Sundance Saloon turns 10

  • by Heather Tirado Gilligan
  • Wednesday April 9, 2008
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Looking for an old-fashioned hoedown, but not sure where to find one in urbane San Francisco? The Sundance Saloon, the city's only country western dance venue, is celebrating its 10th anniversary Sunday, April 13 with a party catering to experienced cowgirls, cowboys, and newcomers alike.

Members noted that the club is one of the few country western venues around to see a steady increase in visitors over the past decade. Extra nights and space have been added since its inception in 1998, when it was created so that there would be a country western dance space where everyone would feel welcome. Since 2002, Sundance has been open every Thursday and Sunday, offering two-hour lessons and two rooms for dancing.

Along the way, Sundance Saloon incorporated as a nonprofit, known as the Sundance Association for Country-Western Dancing.

Ingu Yun, the founder and president of Sundance, attributes the longevity of the club to the friendliness of the volunteers and the dancers. "We purposely made a place where everyone was welcome and felt welcome," Yun said.

He added that newcomers to the club will see a wide cross-section of the LGBT community coming together to dance: "Asians, blacks, people from India, women and men, young and old, everyone mixing."

The volunteer-run organization is also sustained by a recognition of Sundance's uniqueness. "People develop a passion for the place because it is so special," Yun said. "Everyone works really hard to keep something going that they believe really benefits the community."

This community spirit led Sundance to form the nonprofit association with a mandate for education – hence the dance lessons – as well as a strong bent for charity work. Its annual weekend fundraiser, the Sundance Stompede, raises money for local organizations – about $150,000 since its inception. Last year's Stompede raised $20,000 for the AIDS Emergency Fund and Rainbow World Fund. This year's Stompede, which will be held in November, will benefit AEF and its sister organization the Breast Cancer Emergency Fund and Magnet, the gay men's health center in the Castro.

But the dancing itself remains Sundance's biggest draw, and Yun pointed out that quite a few styles fall under the country western umbrella. In addition to the two-step and line dancing, the group offers swing, both East and West Coast styles, and waltzes.

"It's different from a disco club," explained Dave Hayes, an instructor since 2002. "It's about people dancing together."

Yun agreed. "When you have a slower song and you can hold someone else in your arms, it's really nice, and something [that's] missing in our culture."

And people shouldn't worry if they're new to the country western scene. In addition to lessons, both Yun and Hayes stress that a welcoming atmosphere will put novices at ease. Newcomers can expect that "someone is going to walk up to them and ask them to dance and try and make them feel welcome," Hayes said.

The Sundance Saloon's 10th anniversary party will take place April 13 from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., at 550 Barneveld Avenue. Admission is free, as are lessons, which will be offered from 5:30 to 7:15. For more information, visit