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Photograph: Lauren Spinelli

Go back in time at 13 retro dance parties in NYC

Whether you're a hardcore moonwalker or a pop-and-locker, have an awesome time at these retro dance parties

By Jennifer Picht and David Goldberg

NYC's nightlife scene is not shy of bass-heavy basement or rooftop parties as well as other places to dance in town, but you can't always count on the DJ to play your favorite jams from eras past. That's why we're suckers for retro parties, where you can pretty much guarantee you'll know the lyrics (and the appropriate dance move) to every song. No matter which time period you dig, you're bound to have an awesome time shaking your rump at one of these sensational decade-themed parties happening this summer. Let's do the time warp again!

Kick-ass retro dance parties in NYC

1. Jazz Age Lawn Party

Things to do Festivals

Slap on your spats and fox-trot on over to this Great Gatsby-esque jazz party held over the course of two weekends (one in July and August) on Governors Island. Mingle with other vintage-dressed picnickers while sipping VieVité Côtes de Provence Rosé or an Aperol Spritz. You’ll truly feel like you’ve time traveled to the roaring ’20s after listening and dancing to Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra.

Sunday Soul Scream
Photograph: Courtesy Joel Henderson

2. Jonathan Toubin's Sunday Soul Scream

Things to do

Jonathan Toubin brings his exquisite taste in ’50s/’60s soul to Our Wicked Lady's rooftop at this essential summer Sunday bash, which boasts surprise live performances, guest sets, frozen tropical drinks and classic songs you never knew you needed to hear. 

Photograph: Courtesy Inbal Sivan

3. Cruel Summer '80s and ’90s Dance Party

Things to do

Pay tribute to your favorite boy and hair bands, and belt your favorite teen ballads along with other hip-hop and pop jams at this epic ’80s and ’90s hootenanny. Your entertainers for the night include the indispensable Steve Reynolds of Party Like It’s 1999, anthem-slayers of 10-piece ’80s cover band The Engagements, as well as music videos and sing-alongs by SecretFormula and Music Video Time Machine. Tease your hair, sport your choker necklace and spin right round (like a record, baby).

Throwback Friday: 80s/90s Party @HOY 7.21.17
Photograph: Courtesy Kenny Rodriguez

4. Dirty Thursday

Things to do

Count on a night of beloved throwbacks and sweaty dancing at this free weekly nostalgia rager at House of Yes. The HOY crew often rewards well-costumed attendees with free drinks, so break out your finest patent leather, snap bracelets and overalls for this packed party. Count on DJ Dirty Finger to shut down ’90s Night on the first Thursday of the month, and dance to B-sides from the Material Girl's ouevre at Madonnarama on August 9. 

Le Poisson Rouge, The Freedom Party
Photograph: Courtesy

5. Freedom Party NYC

Things to do

The ’80s and ’90s gave us 20 years’ worth of great music, from Prince and The Smiths to The Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, so why limit yourself to one? Come and get down to tunes spanning multiple genres (hip-hop, R&B, pop, rock, reggae) and decades. Old-school dressing’ isn’t a requirement, but if ever there were a time to bust out your harem pants or wear your sunglasses at night, it’s now.

Dances of Vice: Enchantment Under the Sea
Photograph: Jane Kratochvil

6. Dances of Vice: Summer Nights Burlesque Sail

Things to do

This bacchanal may take place aboard a Civil-War era shooner, but men and women need not dress for battle too attend this sexy, after-dark sail. Instead, don your fanciest and most titillating duds, sip a nightcap or two and watch performers MC Eli Rose, Laszlo Major, Veronica Varlow arouse you. Tunes provided by DJ Johanna Constantine combined with your sweet dance moves will rock the boat.

Emo Night
Photograph: Courtesy Nick Karp

7. Emo Night Brooklyn

Things to do

“Your lipstick/his collar/don’t bother Angel…” if you can finish the lyrics to that fragment of a verse, this rager is where you belong. Cake on the eyeliner, rock your Taking Back Sunday T-shirt and scream the lyrics to your favorite punk-rock bands of the ’00s. DJs spin all the heart-tugging hits from New Found Glory, Senses Fail, Dashboard Confessional, Mayday Parade and more. Rock on but be warned, things could get...dark.

8. Lola Star's Dreamland Roller Disco

Things to do Quirky events

Channel your best Donna Summer or Bee Gees look and shake your groove thing to sexy hits like “I Feel Love” while attempting to do the hustle on four wheels at this roller rink shindig. Skating (and dancing) queen Lola Star hosts decade parties all summer, but this one celebrates the bash’s anniversary at Lakeside Prospect Park (and its appropriately disco-themed) so you know the costumes and the tunes are going to be “Hot Stuff.”

34th St Partnership

9. Vinyl Nights with the MM Crew at Plaza 33

Things to do Performances

The Mobile Monday's crew takes over Thursday nights with a free outdoor dance party. DJs play funk, soul, disco, pop, house, hip hop and salsa while you cut a rug to nonstop vinyl on the street. Look out for apperances by storied DJs like Joey Carvello, Woof, Misbehaviour, Natasha Diggs, Operator Emz and many others. 

Future Old School
Photograph: Courtesy Madison McGaw

10. Future Old School

Things to do

Brooklyn-based DJs Dash Speaks, NSR, Friends w Benefits and Will Buck inject this monthly hip-hop party with a passion for vintage rap and fond memories of block parties in a pre-gentrified NYC. Special guests have included Pete Rock, Maseo, J. Period, Pharoahe Monch and many more for this beloved night of crowd-pleasers and little-known remixes. 


11. Romy & Michele's Saturday Afternoon Tea Dance

Things to do

DJ Bright Light Bright Light’s joyous tribute to the still-untouchable heroines of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion delivers a consistent stream of Mariah Carey, Scissor Sisters, Bette Midler and TLC to a merry band of adorable acolytes. Share your favorites on the DJ booth via Post-it and revel in the fact that you look totally cutting edge.

Vince Clark DJ set at Le Poisson Rouge
Photograph: Filip Wolak

12. What's Your Age Again?

Things to do

Le Poisson Rouge shuts it down every Friday with this hardcore nostalgia-rager, featuring the appropriately-titled cover bands Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and TRL. Lose your voice singing along to crowd pleasers from the oeuvres of Prince, TLC, Nirvana, Outkast and beyond at this wild weekly bash.

The Bell House
Photograph: Chad Herndon

13. Tainted Love: ’80s Dance Party with DJ Jane Elizabeth

Things to do Quirky events

Fans of Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys and Siouxsie and the Banshees show up in droves to dance to synth-pop, new wave, glam rock, old-school hip-hop and more at this monthly party helmed by DJ Jane Elizabeth. Tease out your hair and let loose on the dance floor to massive hits and lesser-known jams of the era.

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Maison Premiere; Bar Awards
Photograph: Filip Wolak

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