Where to dance at Jazz Fest, let your mood guide you
The second week of Jazz Fest will be upon us before we can say May flies (ugh!). If you are into sweating more than you're already sweating from that glorious sun and heat, then dancing is your Jazz Fest cleanse. It frees the mind, it frees the body, it frees the spirit, and it gives you a beyond legitimate reason to down as many mango freezes as you desire.
But where to go if you're a timid dancer or have certain things going on in your life? That's the beauty of Jazz Fest. There is a stage for anyone and everyone, and the same goes for dancing. Here's the lowdown on where to shimmy in accordance to what's going on in your life.
If you've just had a break-up, head to the Gospel Tent. If you're looking to get your mind off that guy or gal that things just ended with, there's no better way to do it then with songs about The Big Guy. The music is so loud, there are high notes that will give the hottest patron goosebumps, and everything is about being grateful and enjoying life. Best part about the dancing, there will be absolutely no judgment of your moves in this tent. Now, there are some certain moves here that will make you feel more part of the crowd. At least once your finger needs to point to the sky, and the phrase, "throw your hands up" will need to be part of your constant dance vocabulary. If you're ready to get rid of those break-up blues, then wash your sorrows in songs about the tears of the Lord.
If you're really into snapping then the Jazz Tent is your snapping heaven. If there's one tent where people aren't really "getting down," it's usually the Jazz Tent. The licks, tricks, and talents of the amazing jazz musicians we have in New Orleans renders the brain from doing anything else but listening and computing, it seems. Although there will be a time when a favorite standard comes on, and almost everyone knows the tune. This means the brain gets a rest, and the moves of the Jazz Tent bust out. Well, they don't really bust out. There's snapping. A lot of snapping. Some people will stand up and sway a little bit, but the snapping is the dominant move. People sitting in their chairs join in on the fun with...you guessed it, snapping. And why not? Our fingers don't often get the spotlight when it comes to dancing, except when you're in the Jazz Tent.
If you're okay with merging DNA with a stranger, then Fais Do-Do Stage will do you right. This is one of the hottest stages at Jazz Fest, and not just because it's almost always in direct sunlight. The zydeco music inspires even the most reluctant dancers to grab a partner and step side-to-side. That's right, we're talking about the two-step, and if you don't know what that dance is, you do now. Two steps to the left, two steps to the right, and repeat. Just like there are two steps, this dance usually includes two people, so be ready to be social and sweaty with someone if you go to the Fais Do-Do stage.
If you're looking to let loose, Congo Square is where you let that freak flag fly. You know when you've had so much to drink that you actually believe you can speak a foreign language perfectly (even if your last class was in high school)? The equivalent to that is the Congo Square stage. Reggae. Bounce. Brass. The music on this stage asks you to move in a way that other beats and tempos don't necessarily ask you to move. Big Freedia plays this stage, and in years past there has been an Azz contest, and, yes, this meant people in the crowd got on stage and twerked like they'd never twerked before. So you can't be timid and you can't be shy at this stage. You gotta love what you got and work what you got when you head to the Congo Square stage.
If you want that feminine feel in your hips, Belize Stage is the place to be. This year, Jazz Fest is highlighting and celebrating Belize, and once you get in front of that stage you can see why. Calabasas and groups of voices all merging together with a strong rhythmic beat make everyone in the crowd indulge in their secret desire to be a Latin dancer. No matter how old or young, people in this tent were circling their hips, kicking back and forth with their salsa feet, and they were even partnering up. The stage is covered and the wooden floor and warm lights make you feel like you're in a separate world. A world where you can let those hips go free. Warning/Advertising: partner dancing is big here too.
For the biggest dance thrill of them all, get in the Kid's Tent. I don't know how this happened, but the Kid's Tent has the most exhilarating and fun dancing out of all of them. It's not just kids in there. Teenagers, twenty-somethings, parents, grandparents, everyone was in this tent having a freaking ball. There is square dancing, dancing that doesn't make any sense, and dancing where they tell you exactly what to do. The music is cheery, upbeat, and because there's children there, no matter how bad of a dancer you are, you'll never be as bad as the kids. They have little to no sense of rhythm, so you look awesome! It's the hands-down best tent for dancing. Maybe it's because there's no expectations. Maybe it's because everyone in New Orleans all shares the same secret--none of us ever really want to grow up. And nor should we.
Happy Jazz Fest, All!
Kelley Crawford is a professor, writer, mentor, dancer, and constant questioner. If you would like to contact Kelley Crawford, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.