Swinging around the dance floor at the Flame nightclub
Neon lights set the room ablaze, washing the brick walls and frosted windows in vibrantly colored hues. Glasses clink at the bar. Laughter bounces across the room as people spin on top a shimmering wooden dance floor at the Flame nightclub.
Every second and fourth Tuesday, the Flame hosts a “swing and line dance night” that is open to everyone.
The swing and line dance night is an idea Doug Stevens and Shirley Hall had. Stevens and Hall are Duluth residents that created the Twin Ports Dance Club, made up of dancers in the Superior/Duluth area. They wanted to showcase their passion for dancing, giving other fellow dancers an opportunity to do what they love.
Chad Follmer, employee at the Flame, said Stevens makes everyone who wants to join and try out swing and line dancing feel accepted and welcome.
Stevens is open to teach anyone swing dancing at the event. If you already know how to swing dance, Stevens invites you to simply head to the dance floor and enjoy yourself.
“You can never learn enough,” Stevens said. “There’s always new moves you can try out and learn.”
Stevens said this open-ended event is primarily because he isn’t a fan of formal dancing. Stevens has taken various dance classes throughout his 66 years of life and has been dancing for 10 years.
“I love doing this,” Stevens said. “I love to dance, myself.”
This is evident when Stevens hits the dance floor. He becomes a swirl of movement gracing the space as his limbs spin and his feet glide, his form aglow in ruby and emerald light.
Stevens helps dance classes at the Lincoln Park Middle School on top of planning and hosting these dance nights at the Flame. He is also a member of the Duluth Preservation Alliance and a Skyline Parkway historian.
Although for all ages, so far the crowd is primarily made up of adults who are at least 45 years of age or older. Anywhere from 12 to 25 people usually show up.
Stevens said everyone is friendly and happy during these dance nights and each person ends up making great friends in this dance community he began with Hall.
“I think the best experience I’ve had since starting this dance group is meeting new people,” Stevens said. “When you look at these people dancing, they’re always smiling and happy and that energy rubs off on you. I love it.”
Meet some regulars
Sisters Pat Larson and Armella Bitold are just a few of the regulars that show up to swing dance.
“I started dancing two years ago,” Larson said. “I make it a point to go out and dance at things like this two to three times a week. I used to do it five times a week.”
Armella Bitold said she dances as a way of exercising. “It’s great cardio,” Bitold said. “There’s lots of steps and movements and you really get a good workout out of it.”
Larson said they mostly play old rock-and-roll music to swing dance to and she prefers swing dancing as opposed to line dancing. “These events are fun,” Larson added, “because you never know who’s going to show.”
Even employees at the Flame enjoy the event while they’re working. Bartender Loni Vandell said the swing dance nights never get old for her. “It’s great, cute, adorable, and I love watching them and seeing all the love up there,” Vandell said.
Most know the Flame as a night-life landmark, as it was Duluth’s first LGBTQAI+ friendly night club since its opening on July 25, 2015. But now the nightclub has become a place for people and couples to bond and reminisce.
The Flame nightclub is open seven days a week from 3 pm to 2 am, with drink and event specials throughout the week.