The Lincoln Heights Senior Center is a one-story, brick-and-cement building located a few minutes’ drive from downtown Los Angeles. It opens its doors at 8 a.m. every weekday, welcoming a largely Mexican and Central American community from throughout East LA.
It offers all the activities that draw older adults to most senior centers: bingo, computer classes and subsidized meals. But there’s one weekly event that packs the house and gets everyone on their feet: the Thursday dance. So much so, the Center has gotten the reputation of being one of the liveliest places in the neighborhood.
But you must be 60 years or older to be allowed inside. Starting at noon, a four-person live band starts playing in the big recreation room, and the tables are pushed out of the way to make room for the dancers.
For $5 a pop, men and women come every week to dance for four hours straight to bachata, cumbia, merengue and norteño music. The music is loud. And the dance floor fills up quickly, especially when the band plays Spanish-language oldies.
A few of the dancers come as part of a couple; others come alone, eager to meet strangers and possible future dates. But Blanca Acosta and Erga Cruz, two longtime female friends, have been coming to the Thursday dance for over five years, and they have no interest in meeting anybody new.