video by Wes Barnett, staff videographer and article by Madison Boudoin, staff writer
Dance lessons are available all across southern Louisiana for locals or visitors who wish to dig deeper into the rich Cajun culture of the bayou. Tourists can easily take home a piece of the culture by learning how to dance like a local in Cajun country.
A typical Saturday night in Cajun country is nothing less than a good time filled with food, music, and dancing.
“I do it for the exercise and the socialization,” says Marlene Savoy of Des Allemands, who travels all over the region to dance. “I also enjoy the friendly people and the Cajun atmosphere.”
Dancing has always been a big part of the Cajun culture in the Bayou Region, but according to locals, it is not as common as it used to be.
“It is mostly popular among the older generation,” Marlene says. “A lot of us learned the Cajun dances from our grandparents who were French.”
Others learned the traditional dances by taking dance lessons.
“Everyone has a different style of the dance and those who do not know the proper form simply improvise,” says Lutie Verda, a dance instructor from Des Allemands.
Lutie suggests dancing classes to anyone who is interested in learning the proper forms of Cajun dance. She says that it is important to carefully select a dance instructor – one that teaches the correct forms of the dance.
Cajun dances include the Cajun Jig, the Cajun Jitterbug, the Cajun Waltz, and Zydeco dancing. Each style is a unique form of the Cajun dance that is taught in classes that are scattered throughout the Bayou Region.
“Anyone can learn how to Cajun dance,” says Lutie.
All it takes is a Cajun instructor, a few lessons, and a lot of practice. The Bingo Hall in Boutte is a good place to start according to Lutie.
The Bingo Hall puts on music events twice a week. Live Cajun music is played frequently, and locals take this as an opportunity to show off their traditional dance moves.
Juanita Landry, owner of the Bingo Hall, says that around 70 to 100 people come to each music event. People travel from all over southern Louisiana for an evening of music and dancing.
A lot of the locals bring their relatives or friends that visit from out of state. Visitors end up loving the Cajun atmosphere, and usually make more frequent visits just to go to the Bingo Hall with the locals, Juanita says.
“It is wonderful to see these people come to our events and have a great time,” she says.
The Bingo Hall is just one of the many locations to offer Cajun music and dancing in the Bayou Region. The Cajun Country Casino in Raceland, Gina’s at the Legion in Thibodaux, and the Jolly Inn in Houma are a few places that give visitors the chance to experience a one-of-a-kind Cajun dance party.