Monday, November 3, 2014

Ritmo Latino Salsa Club – Outstanding Leadership!

Those who have been following for some time may have noticed that, although I named this blog “Dance Club Review,” I have only posted one review of a dance club.  This is because I only post reviews of dance clubs that I find to be truly outstanding.  There has to be something so special about them that I simply must extol their virtues to my readers.  There are times when one simply must give credit where credit is so abundantly due.

Latin dances were the next step in my journey to learn all the dances, and it was from my friends at WWU Swing Kids that I discovered the Ritmo Latino Salsa Club of Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.  They came highly recommended by several dance friends of mine who are students at the college.  I soon found out why.  Here is a link to their Facebook page:

Due to a prior speaking engagement, I arrived late for the first day of this year’s Ritmo Latino Salsa Club.  I missed the opening welcome, announcements, and warm up drills.  I joined the class just as the leads separated off from the follows to learn the basic Salsa footwork.  I noticed right away that this club had obtained a lot of participation.  The Viking Union Multipurpose Room in which the class is held was quite full.  The leads were directed to one end of the large room.  In order for them to see the instructor’s demonstrations, they were arranged in four rows across the entire end of the floor.  These rows were rotated so everyone would get a chance to be in the front row.  I joined in off to the side on one end, whipped out my trusty notebook, and commenced writing down everything I was learning.

I instantly became aware of something significant.  The instructor clearly had the attention of this entire group of guys.  This was a positive, enthusiastic type of attention - and it was universal.  It was hard to describe exactly.  You could feel it in the air.  Keep in mind that these guys are college students and are not normally known for their Olympic attention spans.  I began to think that I must have missed something special in those opening remarks. 

As the class proceeded, I began to understand how this degree of attention had been obtained.  The dance instructor, a young man by the name of Sean Cavanagh, apparently has that very rare quality sometimes referred to as natural leadership ability.  It is not the type of leadership technique that one learns in books but is instead more of a spiritual type of thing.  Either a person has it, or he doesn’t.  An individual might not know that he has it until crisis or necessity forces it to the surface, but it was already there to begin with.  It is, in part, the ability to inspire others with a positive vision.  It produces enthusiasm and the adoption of a shared goal by others.  It quickly creates a spirit of good-hearted unity and camaraderie among the participants.

It was also immediately obvious that Sean Cavangh was not just a leader to these guys.  They perceived him as a friend, like a brother, a man who has attained both their attention and their respect.  He is what is known as “a man’s man”.

As the class proceeded, I also perceived a lot of happy noises coming from the other end of the room, where the follows were practicing their own set of basic steps.  As the two groups converged to practice their newly learned footwork together, I soon learned the reason for those happy noises.

The follows’ instructor was a young lady by the name of Anna Magidson.  When I first saw her, a number of things became immediately and strikingly apparent.  This young woman simply exudes positivity.  When she smiles (which she somehow manages to do almost all the time), she smiles with her whole being.  She is one of the less than one percent of the human population who possesses a truly spectacular smile.  Now, I admit that my ability to read people is limited, but, as I observed the follows while Anna spoke with them, I noticed that her effectiveness in explaining the dance steps was greatly leveraged by her positive aura.  She had more than just their attention.  She had their admiration.  That is what I felt I saw in their eyes.  It seemed to me that they wanted to be like her.  They too wanted to be positive, accomplished, cheerful, radiant young ladies.  One can only imagine how much happiness they will bring into the lives of others if they are successful in emulating her qualities of personality.  To these girls, Anna is more than just a dance teacher; she too is a friend, and there are few things better in this world than a good friend.

When Sean and Anna demonstrate and explain the dance moves together they present a cheerful, unified experience for the students.  They don’t second guess each other - no negativity occurs.  The result is that the nothing detracts from the students' positive learning experience - nothing dampens their enthusiasm.  Sean and Anna are not just teaching Salsa moves; they are imparting a positive vision of the dance to the entire class. The result of this is clearly noticeable - this is a very happy dance club.  In fact, the spirit of happiness is so powerful here that I was originally going to entitle this article “The Happiest Dance Club,” but I decided to focus on the power of this club’s leadership instead, as it appears to me that the universal happiness here is very much a result of the positive example set by those who direct it.

