With the term "dance club," there are two ways to go.
There's the myopic view, where the term strictly means the glitzy, glamorous, fabulous clubs (once known as "discotheques") that maybe aren't specifically for dancing but certainly do include it in their arsenals, and there's the panoptic view, which refers to any venue where dancing occurs.
For the sake of this piece (and for the sake of accuracy, really), the latter is where it's at. So, Houston's Top 8 Dance Clubs:
8. Ei8ht: Ei8ht, one of Washington Corridor's first truly awe-inspiring nightlife facilities, is the closest to a traditional "dance club" venue as any on the list. It is everything you'd want in a nightclub. There's a built-in red carpet (which, incidentally, is streamed to a large monitor in a separate location inside), a fancy-pants water fountain, some look-at-me VIP booths and a second-story patio ideal for people watching. (LOOK AT THOSE SCHMOES WAITING IN LINE! FOOLS! AHAHAHA.) More important, though, it is always stuffed full. Ei8ht is Christian Bale in American Psycho, minus all of the murdering, of course.
5102 Washington, 713-880-3500, Web site
7. Houston Flea Market's Club La Noche: Yes, this belongs here. It seems counterintuitive that a place you can go to to purchase a quinceañera dress, a picture of your kid on a pony and maybe a bootleg version of The Avengers on DVD would also house one of Houston's best dance clubs, but that's exactly what's going on at HFM.
HFM has been open for more than 40 years; it is a city staple. And its nightclub, Club La Noche, a surprisingly large extension of the flea market, has existed in some form or fashion for more than two decades. Live music, big dance floor, hundreds of people, all that. If you're looking to turn a Sunday afternoon into a Saturday evening, there is no better place in Houston.
6116 Southwest Fwy., 713-780-0070, no Web site
6. Grooves: Grooves is a do-everything venue, a gargantuan nightlife spot that flexes its might within the black community. It has a large enough dance floor to accommodate its hundreds of guests, a steady lineup of some of the city's best DJs and a proper menu of food at your disposal. There are TVs, private spaces and more. There might not be a more enjoyable place in the city to listen to Bell Biv DeVoe's "Poison" while trying to figure out a way to talk to that attractive woman at the bar all the guys are staring at.
2300 Pierce, 713-759-9700, Web site
5. Rebels Honky Tonk: Someone some time late last decade said, "You know what the booming Washington Corridor needs? A large, extremely well-done, dancetastic honky-tonk bar." And you know what? They were exactly right.
Houston has no shortage of excellent boot-shuffling venues, Firehouse Saloon and Goode's Armadillo Palace chief among them, but none have wiggled themselves into glitzy nightlife's ultra-fickle favor as fully as Rebels. It's interesting both intellectually -- you can listen to George Strait authentically and ironically at the same time --and viscerally, because there is never a small amount of attractive people on the large dance floor. Winner all the way around.
5002 Washington, 713-862-7172, Facebook page
4. Rich's: Much as some people would like to, there is simply no denying Electronic Dance Music any longer. And considering the best place currently to experience EDM in a club setting is Rich's (the sound system is among the best in the city, easy), the nearly three-decades-old dance club gets a higher spot on the list than anyone that's only ever heard of it and never have actually been there would've guessed. (The people who have been there will no doubt argue that it should be higher.)
2401 San Jacinto, 713-759-9606
Note: Rich's property owner locked out his most recent tenants Thursday afternoon, but swore the club would reopen under new management soon.
3. Club Tropicana: Club Tropicana is not pretty. Club Tropicana is not new. Club Tropicana is not located in a desirable part of town, unless your desire is to get your car broken into. What Club Tropicana is, though, is the best place in the city for genuine salsa, merengue and bachata dancing. It's been that way for about a decade now. It'll probably be that way until they decide to shut it down.
I mean, when your roster of acts includes Willie Colon (basically salsa's Keith Richards), you're doing it right. When I visited in 2010 to write about it for the nightlife column, one quote seemed to solidify everything: "If you come here," said Charles Stokley, a 29-year-old ballroom-dance instructor, "you're going to dance." Kind of the point of this whole thing.
3222 Fondren, 713-977-4188, Web site
2. Numbers: There are nightlife institutions and then there's #s. Its transformation from dinner theater in the '70s to dance-club king today has experienced no shortage of drama, but it has held steady the entire time as one of the city's greatest, most enduring nightlife pieces.
Be it their gigantic annual Halloween party, their undeniably brilliant "Classic Numbers" '80s-themed Friday nights (as close to time travel as anyone will ever get) or just their regular, extraordinarily unextraordinary nights, Numbers is electric. It has little problem drawing hundreds of people, and even littler problem showing those people a grand time.
300 Westheimer, 713-526-6551, Web site
1. Brazos River Bottom: The people at this gay dance hall like line dancing so much, they'll teach you for free. Lessons on the spacious wood dance floor (with disco ball overhead) are on the house from 8 until 10:30 every Thursday night, and on the second and fourth Fridays of the month. The instructors try to bring it back to basics for the newbies, and they've been reintroducing classic dances like Chase the Matador, Earthquake and maybe even Hanky Panky in the near future.
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The real show comes on weekends, when you can test your skill with the regulars. (For group dances like Wild Wild West, amateurs are wise to stick to the middle and let the pros lead the way.) The place has as classic a country feel as can be had in Midtown, with a big bar (lined with cutouts of studly cowboys in their underwear) near the dance floor, two pool tables and video poker. Bring your boots. (Best of Houston winner, 2009)
2400 Brazos, 713-528-9192, Web site