy and cowgirl customers on hand to embrace their inner Chiver and “Keep Calm and Line Dance On.” Lessons kick off at 8 p.m., which then turns into a line dancing free for all by the time 9 p.m. rolls around. The DJ is on hand playing all of the right music needed to get people out onto the dance floor, so that means it is up to you to stay in sync and up to speed with all of the heel stomps and turns that keep the place boogying right on up to last call.
5. Saturday Nights at Denim & Diamonds
When making rounds in Mesa, be sure to check out the honky-tonk staple Denim & Diamonds, and their large floor that plays host to a bevy of country dancing hotshots. Saturday night brings a knock-out playlist of today’s top country music hits tailored to the scene on hand of lively dancing and smooth flowing libations. Brush up on an array of moves, from two-stepping to swing dancing, by arriving at 6:30 for an hour of free dance lessons before the night gets underway.
Wyatt Roer runs the Facebook group “Dance On,” a forum where nearly 1,000 fellow country-dance lovers in Phoenix can network with each other to discuss the hottest spots, and he touts the dancing nightlife at Denim & Diamonds from a technical standpoint by assuring that they have his favorite dance floor, because when “you do a lot of dancing, which I do, having a wood dance floor that is smooth is less wear and tear on your knees. That’s what we look for.”
Bonus Night: Wednesday night is Ladies Night at Denim & Diamonds. Free dance lessons are offered at 6:30 p.m., followed by the “Chaps ’n’ Cheeks” contest where the country-dancing woman with the best pair of chaps wins a $300 grand prize.
Just Announced: This week, Denim & Diamonds added another night of dance lessons to their lineup. Check it out from 6:30 to 7:30 on Friday nights.
4. Tuesday Nights at Bourbon Jack’s (Chandler)
Anyone wanting to make their passion for country-western dancing a regular outing can look into the East Valley Kickers. Founded in 2009, the EVK has now grown to more than 3,000 members (kickers) strong, and is built around the idea of providing like-minded country-dance lovers with endless opportunities to learn an array of techniques like country waltz, two step, west coast swing, and line dancing. Bourbon Jack’s in Chandler plays host to the local troupe by offering up their dance floor during “Two Step Tuesdays” where EVK members and non-members alike can cut loose.
“EVK is a really friendly group,” says founding member and event organizer Laina Lee, who has been country dancing for 25 years, and instructing for eight. “And it’s all ages. I have 20-year-olds dancing with 50- and 60-year-olds.”
The activities get underway with free lessons at 7:30 p.m., and Bourbon Jack’s provides a little extra incentive to get people out on the dance floor by extending their happy hour prices all night long to those that participate in the dancing lessons.
3. Wednesday Nights at the Arizona Room Patio Grill (Inside Casino Arizona)
Lee can also be found teaching her dance instruction on Wednesday nights from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Arizona Room Patio Grill inside of Casino Arizona. Once her lessons have concluded, local cover band Daisy Train takes the stage to roll out their long list of top country radio hits, and provide the freshly minted dancing aficionados with the proper soundtrack to display all of the new moves they’ve just mastered.
“You get to meet new people all the time,” Lee explains, and most importantly she stresses that “you don’t have to have a partner. You can be single ladies and single men. We match you up, and rotate partners throughout lessons, so everybody gets a chance to dance with everybody.”
The Arizona Room Patio Grill my not be adorned with the typical saloon aesthetics one would come to expect from a country bar, but like David Lee Murphy taught us about dusty bottles: Don’t let it fool ya ’bout what’s inside.
2. Saturday Nights at Rusty Spur Saloon
The Rusty Spur Saloon has been known Valley-wide as a go-to spot for authentic country-western atmosphere and live music for more than 60 years. Located right smack dab in the middle of Old Town Scottsdale, they proudly boast that no heavy metal or hip-hop music is ever played through their speakers.
Live music is offered every night of the week at Rusty Spur, but Saturday night is our choice for country dancing fans to stop in, when the night life of Old Town is in full swing, and cut a rug with their partner to live music provided by Psychobilly Rodeo Band on stage. PRB has been performing together for more than 17 years, and three nights a week they can be found displaying their country crooning chops at the Rusty Spur by bringing the eclectic crowd to their feet for a night of dancing and drinking.
Rusty Spur is unique to our list because they do not advertise a specific dance night. Instead, they rely on their long standing reputation, along with the age-old tradition of foot traffic and word-of-mouth, to get people onto their dance floor.
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1. Friday Nights at Harold’s Cave Creek Corral
To really dive into the Old West ambiance, take a trip back in time to the small rustic town of Cave Creek; where horseback riders aren’t out of place and shit-kickin’ boots and cowboy hats are the norm.
The must-visit, and last-standing, country dancing hot-spot for Cave Creek happens at Harold’s Corral every Friday night. After wrapping up their weekly fish fry, the tables are cleared from the dance floor, and free lessons begin at 8 p.m. The live entertainment follows from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., and all of the patrons are encouraged to grab a partner and cut loose in the western dancing environment. An elevated stage hosts primarily local country musicians, along with some touring acts, to prevent the weekly soiree from ever growing stale.