I had to ask myself: Is this particular group of college students a cut above the rest, or am I just seeing them at their best because they’ve been influenced by Sean and Anna’s positive vision.  I don’t know for sure, but I have met many of them and have observed the others over the four consecutive Monday nights on which this class has been held so far, and they all seem like good, wholesome, friendly young adults.  They certainly have been very kind and welcoming to me.

But wait, there’s more!  Sean and Anna are doing more than just imparting a positive attitude.  They are also teaching Salsa, and they are not just going through the motions.  No, they really want their students to effectively learn the dance.  Their attention to detail as they work diligently and patiently to ensure that everyone in the group truly learns the foundational steps and moves reveals a serious dedication to their craft.  It also reveals that they genuinely care about their students.  Instead of leaving struggling people behind, they assess people’s moves and provide individual attention and encouragement. 

They even accommodate students who have joined the class 1, 2, 3, and even 4 days late.  To do this, they separate the class into sections based on what stages of instruction they have already mastered.  They have assigned trained teachers who share their positive vision to instruct these separate classes.  At the beginning of each session, they take time to review what the students had learned the previous week.  This greatly helps both to solidify the previously learned move and to prepare the students to learn the next move.  Recently they have also started a number of small mentoring classes that will meet independently with an instructor to master the finer points of the dance.  These in depth salsa fundamentals lessons have proven to be very beneficial, and, judging by how the class numbers have remained high, they have also been a real hit with the students.  Recently, I learned from a friend that this outstanding program of instruction was primarily organized by Anna.  So, she is not just radiant and visionary, but very wise as well, a truly unique and specially gifted individual.

In summary, let’s look at the basic elements here and see what they add up to.  We have charismatic inspiring leadership + the imparting of that leadership vision to additional trained instructors + the adoption of that positive vision by the students + dedicated, careful, complete, and intelligent instruction in the fundamentals = one very competent, accomplished, happy, friendly, and welcoming dance club.  And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing, a very rare and beautiful thing indeed.

For me personally, it has been a real pleasure and a privilege to meet these wonderful people, to see them in action, and to witness the positive results in the lives of their students, whom it has also been my very great pleasure to meet.  They are what true leadership looks like, and they are a great credit to our entire dance community.

Keep up the very good work, and see you on the dance floor, fellow dance enthusiasts,

Wylin Tjoelker     Dance Evangelist      Dance Club Review

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How to really support your favorite dance club - Part Five: The drop-in class needs You!

Those of us who have been dancing for some time fondly remember the classes we attended as our introduction to the fantastic world of dance!  We have personally experienced the value of these classes and we know what a blessing they are to individual dancers and to the entire dance community.

In a typical drop in class, the lead and follow instructors stand in the middle, and the class of lead and follow student pairs surrounds them in one big circle.  This class occurs before the actual social dance.  Other smaller specialized classes and workshops follow the same general format.  These classes are a great way to learn to dance initially, as well as to learn great new moves and the finer points of dance fundamentals and advanced skills.  They are also a wonderful way to meet your fellow dancers.

Everyone can benefit greatly from these classes, especially when we all work together to make that happen.  Here are a few suggestions that will help you be a fantastic and valuable part of the team.

One:  If you really want to attain the maximum benefit, start by anticipating what a fantastic class it is going to be!  Just think about the great new things you are going to learn!  Think about the profound new insights the instructors will give you!  Anticipate the exciting new moves you will discover!  Imagine the great new people you will meet!  You are going to love this!!  Prepare for the jump into Awesomeness!!!

Two:  Come to the class even if you are already a great dancer and don’t really need the instruction.  You can help the new dancers grasp what is being taught and you can also inspire their confidence by encouraging them with non-verbal positive feedback as you smile enthusiastically and nod your head etc.  Be careful, however, to avoid the temptation to "side teach" or to proceed through a move further than the stage up to which the teacher is presently teaching it.  This way you won't run the risk of distracting a student's attention from what the dance teachers are teaching.

Three:  Arrive early so you can change into your dance shoes and join in the initial warm up before the class.  Relax and enjoy yourself during the typically goofy warm up.  No one is watching you, really!  They are too busy enjoying their own goofiness.  Some of the better dance teachers will introduce steps and moves in the warm up that they will build upon later in the class, so pay attention too.

