Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Friendliest Dance Club - Suburban Swing

The Friendliest Dance Club -- Suburban Swing

Hello, I'm Wylin Tjoelker and this is my first review of a dance club for this, my new lead oriented blog -- Dance Club Review.  In the coming days I will be writing more on the subject of ballroom social dance, so please check back again to see what's new.

After much procrastination, I finally decided to start this blog and share this review because, when something really impresses me, I just can't keep quiet about it and eventually I have to say something.  My experience at Suburban Swing has provided sufficient inspiration to overcome my reticence and finally start publishing.

Before I continue, let me tell you a bit about myself so you will understand where I am coming from.  I am a married, middle aged father of two sons and two daughters who range in age from 10 to 25 years old.  I am fairly new to social dance having started only a year and a half ago.  I have visited many local dance clubs and I regularly attend up to five different dance clubs a week in Whatcom and Skagit counties as well as in the city of Bellingham and here at Suburban Swing in Abbotsford Canada.  Yes, my Canadian friends, I’m a Yank.  I live near the border town of  Sumas, Washington.  I am actively learning several types of dance with West Cost Swing being my favorite, East Coast/Lindy Hop being my intensive focus for the last four months and Blues being my most recent discovery.  

In my journey so far, I have encountered a fair bit of variation in the quality of the various dance clubs.  Each has its own unique character, its own strengths and weaknesses, that are determined primarily by the people involved.  Together they make up the atmosphere or the “spirit”, if you will, of each particular dance club.

As you may have guessed, I am enthusiastic to write this review, because my experience at Suburban Swing has been positive - exceptionally positive in fact.  What has impressed me the most is the genuine warmth, kindness and welcoming atmosphere that has consistently been extended to me at this club.

When someone decides to try social dancing for the first time, or, if they already dance and they decide to try out a new dance club, they often wonder how they are going to be received.  Are they going to feel like they belong, or are they going to feel like an outsider?  What is the larger social dance experience at this place going to be like?

To answer those questions, I will describe Suburban Swing as a new lead might experience it.  

The first thing he would notice is that the facilities themselves are quite good.  A large amount of free parking is conveniently located around the dance hall.  They even have a spacious, paved, fenced and well lit parking lot along the side of the building.  The dance floor is large and its surface is particularly good for sliding, turning and pivoting.  Comfortable upholstered benches surround most of the dance floor.  There is a sizable stage for live bands and DJs.  The bathrooms are clean, well lit and fairly spacious. Adjacent to the dance floor there is a large adjoining room with good tables and chairs, and a kitchen from which birthday cakes are often served in honor of members of this dance community.  The doors are often left open and large fans are deployed to effectively cool the dance floor and provide plenty of oxygen.

The first people one meets are the front desk team, who are found to possess that rare and valuable combination of warmth, friendliness and efficiency.  I have also found the price of admission to the classes and the social dance to be a good value considering the overall quality of the experience here.  They even provide you with a punch card that grants you every 6th DJ dance night for free. They also have this really neat birthday promo thing where they invite you and ten of your friends, (ten first time dancers, or five regular dancers and 5 matching first time dancers), to come and dance for free!

Before the general class and social dance, waiting guests, sitting on the comfortable benches, are entertained as they watch students from the advanced classes practice what they just learned.

Now I get to write about what really stands out at Suburban Swing and what motivated me to finally write this review:  the people.  Being a lead, I will start with the follows.  Though there is a wide range of ages, most of them seem to be in their late teens through mid twenties.  They generally dress more formally than at other dance clubs, thus brightening the dance experience for everyone in the room.  What really impressed me was how naturally open and friendly they are.  During the class, as they rotate along the circle to each new lead, they shake your hand like they mean it, smile genuinely and introduce themselves gracefully.  They are universally the most welcoming follows I have met at any dance club and they exhibit a degree of maturity and confidence normally found only in experienced adult follows.  One wonders where Suburban Swing finds these kids.  Perhaps many of them were homeschooled or something.  It may be a result of religious faith, as so many dancers here wear jewelry with crosses.  At any rate, they were obviously very well raised and are a great credit to their parents. 

And that’s just the new follows.  The more advanced and accomplished follows are also noteworthy, especially because of their approachability, their cheerfulness, and their willingness to dance with even brand new leads - this author has yet to be turned down for a dance by any one of them.  Their dancing is first rate, with styling to match.  They are invariably well dressed and some of them do a great job of recapturing the 1940s Swing Dance look.  Dancing with them is like stepping out of a time machine into a more beautiful and brighter era.  It always feels like a real privilege to dance with such classy, talented and friendly advanced follows.

