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.

Photo by Molly Polus for Thrillist
Photo by Molly Polus for Thrillist
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
Photo by Molly Polus for Thrillist
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.
 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
Photo by Molly Polus for Thrillist
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.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

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


The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.


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