Dancers enjoy Suburban Swing in Abbotsford in January.

Dancers enjoy Suburban Swing in Abbotsford in January.

VIDEO: Suburban Swing dancing takes off in Fraser Valley

This Sunday night's swing dance meet in Abbotsford has a special Valentine's theme and live jazz band.



In a simple square building tucked away in a corner of central Abbotsford, 120 people practice their swingouts, turns, and Charlestons on a cold January night. Nearly everyone is in sneakers or flats, and a few women wear the short flowing skirts characteristic of an earlier era.

The Suburban Swing dance group has been around for 14 years in Abbotsford teaching Lindy Hop and East Coast swing with a fun and friendly attitude. It has recently become so popular that many people drive over an hour to get to the Sunday night practices.

On one January night, the jazzy beats of the 1920s to ’50s fill the regular venue, the Abbotsford Social Activity Association (ASAA) hall. When instructors explain how to peck, dancers giggle. The move involves giving a dance partner a quick air peck, a common Lindy Hop move. When participants try it, they break out in laughter. This happens a lot during the night.

“When you walk in, you’re going to feel very welcome. People ask you to dance. Right away you get included with the whole group, no matter what your age is or status,” said Jason Warner, who owns the club alongside his wife Crystal.

The club has seen its average participant numbers grow 25 per cent over the last year. A record 300 people came out on Dec. 29, 2013.

About 40 per cent of dancers are men. And while the event is all ages, the average age is 20.

Warner started the swing dance club in 1999 when he was a criminology student at the University of the Fraser Valley. The first meetings were in the cafeteria. After several moves, Suburban Swing was eventually invited to the ASAA hall, their home for the past 13 years. The hall is a community dancing mecca, with ballroom, square, and line dancing meets on other nights.

Eager swing dancers come from all over, with only about half from Abbotsford. On on January night, there were people from Chilliwack, Mission, North Vancouver, and as far as Bellingham, WA.

Warner explains that while the Vancouver swing clubs compete against each other, Suburban Swing gets everyone else – from Hope to Surrey to Sumas – who want to try something fun. A three-day winter retreat for the end of February filled up with the maximum 80 people over a month prior.

There also isn’t much else to do on a Sunday night, adds Warner. The well-respected club is very diverse, with people from all backgrounds, abilities, and ages mixed together.

Warner now works as a correctional programs officer at Matsqui Institution. It’s not as strange a mix as it might seem, he says. He pulls his correctional background into dancing, and vice versa.

“My passion is working with people…I like public speaking. I really like facilitating and helping people change their lives. So I think that’s partly what I do here (at Suburban Swing); a crossover of my correctional experience and my social experience.”

In addition to the Sunday nights at ASAA hall, Warner also teaches swing dance at W. J. Mouat secondary in Abbotsford, and G.W. Graham secondary in Chilliwack. He dreams of the club growing large enough to have its own venue capable of holding 300–400 people.

This Sunday night, Jan. 16, the theme is “Red” in honour of Valentine’s Day. Jazz musician Goby Catt is playing live. The drop-in beginner lesson runs from 7:45 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and the dance night is from 8:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. Tickets are $15 each. On nights when there is no live music, tickets at $9.

Just Posted

Jacqueline Pearce and Jean-Pierre Antonio received the BC Historical Federation Best Article Award on Saturday for their story about translating haiku written in the Tashme internment camp.
Article chronicling haiku in Japanese internment camp near Hope wins award

Tashme Haiku Club’s work was preserved and recently translated, authors write

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Webinar looks at sexual abuse prevention among adolescents

Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA hosts free online session on June 15

Emergency services were on the scene of an apparent stabbing Friday afternoon (June 11) in the 2400 block of Countess Street in Abbotsford. (Photo: Kaytlin Harrison)
Two suspects arrested after apparent stabbing in Abbotsford

Incident occurs Friday afternoon in 2400 block of Countess Street

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read