Beginning Saturday, the Lower Garden District will become a dance hotbed — from salsa to merengue, from swing to tango to flamenco.
And it will all be under one roof.
DanceQuarter, at 1719 Toledano St., boasts four studios featuring classes taught by accomplished professionals, plus an open dancehall.
“There are two ideas behind it,” said DanceQuarter founder and Artistic Director Nathalie Gomes Adams. “One is to host our own classes, but two is to make it available for other people to run their own events or classes.”
Adams created DanceQuarter out of necessity. She spent more than a decade in New York City, teaching out of rented studios, before opening Hop Swing and A Jump, Manhattan’s primary swing dance studio and company. The abundance of rentable studio space that allowed Adams to get her start in New York City, however, did not exist here in New Orleans, which she discovered after moving here in 2005.
So she decided to create her own space. Finding a suitable building in a good location, however, would prove to be difficult.
“We needed a building without poles, with open space, almost a warehouse,” said Adams, a World Swing Dance champion and master teacher. “But then warehouses are not usually in neighborhoods that are so great. So we were very lucky to find our building.”
Finding the structure was just the first step, however.
“We had to redo everything,” said Adams, a native of France. “From the moment we got the building until now took over two years. My husband’s been working there from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, not taking a day off. It’s been kind of crazy, so I owe my husband back!”
“It’s going to be amazing,” said professional flamenco dancer Eliza Llewellyn, who will be teaching and hosting workshops at DanceQuarter. “I don’t know if anything like it exists in this part of New Orleans.”
Courses for adults include swing, Lindy Hop, salsa, Argentine Tango, plus more fitness centered classes like Zumba, hip-hop, barre fitness and Pilates.
Adams also wants to bring her love of dance to the city’s kids, pointing to a bygone New Orleans institution whose spirit she hopes to revive.
“There was a lady called Miggie on St. Charles near the river – she had a dance studio there,” said Adams. “Everybody told me about this, and it seems like the whole city went through her studio, so we wanted to do something similar, offering middle school and high school students some partner dance classes and dances.”
(Full disclosure: The writer of this article is an alumni of Miggie’s, and to this day wonders if his usual partner, Meredith D., has recovered from having to dance with someone so rhythmically challenged as he, and, at the time, a full foot shorter than her.)
Adams also hopes to infuse parts of her own youth program that she created and ran for the past 6 years with Jefferson Parish Schools.
“We were in 26 schools, and we were teaching fifth graders how to partner dance – salsa, meringue waltz, all types of things – and we’d teach them some etiquette and organize some parties for them,” said Adams, who had to suspend her program with the parish to focus on DanceQuarter. “We want to bring that back. We want to do something like this after school in New Orleans at the studio.”
There is another role that Adams envisions for DanceQuarter: the neighborhood dance hall.
“One thing that we don’t have in the city is a good dance floor,” she said. “We have all this great music, and there is this culture of dance in New Orleans – people love to dance here – but there’s really no place to dance and have live music. When you go to Frenchman Street and you have all these bands, there’s literally no room to dance.”
Plus, she added, dancing on cement for hours isn’t so good for one’s feet and legs.
Saturday, the city will have a chance to test out the new dance floor as DanceQuarter will host an open house featuring free classes from 2-5 p.m., followed by a free party from 8 till around midnight.
For more information, visit www.dancequarter.com or call 504.897.0327.
Brian Friedman writes about New Orleans people and events for NolaVie.