This Is a Bar on Wheels
1. Best overall dance night: The Rub at The Bell House
149 7th St, Brooklyn
For 13 years, this monthly dance party has renounced the high-profile DJs and VIP bottle service you’d expect from “the best dance night in New York,” opting instead for a far simpler formula: an inclusive atmosphere, reasonably priced drinks, and an eclectic blend of music ranging from classic hip-hop and R&B to rock, house, and reggae. Sure, longtime regulars might bemoan how the party’s lost its grittiness since moving from Southpaw to The Bell House, but the change of venue comes with an added bonus: a working ventilation system.
2. Best belly dancing: Djam at Jebon Sushi
15 Saint Marks Place, Manhattan
Hosted by Kaeshi of Bellyqueen (a professional belly dance troupe), this weekly two-hour show features at least eight belly dancers, and the open dance floor times mean you can get up and shake it alongside ‘em to Arabic, Turkish, and Flamenco fusion jams. Yes, there’s a $10 cover and a $5 minimum for food and drink, and the idea of belly dancing at a sushi joint might be a little off-putting at first, but the welcoming vibe should put your first-timer fears to rest pretty quickly.
3. Best hip-hop night: Toca Tuesdays at The Delancey
168 Delancey St, Manhattan
This is not the most famous, nor is it the biggest hip-hop night in New York, but this perfect space is among the best. It’s dark and intimate, with a killer PA and a small stage for special performances. One of the organizers, Tony Touch, is one of three resident DJs (along with Butta L and DJ June), and there's a special guest each week. “I've seen everyone from Afrika Bambaataa to Kid Capri to Jazzy Joyce to Red Alert play there,” says DJ Patrick A. Reed of Depth of Field.
4. Best salsa/dancehall/merengue: Eso!! Mondays at Bembe
81 South 6th St, Brooklyn
If your Mondays aren’t already synonymous with global funk and latin fusion… well, they probably aren’t, but that just means you haven’t checked out Bembe’s weekly cover-free show. Led by mainstay DJs Reaganomics and Dirtyfinger, ESO!! Mondays feature an ever-changing assortment of guest acts from all over the world, and the drama-free atmosphere means you can focus on why you came here in the first place: cheap rum punch and an excuse to get jiggy with it. Except, don’t actually say “get jiggy with it.” They probably won’t let you in if you do that.
5. Best drop-in: Shrine World Music Venue
2271 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, Manhattan
With live jazz, soul, reggae, Afro beat, funk, and/or DJs every day of the week, and roughly five to six bands performing each night, don’t even worry about checking the schedule, as there’s always something going on. Couple that with no cover charge, and it’s easy to see why this place is packed on random Tuesday nights.
6. Weirdest dance party: The Get Down
18 Little W 12th St, Manhattan
The Get Down isn’t just about music and dancing. This bi-weekly party is also about showcasing the truly weird limits of what dance music can be. Where else can you take part in a pre-party meditation session on the dance floor? Answer: nowhere. Plus, all this genre-bending madness is packed into a three-hour chunk from 7-10pm, so getting up for work the next day is actually not that impossible. Grab tickets in advance, though, since this one tends to sell out early.
7. Best Sunday dance party: Mister Sunday at Industry City
31st St, Brooklyn
Mister Sunday, like all the best Sabbath observances, comes with some rules: no smoking, no pictures, no music requests, and if you’re on the dance floor, you have to actually dance. But none of those are actually negative, as they force people to only be concerned with how they’re moving. Dogs and kids are both welcome, and as you’d no doubt expect with an outdoor dance party, this 4-10pm bash hosted by DJs Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin is totally seasonal. Buy your tickets in advance!
8. Best swing: Swing 46 Jazz and Supper Clubs
349 W 46th St, Manhattan
The newly reopened and remodeled Swing 46 is the perfect place to live out your Swingers fantasy, provided said fantasy involves actual swing dancing, and not leaving six consecutive voicemails on an answering machine. In addition to the live bands every night of the week, full dinner menu, and free lessons every night but Monday, Swing 46 also offers a “Date Night” special for two -- y’know, in case you still wanna leave those voicemails.
