Best Portland places to dance your body right

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Illustration by Shannon Kidd

Let’s make one thing clear: “Get fit” is not a synonym for “get thin.”
Big bodies in motion are one of humanity’s most beautiful expression forms. The only thing more beautiful is seeing bodies of all sizes dancing in comfort (I mean, unless the point is to be uncomfortable, as with butoh, but that’s a whole other conversation).

Where can you see them? Where can you be one? If this sort of thing is what you’re looking for, here is what you’ll find in Portland:

If you’re looking for an all-ages venue:

The most frequently occurring one is not technically a dance party: Patrick Buckmaster’s* free oft-monthly party, New Drag Name, at Beulahland Coffee.
The truth is, almost all of Portland’s all-ages venues for dance or live music have vanished in the last decade. With The Zone’s tragic history white-washed into Pine Street Market, with Slabtown demolished, Backspace erased, and now with The Escape in existential limbo, the next best thing is when local or national acts rope off a section away from their venue’s bar. The Crystal Ballroom, The Wonder Ballroom, and the Roseland Theater are among venues known to hold all-ages events in this style.

If you’re looking for something on campus:

Portland State offers phys. ed. dance classes, but for the non-credit options, one could look to Academic and Student Rec Center club Steps of Rhythm, led by performer/instructor Isaiah Tillman* and student coordinator Erin Chew. Steps of Rhythm is all-inclusive: All bodies and experience levels are welcome.

If you’re escaping the “PSU fish bowl”:

Want to get off campus? Chinatown’s Entertainment District is your quickest bet, home to Tube, Black BookDirty Nightclub, Shake Bar, Jones Bar and more. Bar XV, the newly renovated Paris Theater, and Whiskey Bar are not technically in the Entertainment District but are adjacent options, too. If you want to get out of Southwest Portland entirely, some of the most popular East Side spots include the White Owl Social Club, HoloceneMississippi Studios, 45 East, Jade Club and Secret Society, among many others. Great music and minimal creepy men.

If you’re looking for something less heteronormative:

In addition to traditional gay venues like CC Slaughters, Embers Avenue, Local Lounge and Stag PDX, many predominantly straight venues hold queer nights, including Bossanova Ballroom, High Water Mark Lounge, and Killingsworth Dynasty, among many others. Most of the aforementioned East Side venues also hold highly popular queer dance parties.

If you’re looking for something a little spooky:

The Star Theater** and Dante’s** have secured downtown for goths and freaks for over a decade. The Analog Cafe & Theater also hosts various spooky events. But the Lovecraft Bar is perhaps Portland’s most internet-famous goth bar, decked in horror decor and host to straight and queer dance parties alike.

*An asterisk is my disclosure that I have previously received, and am not actively receiving, monetary compensation from this person for services rendered.

**Two asterisks is my disclosure that I am currently receiving in-kind, non-monetary compensation from this entity for services rendered.

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