A case against night clubs

A case against night clubs

I just arrived in Maastricht, Netherlands: a student city (20% of the total city population are students!). I haven't made it into a night-club for quite some years already, and my being in this city prompted me to give it another try.

In this post, I'd like to briefly describe my experience as well as do a more Game-theoretical-slash-evolutionary-psychology-ish analysis of night clubs and compare them with dancing bars, which (spoiler) I believe to be a much better and more enjoyable way of having a night out.

First, here are some assumptions that will guide my analysis:

  • I am going out primarily to meet new people: while I might already know a few people at the party, I don't plan on spending the majority of the evening with them and instead meet new people.
  • I am going out to dance with other people (couple dance like salsa or bachata) as opposed to dancing alone (à la techno party).
  • I am a guy. From my understanding, things work out very differently for ladies (for better and for worse) and this is unfortunately out of scope for this article.

These are already serious constraints, and as we will see, there are some (very few) situations, in which a night club might still be a better option than a dancing bar.

So here I am, at this latino-themed evening. After having dropped by jacket and bought a few night-club-coins (you have to convert your money into tokens that you can then redeem for drinks), I start to walk through the room. It's only 10:45pm, but the place is already filling up.

Knowing a bit of salsa and bachata, when the DJ plays either one of those songs, I walk to some girls and ask if they want to dance. They accept, there is some space to move and we dance for the few minutes the song lasts.

Until that point in the evening, dynamics are very similar to dancing bars but things start to go south when I see a friend and we chat for 15 minutes: In the meantime, the club really fills up, and there is no place to reasonably dance in pairs anymore.

The DJ starts to play more Kizomba and Reggaeton, which are 'quite' sensual dances, and therefore unpractical to dance with strangers: so everyone just dances alone, except couples.

This is, by the way, the only good reason I see to go out in a nightclub: to enjoy a half-exhibitionist-half-anonymous series of dances with your partner (or any other person you're comfortable dancing closely with).

So here I am, unable to talk with people (due to the noise), unable to dance in pairs (due to both the type of music and the little space left). A very inconvenient situation.

What about the dancing bar?

In comparison, the dancing bar has a few features that make it much more attractive.

There is space to dance

There is no incentive on the side of the bar owner to bring as many people as possible into the bar (as opposed with a nightclub, that sells entry tickets).

There are tables, seats and calmer areas

People come to dance, and after a few dances, they want to sit down and relax for a while and chat.

People want to dance in pairs

People come to a dancing bar to dance and it is totally acceptable behaviour to ask someone for a dance. This makes it very easy to walk up to a stranger and ask them to dance. You might not get a second dance, but you usually get a first chance.

You can build a reputation

Because dancing bars are relatively small and the focus is on the dance floor, people start to recognize good dancers, which creates a darwinian system in which good dancers have it easier and easier to find dancing partners, and bad ones, harder.

This is an extremely attractive feature that night clubs lack completely. In nightclubs, every stranger is by default a weirdo that is most likely going to harass you, which makes it hard to the "nice people" to stand out. And the weirdos (usually guys unfortunately) don't go into dancing bars because they would not be able to enjoy the anonymity that night clubs offer them.

So why are night clubs so popular?

This is a question I was asking myself while in the club. Except for the couples and a few groups of friends, most people didn't seem comfortable at all in the night club. Yet, everyone had dressed up beautifully (for that big night!) and the place was as full as possible.

I'm writing this partly to start a discussion on this and hopefully find people to shine some light on my ignorance. Anyhow, here are my own conclusions:

TL;DR, to summarise

From my understanding, the only way to go into a night club and have fun is to have a group of people that you want to be with, dance with (not talk) and not meet anyone else, yet still be surrounded by people.

If this isn't you, I strongly encourage you to look for a dancing bar in your town. Take a few lessons to get yourself going (and meet a few fellow dancers), you'll discover a wonderful new world!