Community: The Cactus Club

The Cactus Club is a line dancing group aimed for all in the LGBTQ+ community, as well as their friends and allies. Everyone is welcome to join in and take part. Founder Peter explains more.

I have been line dancing for 25 years, although I’ve been doing many other types of dance for longer. With line dancing, there are so many dances that you can learn in differing styles and to different types of music that makes line such a challenge. Although you dance as an individual you are part of a group creating a formation that a viewer sees as a whole.

My Cactus Club line dancing group was set up following a holiday to New York in May 1993, where I happened to find a gay club in the village called The Cactus Club. I had no idea what to expect, but was blown away by the atmosphere and the friendly guys who just wanted to dance. I had never come across the country scene before and the line dances I learnt on my two visits to the club convinced me this would work well in London. I’d already helped Jo Purvis at The Original Tea Dance on Sundays at The Bell and suggested we try a country and western night. We borrowed the name and started The Cactus Club on 5 July 1993, when over 50 people turned up, including Nick Wale, who later founded Lines & Bears.

The Cactus Club has gone through many changes over the years. But the core of The Cactus Club, a line dancing class where you can learn and socialise, has remained the same over our quarter century. We dance every Tuesday evening in the back bar of the Two Brewers. We have a beginners’ hour, which starts at 7pm, when newcomers to line dancing can expect to learn the step patterns and get familiar with the language used. If all goes well, they should be able to do three to four dances after their first class. We charge only £3 for this hour. Then from 8pm we have the main class, which consists of three additional lessons aimed at regular members (although we are seeing our beginners join in here are well). We support the lessons through our website, which has well over 300 dance scripts to encourage practice at home. The more classes you attend, the more dances you will learn, but we only charge per class and don’t lock you into a course.

Over the years, hundreds of people have come along to the classes to learn the routines and dance socially afterwards. You can expect a very wide age range, different nationalities and backgrounds – we welcome everyone. You only need to bring yourself. Leather-soled shoes are really good as they help you move better on a wooden floor, but otherwise comfortable clothes are all you need. No ‘special gear’ is required, just the enthusiasm to dance and learn. And we’re most definitely NOT a fetish club for cowboys, however nice that idea might be! The whole evening (beginner’s class and main class) for non-members is £8, members is £6.

If you want to start dancing, then give us a try. Line dancing can be easier than ballroom as you don’t need to worry about a partner – you are still dancing with others, just connected in a different way. And you’ll get a chance to catch your breath and socialise with the other members.

Modern line dancing uses steps and music from many sources, all tastes are catered for. We’ll always love a bit of country, but one of our current favourites at the club is the routine to Havana by Camila Cabello. And if I can’t convince you, have a read of our excellent reviews on Facebook and Trip Advisor.

Over the years The Cactus Club has been involved in many Pride events. This year we will be in the Pleasure Gardens in Brighton on Sunday 5 August. We’ve tailored the afternoon specifically for Brighton Pride, as we’ll be teaching and dancing to some of the songs from the Main Stage acts that weekend, like Jess Glynne, Pixie Lott and Ella Eyre.

But before that, on 24 July this year we celebrate our 25th birthday with a party at the Two Brewers. We have regular parties throughout the year, including Halloween and Christmas, but this silver anniversary will be the high point of our year. On the night, we’ll still have our beginners’ class at 7pm, but from 8pm the party kicks off. We’ll dance to some of the old and new routines, chat, have some food and enjoy an evening of celebration.

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