9. Best '80s rock and new wave: Remake Remodel at Beauty Bar
231 E 14th St, Manhattan
Every Saturday night, DJs Twig the Wonderkid and Michael T spin some retro rock, new wave, pop, and disco, surrounded by the bar’s defunct beauty parlor decor. It’s also pretty much the only bar in New York where you can take a break from dancing and order a martini/manicure combo for $10 -- provided it’s not too late/crowded, that is.
10. Best Bulgarian: Mehanata Bulgarian Bar
113 Ludlow St, Manhattan
If you can’t even think about getting in on this place’s wild dance parties without some serious lubrication, why not make it happen in its vodka-filled ice cage? Here’s the deal: fork over $20 per head, slip into something more Soviet (they’ll provide you with an old military uniform), and enter the sub-zero drinking den where you have two minutes to down up to six shots of whatever vodka you fancy, using shot glasses made of ice. It’s basically the most solid pre-gaming plan we’ve ever heard of. Nasdarovje!”
11. Best '90s throwback: Fridays at Webster Hall
125 E 11th St, Manhattan
Fridays at Webster Hall aren’t for the faint of heart… or eyes, kidney, or spleen for that matter. There are four massive, psychedelic parties going on at once here, and you’re free to drift from one to the next at your own pace. Is the crowd largely bridge-and-tunnel? Sure, but between the girls hanging from the ceiling doing hoop tricks, the hordes of dancers with glowing neon gloves, and the non-stop house music reverberating through the place, you’ll likely be too distracted to care.
12. Best gay dance night: ElevenEleven Fridays at Open House
244 East Houston St, Manhattan
The space itself is gorgeous any night of the week, but if you’re after one of the best gay dance parties in New York, head over on Friday night for a packed glam party that lasts well into the morning hours, hosted by the incomparable Ladyfag. Resident DJs Michael Magnan and Honey Dijon spin mostly house music during the proceedings, and if you get in before midnight, you won’t have to pay the $5 cover charge.
13. Sexiest dance party: Dances of Vice
446 Broadway, Manhattan
Dances of Vice is a thematic spectacle that’s part masquerade, part circus sideshow, and part burlesque acid trip -- in the sexiest way possible. And although the annual Halloween bash (held in a historic Victorian mansion) is arguably when this party shines brightest, any of the events thrown by Shien Lee & Co. can be counted on to feature anachronistic decor, fashionable dancers, and memorable performances by DJs/live bands.
14. Best place to cry: Smiths Morrissey Night at Sway Lounge
305 Spring St, Manhattan
A night dedicated to the patron saint of melodic self-pity himself? Sign us up. Plus it has $4 Tecates, which means this dance night might just be the one thing in SoHo you’ll actually be able to afford -- especially if you’ve been fruitlessly buying drinks for disinterested parties all night. Get your mopey asses over here.
15. Best dive: Call Box Lounge
148 Kingsland Ave, Brooklyn
Though it might look more like where your dad might sip an after-work Bud than a legit dance spot, don’t be fooled. On top of the cheap drinks you’d expect, the DJ actually plays a wide variety of music, and the dance floor gets packed with hip folks and regulars alike, depending on the day. The awning outside bears the slogan “Where Good Friends Party Hardy,” and there’s absolutely no reason for an awning to lie to you.
16. Best indie rock: Cameo
93 N 6th St, Brooklyn
Whether it’s EDM, indie, or something different altogether, live music is this place’s raison d’etre. The back room is a relatively small affair, though, so the dance floor can get kinda stuffy. If it becomes too much just grab some tater tots from the restaurant out front -- you won’t regret it.
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Just like Jenny Lewis, Jess Novak can do the Frug, the Robocop, and the Freddie, but she cannot do the Smurf. Grill her about these and other dances on Twitter @jesstothenovak and Instagram @jtothenovak.