Four:  Confidently greet each new follow you meet during the normal rotation of the class but keep it really short, something like: “Hello, I’m (your name), nice to meet you.”  Be sure to engagingly shake her hand as you do this.  Listen carefully as she tells you her name and start memorizing it in the back of your head as that segment of the class proceeds.  At the end of that segment, when it is time to rotate to the next follow, face her directly, smile happily, bow slightly at the waist and thank her by name.  Remembering her name is very important as it will make her feel honored and accepted as part of the group.  When you rotate to the next follow, do so by passing behind the follow you just danced with, not in front of her.  In this way you will be communicating respect for her.

Five:  This is so vitally important that I cannot emphasize it enough: I implore you, please be very careful to talk as little as possible during the class other than that simple greeting and farewell mentioned above.  The instructors and your fellow students really need your help in this.  We are all naturally inclined to talk more than we should during class, especially with our best dance friends or when we meet a new and very engaging personality.  Remember, you can always talk later while dancing with her after the class.  If you must talk, say as little as possible and say it as quietly as possible

None of us wants to make the class difficult for anyone, but the tragic truth is that our talking out of turn has the cumulative effect of making our instructor’s job terribly hard.  It really messes with their minds!  It burns up the valuable the time that they desperately need to teach us successfully, and it is seriously frustrating and discouraging to them also.  It erodes their heart, and as the best teachers teach from the heart, that needs to be protected.  When we talk out of turn we are hurting our fellow students also because we are really distracting them when they are trying to concentrate on what is being taught so they can grasp it.  The bottom line is that our instructors and our fellow students do so much for us and they deserve our respect, so we really need to restrain our natural sociability during class, as well as during club announcements and such. 

A similar, and actually even more problematic situation, occurs when dancers who are not taking the class gather in groups just outside of the class circle and talk loudly and constantly.  It is as though they think that because they are outside the circle, that no one can hear them, when in reality everyone hears them and is irritably wondering when they are going to realize this!  Everyone in the class circle starts looking in their direction as the dance instructors contemplate whether to stop the class and march straight out of the dance circle to go talk to them!

Brothers and sisters, none of us wants to make life difficult for anyone else.  We have got to think more about each other’s well-being.  We have got to place this as a very high priority when we are at our favorite dance club. OK, I know we’ve got the point so I’ll stop the preachin’ now.

Six:  Be really diligent to catch the important details that are being demonstrated by the instructors.  What are the count numbers of the steps?  Is he leading her in an outside (to the left) turn or an inside (to the right) turn?  How and in what direction is the initial prep move being done? What is the instructor strongly emphasizing? – it must be important!  On what count is the main action of the move being done?  Is he pivoting on his left foot or his right foot and on what count number is he doing this?  An important part of learning dance is watching the instructors closely in order to get these and other vital questions answered; and without them being answered the move cannot be learned well.  If the instructor asks if anyone has questions, by all means raise your hand and ask them.  Half the class probably has the same question but is afraid to ask.  Some instructors will describe and perform the move they taught at the end of the class so you can record it on your phone or camera.  This can be a great way to review and grasp what has been taught more thoroughly.

Seven:  Immediately after the class, while everything is still fresh in your mind, sit down somewhere whip out your trusty notebook, write down the name of the dance club, the date, the instructors’ names, the name of the move, and then write down the individual elements of the move in sufficient detail that you will be able to read and understand it when you use these notes to practice it at home tomorrow, or even a year from now.  Use abbreviations that you will always understand like “LF” for left foot, “RH” for right hand, and “F” for follow, etc.  You can also take this opportunity to write down the names and short descriptions of the great new people you just met during the class.  There are few more engaging ways of honoring people and making them feel truly welcome than by enthusiastically addressing them by name whenever you meet them in the future.

Eight:  Search out the instructors, heartily shake their hands and thank them for the valuable things they just taught you.  Be specific about the things that they taught that helped you the most or about a particular way in which they taught the class well.  Don’t worry about having to wait in line to do this.  Very few people realize how valuable and powerful positive feedback is to these dear people.  Instructors often struggle with whether they are actually helping people at all.  Free them from these troubling doubts –   free them! – and give to them as they have given to you.  It’s the right thing to do, and you will realize this when you do it.

Nine:  Ask several successive follows to dance and practice the new move with them.  Now you can talk and laugh and have a great, exuberant time as you help each other to iron out the kinks of the move!

Ten:  Practice the new move at home with your sister, friend, wife, daughter, etc., whoever you may have available.  This is how good dancers become really great - consistent daily practice!

