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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The new facility in construction a few months ago. (Critter Care/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Critter Care expands raccoon and skunk care centre

The Langley wildlife care centre takes in injured and orphaned animals

Cody Weatherston was involved in a car accident in which his car was T-boned while travelling down 16th Avenue in Langley. (GoFundMe)
Driver succumbs to injuries sustained during Boxing Day accident in Aldergrove

20-year-old Cody Weatherston suffered brain damage after being t-boned at 256th Street and 16th Ave

The forfeiture case based on seized gold and European cash is being held at the courthouse in Victoria. (Black Press Media files)
Province aims to seize gold, cash after cannabis raids at Langley homes

Police also found ammo, body armour, and a stun baton

The Abbotsford Tulip Festival is permanently closing, with plans to eventually set up in Armstrong, B.C. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Abbotsford Tulip Festival is closing, with plans to rebloom in Armstrong

Event organizer says pandemic and sale of land were factors in decision

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Chilliwack Law Courts. (Black Press file)
Man sentenced to 20 months for sexual offences involving a minor in Mission

Will Laws Clark was 22 and victim was 13 at time offences began

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Second doses delayed as B.C. vaccine delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

Kyrell Sopotyk was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in 2016 and played two seasons with the Western Hockey League club. (Photograph By ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)
Kamloops Blazer paralyzed in snowboarding accident sparks fundraiser for family

As of Jan. 24, more than $68,000 had been raised to help Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk

Most Read