During the pandemic, one of the city’s loneliest views was of a darkened dance floor, seen through the impressive windows of the Denver Turnverein, the massive dance hall at 1570 N. Clarkson St.
For more than a year, the hall was closed. That meant Victoria Huynh danced with her partner in their Parker basement. She was ecstatic to be back at what’s affectionately known as “The Turn,” which hosted a “dance bash” June 5.
“I’m here because I want to enjoy the dance,” she said. “It has been — oh, my God — since March of last year!”
Attendees had to show proof of vaccination to saunter into the spacious ballroom. Turnverein president Art Abington said he got only a little pushback to the immunization policy.
“If I got one email that says, ‘Oh, you guys are requiring vaccination? You’re awful! You’re violating laws. I’m gonna never dance in your place!’ I get 25 emails that say, ‘I’m so glad you guys opened and you’re requiring vaccination,'” he said.
The reopening comes at an auspicious time: The hall turns 100 this year. It started in 1921 as the Coronado Club, which quickly went belly-up. The Turnverein took the building over.
“We have one of the largest dance floors in Colorado,” Abington said. “We have almost a 5,000-foot-square dance floor. And then we built a second dance floor downstairs.”
As an institution, the Denver Turnverein has been around much longer than its century-old home on North Clarkson. German immigrants opened the local chapter in 1865 to encourage fitness and togetherness. (Turnverein roughly translates as “gymnastics club” in German.) The dancing part came later.
Today “The Turn” is a non-profit whose mission is to expose as many people as possible to couples dancing, from ballroom to West Coast Swing.
Emergency grants and loans kept the Denver Turnverein on its feet through the pandemic. But Abington said its future depends on expanding its reach.
“If you look around, we have a small percentage (smaller than the population of the area) of people of color. And why wouldn’t they like to dance, too? We want to be the friendliest place in the area for dancing,” he said.
Rhonda Ryan, of Denver, said she felt welcomed when she first stepped inside six years ago.
“I was really nervous to be here,” she recalled. “People would come out and I’d say ‘I’m a beginner dancer!’ And they would still pull me out. It’s just really grown to be a family.”