To sum it up, we have a really good thing going with these classes!  We need to recognize their great value and leverage that value to its fullest potential!

All the best to you, fellow dance enthusiasts,

Wylin Tjoelker     Dance Evangelist     Dance Club Review

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Protect Follows - from dance floor injuries

I’ve put off writing this post for way too long.  I just didn’t feel that I had learned enough to do justice to such an important subject.  But I have decided to go ahead and write what I knew at present anyway in hopes that my fellow dancers will leave some comments that will fill in the blanks.

Now, admittedly, this feels like kind of a negative subject.  I mean dance is really a fun and fantastic experience.  Why spoil it by reminding us of any attendant unpleasant realities?

It’s simple really.  Any of us who have been dancing for some time have seen injuries occur, or we know someone who has been injured, perhaps permanently.  Also, this blog is mainly written for leads, especially new leads.  And as leads, and gentlemen, we care about follows.  And those whom we care about, we protect.  This is written in the DNA code of every man.
It is also one of the many important reasons to work really hard to learn to dance well.  It is only when the steps and moves become as natural as riding a bicycle that you will be able to free up some mental capacity to apply to the other really important elements of dance.  Like making eye contact with your follow and actually smiling.  Perhaps even carrying on somewhat of a conversation, encouraging her with well deserved compliments on her dancing ability and things of that nature.

Once you arrive at this level of dance proficiency, take a few weeks, at least, to really focus on how you are leading your follow.  Are you leading in such a way as will protect her from injury?  Ask advice of your follows and talk as well with fellow leads to learn their insights on how to lead well and safely.

Let’s start with some theory.  Ancient Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu stressed the importance of knowing yourself and of knowing your counterpart.  Let’s focus first on yourself.  As a man, you naturally enjoy the application of energy.  This is one of the reasons you love to dance.  You exalt in the centrifugal force, the inertia, the compression, the bounce.  This is why the various forms of swing dancing, especially Lindy Hop, are so exhilarating to you.  Now, many follows, especially the advanced follows, enjoy these things also, but honestly, there are few who will ever enjoy them as much as you do.  Admit it, you’re essentially a Star Wars Wookiee minus the laser crossbow.  You’re like a young German Shepard playing with a rag doll.  Yeah, you know you are!  And it’s not just your natural inclinations as an energy application junkie that make you dangerous.  You have the upper body strength and build to match.

Because of these realities, a vital element of the art of dance, for you, as a lead, is restraint.  The better and stronger leads strive to practice this restraint all the time.  If they didn’t there would be many follows without arms and multiple follow-shaped holes in dancehall walls.  

So herein lies the most important reality to grasp.  Your follow is not you.  She is different from you.  If you are really going to advance as a lead you must recognize, respect and appreciate her for how she is and not make the mistake of assuming that she’s just like you.  Keeping this in mind does not come naturally because we tend to see others through our own eyes and thus interact with them as though they are just another one of us.  Trust me, this natural blind spot gets both men and women into no end of trouble with each other all the time.  Success in interactions between people is therefore largely dependent upon recognizing others as they actually are, rather than just assuming that they are as we are.  We are all individuals and few experiences reveal this reality more than dance.

Thus, the quest to protect your follow from dance floor injuries is greatly dependent upon how you view her.  Now, while it is true that a particular follow might especially exhibit that precious quality known as good, solid frame, you must not let that tempt you to view her as: “Strong!!, Like Bear!!”  No, no, that’s you!  Instead, you must recognize her as: “delicate, like pretty flower” and then dance with your follow, or, your flower, accordingly, making sure that none of her delicate petals become detached and float to the dance room floor.

Now, with that shimmering vision so pleasantly inspiring our minds let us examine the practical meaning of that beautiful word: “Delicate”.

Let’s get right to the bottom of things and start with her feet.  Her delicate feet.  The real danger to your follow’s feet is not so much that you will step on them, but rather, that another dancer on a crowded dance floor will.  Though we recognize that it is very difficult for most of us guys to multitask, we really need to pay attention to the other dancers around us to keep our follow safe from being stepped on.

Some follows who are very new to dance will ask for help with the basic steps.  This is a great opportunity to encourage them to take shorter and much safer back steps.  When we first learn to dance we naturally take longer back steps as a normal effort to establish muscle memory.

