THE GIG: Cajun Fais Do-Do featuring Bruce Daigrepont, Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
THE VENUE: Tipitina’s, 501 Napoleon Ave., $7 cover
THE DRINKS: Not first priority with this crowd, but not unwelcome
THE SCENE: People who love Cajun music and social dancing, tourists and locals alike
By Molly Reid
Growing up in Cajun country, I learned how to do the Cajun two-step and waltz in 7th grade gym class, an experience that was equal parts amusing and excruciating. Before that, I’m told I cut quite a rug on the dance floor of the original Mulate’s in Breaux Bridge as a wee lass. Dancing to chank-a-chank was something we did between rounds of fried food or when we wanted to remember what a culturally unique locale we called home, but it wasn’t our native culture and beyond that, the music never touched my soul the same way, say, zydeco did.
I love zydeco, and I’ve passed many good times at Mid-City Lanes Rock n’ Bowl’s weekly Thursday zydeco night. But, copping a “been there, done that” attitude about Cajun music, I’d never sought out the weekly Cajun Fais Do-Do at Tipitina’s.
Enter Suz. Suz is the mother of my boyfriend, Travis, and she loves social dancing — all dancing, really, but especially social dancing. Travis grew up spending occasional weekends at contradancing events — reluctantly, he’ll add, but he still learned how to do-si-do. Suz is a zydeco queen, a two-stepping star and has even worked her magic on some of New Orleans’ weirdest electronic-dubstep music.
Anyway, Suz was visiting New Orleans for the week, and, as always, she requested we drop her off at Tipitina’s for the Sunday Fais Do-Do. Did she care we had plans that would prevent us from joining her until later? Not at all — despite the fact that she lives 1,000 miles away and visits once a year, she has regular status because she knows so many Fais Do-Do folks from the Cajun/zydeco circuit.
When Travis and I arrived at the Fais Do-Do, about two hours into the party, we joined the crowd in a waltz and comfortably glided and spun around the dance floor. Afterward, Bruce Daigrepont and his band picked up a faster number, and Travis went to dance with Suz. I was approached by a middle-aged gentleman, who started out simple and quickly progressed into full-on tilt-a-whirl mode once he sensed that I could go with it.
Zydeco dancing has an infinite range of expression and a big bag of tricks, but nothing compares to the spectrum of pretzelly twists and turns in Cajun dancing. I was reminded of two things: how wonderful it is to be a girl when it comes to social dancing, and how magical dancing can be with a skillful partner.
I hadn’t danced to Cajun music in years, save the occasional turn at a festival or something, and yet I felt like Ginger Rogers keeping up with my impresario of a partner. Guided by his strong cues and seamless flow, I somehow executed triple, quadruple turns and complicated contortions I’d never know how to replicate on my own.
Suz and Travis were pretty impressed, and I’m so grateful to her for bringing me back to the music and dance of my transplanted roots.
Molly Reid writes One-Night Stands, about standing gigs at local clubs, weekly for NolaVie.