Line Dancing to Drake: The Country-Western Pastime Gets a Pop Music Evolution in Dallas

Choreographed dance to country music still dominates, but in some venues people are shuffling to genres of all kinds. Cowboy boots optional.

A groovy dance floor scene at The Round-Up Saloon in Dallas’s Oak Lawn neighborhood. | Photo by Molly Polus for Thrillist
A groovy dance floor scene at The Round-Up Saloon in Dallas’s Oak Lawn neighborhood. | Photo by Molly Polus for Thrillist

Chrome stiletto boots glint under the gleam of a neon Lone Star sign. Rainbow stage lights illuminate a crowd boot-scooting in unison to the pulsing beats of a Pride pop song. See, in Texas, structured line dances to country music have been a local cultural stamp for decades. As music has become more fluid, though, so has the way we dance. Line dancing, and other forms of structured choreography, are often associated with country music. This form of communal dance, however, has long been vital to all genres of music and crossovers thereof.

Country music singer and America’s Got Talent alum Kameron Ross knew he had to incorporate a form of organized dance in the music video for his new song, “Sway.” His location of choice: famed LGBTQ+ watering hole The Round-Up Saloon and Dancehall in Dallas. “The Round- Up is a good focal point and a staple when it comes down to dancing,” says Ross, “especially on the weekend, because you have country, and then they switch it to more of the pop stuff on the weekends.” Drag performers along with various members of the LGBTQ+ community performed a special dance scene in the video.

“We knew we wanted to incorporate a line dance in there, with a battle between these masculine guys and drag queens,” says Ross, who wanted queerness and gender expression on full display. It all came together with the help of drag performer Kylee O’Hara and Round- Up’s dance instructor Mike McKinney.

According to McKinney, who offers free dance lessons at The Round-Up on Monday nights, the music of The Round-Up is just as diverse as its clientele. But line dancing, whether engrained in the patrons’ minds or quickly picked-up on after seeing other people dance, is something that draws a lot of people to the floor.

“When the music transitions from country to pop or hip-hop, we use line dances like [V.I.C.’s] ‘Wobble’ and ‘Cupid Shuffle’ and all of those songs to get people out on the floor,” says McKinney.

When Blake Ward DJs corporate functions, an older set tends to request “Cupid Shuffle” and “Wobble.” While he’s happy to oblige in these types of settings, he says he would never play those types of line dances in the club. Since the pandemic, the number of spaces specifically geared toward dancing has drastically decreased. Ward still laments the loss of Beauty Bar, which closed in 2020, where he was a regular fixture on the decks. That doesn’t mean there’s a total void.

Ward still remains booked and busy at various venues, where as long as he’s spinning, partygoeers keep moving. Today, he frequently DJs at the Cedars District’s swimming destination The Dive In, Trinity Groves’ Free Play Arcade, and Double D’s, which has quickly become a popping dancing destination since opening last December. With nearly two decades in the spinning game, he’s seen various dance trends come and go.

Photo by Molly Polus for Thrillist

Like Ward, DJ Christy Ray says she also finds that these particular types of line dances are more frequently requested in corporate settings. She admits she doesn’t use TikTok, however, finds that people do, in fact, do TikTok dances in the club, especially at It’ll Do, which Ray says is the best place to dance in Dallas.

Ray also believes that line dancing has been ubiquitous in various genres of music—not solely country.

“I think upon hearing the words ‘line dancing,’ country music is the first to come to mind,” says Ray. “But I also kind of feel that line dancing, choreographed dances, and stepping has been embedded in hip-hop culture for a while as well.”

Platforms like TikTok allow for some more modern dances to become cultural phenomenons. Over the course of the past summer, several songs went viral over TikTok, accompanied by clips of performing organized dance moves. Some of these songs include “Halle Berry” by Hurricane Chris and Dallas rapper Superstarr (which already had spawned a viral dance routine upon its original release in 2009). “S&M” by Rihanna and “Rich Flex” by Drake and 21 Savage also have made the viral rounds.

While some people’s TikTok algorithms often provide them clips with the most recent trending sounds and dance moves, some of the more contemporary moves don’t seem to have moved from the screen over to the dance floor.

Luvv Ssik, who has become a fixture at late night Italian joint Sfuzzi on Friday nights, as well as Deep Ellum’s Latin cocktail bar Ruins and downtown rooftop spot Catbird, also says she rarely sees people performing in tandem to some of the newer songs, as some older line dances have been passed along through generations. “It’s usually one person showing their friends,” she says. “I’ve seen besties doing them together, but rarely see a large group of TikTok dancers on the floor in unison.”

As people often associate music with memory, some DJs are finding that they don’t necessarily want certain songs, dating back to early to mid-2000s, connected with significant life milestones. While these songs can establish common ground betweens guests and partygoers of different generations, they might potentially create a more dated atmosphere throughout.

A trending TikTok dance can bring a few people together, but a classic line dance can get the whole party moving.

Dallas-based DJ Justin Stringfellow has gone viral for his TikToks, in which he usually acts out typical scenarios he encounters on any given night. Dealing with drunk wedding guests requesting Bad Bunny, throwing in complicated song requests to his carefully structured mixes, and ensuring that all parties enjoy themselves are some of Stringfellow’s day-to-day challenges.

Stringfellow says that while including modern music from TikTok is “a great way to freshen up a set,” to his delight, he is finding that while some older crowds still request songs like “Cupid Shuffle” fewer people are demanding these songs as time goes on.

“It seems to be a trend that more and more younger couples don’t want to have the same wedding as everyone else,” says Stringfellow. “They don’t want line dance songs, they don’t want Bruno Mars or any typical artist that’s played at most weddings. They want music that their friends liked to party to in high school and college.”

Photo by Molly Polus for Thrillist

DJ Cameron Harris has seen certain line dances fade in and out of popularity over the years, however, he sees that each generation has songs of their own that they will cherish, and hit the dance floor when they hear.

“My generation has ‘Crank That’ by Soulja Boy and ‘Teach Me How To Dougie’ by Cali Swag District,” Harris says. “Meanwhile, the next generation has a plethora of choreographed dances such as ‘Savage’ by Megan Thee Stallion or ‘Supalonely’ by BENEE and Gus Dapperton.”

While some DJs, partygoers, and wedding guests believe that line dances may have simply been a trend from back in the day, young people continue to get in on the action. A trending TikTok dance can bring a few people together, but a classic line dance can get the whole party moving.

“I surmise that line dancing thrives best where the guest or attendees don't know each other well or are uncomfortable with dancing in front of others,” says Harris. “Whether that's during a music festival, country bar, or a family reunion, the goal of the line dance is to get your body moving in a familiar way to gain confidence.”

Not much inspires confidence the way a favorite jam does—and, sure, maybe a hot pair of chrome boots help.

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Alex Gonzalez is a Dallas-based writer who covers music, pop culture, arts, LGBTQ+ stories, and more.