Dance instructors try to correct this by discouraging it during class but it is a very hard trait to overcome.  It is most obviously identified in the dancer sending their foot way back, sometimes 36 inches or more, during the back step.  On a crowded dance floor this is a very dangerous thing to do.  It can result in them getting their heal and Achilles Tendon stepped on.  you can show them how to take more shallow and much safer back steps by placing their toe where their heal previously was and making a full weight transfer.  As you practice this together while counting out the steps you can sell them on the three great benefits to this shallow back step: it will enable them to dance to much faster music without falling out of sync with the rhythm; it will enable them to dance for hours almost every evening with out getting excessively tired; and it will protect them from one of the most common dance floor injuries: that of getting the back of their heal stepped on.

Some follows communicate a real interest in learning the finer points of dance and it's a joy to see their excitement as they master new things.  New follows tend to have a wealth of humility and they often appreciate the help.  Their success in mastering these new skills gives you the opportunity to praise and compliment them which has the beautiful effect of enhancing their confidence on the dance floor and their general overall state of happiness, which then inspires other leads to ask them to dance. 

Protecting our follow’s delicate feet can be more important than we normally realize.  A good friend of mine was stepped on three times in one dance evening.  The third time the side of her foot was stepped on and she suffered permanent damage from that injury.  She loves to dance, and she is one of the sweetest kids you will ever meet, but now her dancing is limited by her pain.  Yes, dance floor injuries are still going to occur regardless, but that does not absolve us as leads from doing what we can do to protect our follows from them.

Next let’s consider our follow’s delicate hands.  Always bear in mind that your follow is not some inanimate object that you need to crank around and throw like a rope with a grappling hook at the end.  The real point of hand connection is to provide only direction and the safety provided by reversing, stopping or catching or supporting that direction once it has reached its intended end. 

The really important thing that you need to do is to ensure that your follow’s hand is not trapped or restricted within your hand.  As she turns and pivots, her hand needs to be able to move with complete freedom within your hand.  This freedom of movement will protect her fingers, wrist , elbow, shoulder and back from strain.  Think of her hand as a pivot pin and your hand as a shallow cup.  Sometimes the opening of the cup will face down as it does when her hand is over her head as she is turning.  Sometimes the cup will face upwards as it often does when it is behind her back during a Texas Tommy move.  The point is to always provide her hand with as much freedom to move as possible.  Also, avoid pinching her hand with your thumb.  Actually, avoid using your thumb at all.  Always adjust your lead to your follow’s ability and personality.  Don’t rush her through a turn.  Let her go at her own pace.  Always check for other dancers before you swing her out so that you can avoid collisions.  Be gentle with your follow.  Invite her to follow your lead, don’t compel her.  Remember that key word: “delicate”. 


Now we must talk about what is probably the most important thing: our follow’s delicate shoulders.  Keep in mind that her shoulder bones, muscles and ligaments are considerably smaller than yours and are very vulnerable.  They must be protected.  The really important rule is that you must never allow her upraised hand to be sent behind her back.  Always keep her hand in front of her or at least well within the range of her peripheral vision.  Also, keep her hand low to avoid the effects of excess leverage.  As she pivots, her and your hands should just clear her fancy hair.  Envision a halo of about 15” in diameter above and around her head and trace her hand on the rim of that halo, again allowing it to pivot with total freedom within the down turned cup of your hand.  When initiating a turn, use the flat of your hand in a high five position and quickly reform it into a downward facing cup to ensure full freedom of movement for her hand.

Especially in Lindy Hop, and in other forms of swing dancing as well, avoid allowing either yours or your follow’s arms to be fully extended.  You need to be able to absorb the inertia at the end of a swing out with your somewhat bent elbow in order to protect your follow’s shoulder from any physical shock.

Lastly, we come to the importance of protecting your follow’s delicate head.  I will never forget the night at a dance venue way down south when one of my good follow friends tripped while dancing, (new shoes I think), and her head hit the dance room floor.  It was loud.  I think almost everyone on the dance floor heard it.  She suffered a mild concussion.  Though she recovered, we were all very concerned at the time.  A really sad fact is that the lead she was dancing with at the time was one of the best leads I have ever met.  She had tripped suddenly and without warning.  He tried valiantly to catch her, but she slipped from his grasp.  It was not his fault.  These sorts of accidents can happen to even the best of us.