Another very pleasant surprise for leads at Suburban Swing is to be asked for a dance by follows.  Yes, that actually happens here.  Many of the follows here are really nice.  They possess those rare and beautiful qualities of kindness, courage and confidence that are such powerful indicators of exemplary character.  They really help to boost the confidence of and the sense of acceptance of the new leads.

The welcoming atmosphere here doesn’t just stop with the follows.  Normally, at dance clubs, leads largely ignore each other.  But not at Suburban Swing.  One of my best experiences here is meeting new leads who go out of their way to introduce themselves, shake hands and strike up a friendly conversation.  They willingly and cheerfully share valuable dance tips and advice.  This greatly enhances the general camaraderie here and helps new leads to feel at home.

The Sunday night basic class, just before the social dance, does a good job of introducing new dancers to East Coast Swing and invariably also provides a few cool new moves for the intermediates.  This basic class is heavily attended as there are always a lot of new dancers and the more experienced dancers join the circle to help teach them.  These classes are sometimes taught by guest instructors from other dance clubs or by some of Suburban Swing’s advanced dancers.  They all do a really good job, and dancers always learn something new.

The advanced classes occur earlier in the evening at 5 or 6 o’clock and are taught by Suburban Swing organizer and manager team Jason & Crystal Warner.  They do a great job of breaking down complex moves into learnable segments.  However, what really sets them apart as instructors is that they don’t just go through the motions.  They genuinely want you to learn the moves well, and it shows through in how attentive, patient and kind they are, and in the way that they will find additional time to help a student to really grasp a complex move.  The other students join in that same spirit and are friendly and helpful.  It is common for very advanced dancers to retake the classes just to help out with the new students.  Very cool!

The music at Suburban Swing is another of their strong points.  Their DJs, especially Jose Manzano, are first rate, and their music selections are a really good mix of old and new numbers that are very danceable.  I first met Jose at another dance club where he was serving as DJ.  He invited me to Suburban Swing, which is how I discovered this dance club.  Jose is a righteous dude!

One of the most amazing additional benefits of Suburban Swing is provided by a couple of the advanced follows who often come dressed 1940s style.  They join in on the microphone and sing the vocal parts of some of the 1940s dance numbers.  They sound like the Andrews Sisters, and the quality of their singing is nothing short of astounding.  Listening to them is a real treat and is alone worth the price of admission to the dance.

Suburban Swing also attracts some really high quality live bands.  They seem to have live band nights about once a month, and the additional cost for these nights is only $6.  It is obvious that the band members consider it a privilege to perform here, and, judging by how well they are received and appreciated by the dancers, it is not hard to see why.

There are many very, very talented advanced dancers who regularly attend here, and watching their fantastic performances is an amazing experience in and of itself.

Formal and themed event nights at Suburban Swing are very well attended, and dancers make a real effort to dress the part.  These events always prove to be a fun, bright and shiny experience for everyone and are not to be missed.

The social dance itself receives large participation.  The only leads not dancing seem to be the ones who choose not to dance a particular number, because it is extremely rare here for a follow to turn down a lead for a dance.  There appear to be two reasons for this.  Firstly, the follows here apparently possess great quality of character.  They are above all genuinely kind, welcoming and gracious.  Secondly, they appear to be inspired by the example set by the more advanced follows who especially exemplify those same qualities.

What I am about to say now may sound a bit odd, but I am going to share it with you anyway.  I have found that the friendly and welcoming spirit so consistently communicated at this dance club is similar to that which is found in the very best of our area's churches.  By our best churches I am referring to those that actually and naturally practice the kind of genuine care, concern and friendliness toward others that Jesus taught would be the singular defining characteristic of His followers:  "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." - John 13:35

So, in summary, it is my pleasure to say that, after having attended Suburban Swing weekly for three and a half months, I have experienced them to be the friendliest dance club that I have yet encountered.  The people here honestly care about each other and about new dancers.  Perhaps that is why they are the longest continuously running dance club in all of Canada.  They do good in the lives of both new and advanced dancers and are a real blessing to them.  They are a great example of how a dance club should be run, and are a real credit to our larger dance community.
May they be blessed in return.

Wylin Tjoelker    Dance Club Review

For more details about Suburban Swing check out their website:

P.S.  Perhaps you also have had a really positive experience at Suburban Swing, or at another dance club, and you would like to share that with others.  No better time than the present!  Strike while the metal is hot! Say hello and write a few words by clicking on the "no comments" link directly below.

All the best to you, fellow dance enthusiasts.

No comments:

Post a Comment

No doubt there is something important that I failed to mention in this article, and I greatly appreciate any comment you would like to share that will benefit our dance community, so by all means bless us with your insights by commenting below :)