One of the serious but rarely realized dangers to your follow's head (or ears actually) comes from the dance club's sound system.  Try to avoid the area within twenty feet or so directly in front of the speakers as, depending of the volume, your follow's hearing could be easily damaged.
In regular dancing the greatest danger to your follow’s head occurs, as you would expect, when she is being dipped.  The main danger, however, is not that you will drop her but rather that another lead will dip his follow at the same time and the two follow’s heads will bonk together.  Many of us are chuckling right now because this has happened to us.  Thankfully these bonks are usually very minor.  But again, this is why, as a lead, you always want to be checking for other dancers before you initiate a dip.  Also, in preparation for a dip you must prepare to set up with your left leg extended with knee bent to support the weight of the reclining follow.  Her safety depends on this vital step.

Lastly, a word about Lindy Aerials, or air steps,  I personally love them as does my eleven year old daughter who’s always pestering me to practice them with her.  That's the two of us in the photo below.  We were in costume for Suburban Swing's Star Wars Theam Night.  Tiffany was a young Princess Leia and I was Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The main point about aerials is that you only should do them if you are sufficiently proficient in them and only with a follow is also proficient in the same particular moves you plan to perform.  Very ideally, the two of you should have practiced them together in training with a spotter to protect your follow until the both of you have come to fully trust each other and you are able to successfully communicate to your follow exactly what move you intend next to do and she indicates that she is ready to follow through with the move.  You also want to be absolutely sure that the surrounding area is, and will remain, free of other dancers.  Remember that your follow has to come down eventually on her feet so you will need to temper your move to reduce that impact.  Also, always inquire of the dance hall hosts as to whether aerials are even allowed.  Most often they are not due to the significant liability risks involved.  Bottom line: never initiate an aerial move with an untrained, unprepared follow who does not fully know and trust you.  It’s almost a sure way for someone to get seriously hurt.  And believe me, that would not look cool. 

Another minor point I should mention.  You also need to be aware of how you are deploying your right hand.  You know, the one on your follow’s back.  In regular East Coast closed position hold this is not an issue as your hand is essentially placed on the middle upper area of her back.  But in a close hold position like is often employed in blues and fusion dancing you need to be aware of the importance of protecting her kidneys from being bruised by your hand.

Which brings us to a very important point.  Talk with your follow.  Encourage her to give you feedback on how you are dancing with her.  Does she feel safe?  Does she feel comfortable?  Is there anything you could do that would make the dance better for her?  Understand that if a follow says that she feels "safe" while dancing with you she is paying you one of the greatest compliments you could ever receive.

For us leads, this is really a major reason for us to learn to dance really well.  It frees up our mental capacity so that we can apply it in ways whereby we can protect our follows and make the dance for them the best, happiest and most fulfilling experience that it can possibly be.

For us as leads and as gentlemen a great deal of our success is measured by our follow's joy.  And that’s the real goal, the real pinnacle of dance attainment.

All the best to you fellow dance enthusiasts,

Wylin Tjoelker      Dance Club Review

PS.  I just know that I have missed some very important points about protecting follows from injuries.  If you noticed any glaring omissions, could you please bring them to our attention by clicking the “Comments” link below and sharing with us?  A few seconds of your time could save a follow from a serious, and possibly even permanent, injury.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Bellingham Dance Company's production of

Dancing Through Wonderland


This is a really fantastic, beautiful show!

You won't want to miss it.

Performances this Friday night - May 2nd at 7:30 PM


This Saturday - May 3rd at 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM

At the historic Bellingham Theater Guild

1600 H St Bellingham, Washington


Purchase tickets at:

It has been my privilege to provide videography services to U&Me Dance Company and Bellingham Dance Company for many years.  This year they have produced a show that rivals even their past spectacular performances.

This is one local dance theater event that is well worth your support.

Enjoy a fantastic evening in Wonderland with Alice!

You will be glad you did.

All the best to you, fellow dance enthusiasts,

Wylin Tjoelker    Dance Club Review

Friday, March 7, 2014

Suburban Swing’s Winter Dance Retreat - Highlights

This was the first dance retreat I've attended, and I had a really great time!  What I discovered first was that the facilities here at Sunshine Valley RV Resort were well beyond my expectations.  The dance hall was large, with comfortable places to sit and visit for those few moments when we weren’t dancing.  

The cabins were truly outstanding - pine paneling, log frame furnishings and comfortable beds, along with fully equipped kitchens.  One could hardly ask for more - except perhaps a snow shovel for each cabin.  The driveways and parking areas for the cabins were kept well plowed though, which was good, as we were blessed with another foot of snow on Saturday and Sunday.  The people who run this resort obviously strive for excellence and they treat their guests very well.  
Adjoining the dance hall was a warm swimming pool and two hot tubs, which were each maintained at different temperatures so you could take your choice.  We had much fun playing competitive games of volleyball in the pool. 

Suburban Swing operators Jason & Crystal Warner provided snacks for us dancers: mixed chips, burritos, pizza and some fantastic Monster Energy Drink that I now find myself craving.  They also treated each cabin with two bottles of their own specially vinted Swing Dance Wine and a box of chocolate covered cookies – very classy!
The dance music was, as always, excellent, with D.J. Jose working his ever-rhythmical magic.

I recognized intermediate and advanced dancers from several other clubs.  In addition to those from Suburban Swing, there were dancers from WWU Swing Kids, Fairhaven Blues, Royal City Swing, Blues Bellingham and Hometown Swing.

The classes were great, and the instructors did a really god job of guiding us through the new moves.  It was also easy to learn because we were practicing with intermediate and advanced dancers.

Judging from the relaxed moods and the frequent smiles on the faces of the dancers, I think we all had a really good time at this retreat.   

Jason & Crystal & Crew did a great job setting this all up and ensuring that it all ran so smoothly.  They really know how to run a dance club, and as our experience this weekend indicates, they do an outstanding job at dance retreats as well.   Suburban Swing - The more you dance with them, the more you love them.

By the way, here’s a link to a review of their dance club:

Each of us could list their personal favorite experiences at this retreat.  Here are some of mine:

Enjoying the deep snow around the resort on snowshoes Friday morning and Saturday afternoon.

Being surprised by my wife and two youngest kids, who showed up with a birthday cake and balloons Friday night, and being danced with by so many good friends during the birthday dance.

Enjoying all the fun, laughter and camaraderie with my cabin mates: Martin Jonker, Christopher Plumber, Jimmy Stewart, Deb & Diann, Jim & Betty and Chris Christiansen.  We also enjoyed each others' cooking.  Martin’s  Indonesian Nasi Goreng was really good, and so was Betty’s chocolate granola and cookies and  her hamburger pasta/casserole.  And yes, they actually liked my Beans of Paradise dish and my Oatmeal Ala-mode!  Jim & Betty brought bouquets of tulips for each room and the kitchen table – I brought one home to Hilda, she really likes it.
Enjoying warm and friendly spiritual discussions with the multiple brands of fellow Christians in our cabin.

Learning new moves for dances I already know and learning entirely new dances like Balboa, Shag and Double Bug.

Successfully performing the Judo Flip maneuver in Kamron Sammon’s Lindy Aerials Class.

Having the opportunity to enjoy my favorite dance, West Coast Swing, both at the retreat and at Suburban Swing later Sunday night.

Dancing a fast Lindy hop to the Monkeys' hit single “I’m a Believer.” with one of Suburban Swing's most advanced follows.

( Photo by Keanau Reid )

Having the opportunity to ask questions of the panel of dance instructors Saturday night - a richly informative experience for all of us.

Being invited in for dinner by people in other cabins as I trudged past in the snow.

Catching a ride from the retreat to Abbotsford in the snow with my good friend D. J. Jose and enjoying each others' stories along the way.

Feasting on a fantastic dinner Sunday night at Martin Jonker’s place together with D.J. Jose and some of our other cabin mates.

Seeing so many of my fellow Whatcom Swing and WWU Swing Kids dancers at Suburban Swing Sunday night.

Being treated to a second birthday dance at Suburban Swing and being accosted by mischievous pairs of double bugging follows.

Dancing with the new follows again at Suburban Swing – nothing is better than seeing them smile.  To understand what I mean by that, check out this article:

And if you would like to understand the perspective from which this blog - Dance Club Review, is written, read this article:

Check out Suburban Swing's Facebook page for more photos of the retreat:

I can’t wait for my next dance club retreat!

All the best to you, fellow dance enthusiasts,

Wylin Tjoelker      Dance Club Review

PS.  We would love to hear about your favorite experiences at this retreat.  Feel free to share them in the comments box below.