Article in the Richmond News, April 10, 1994
By Ann Sullivan
Tables and chairs are stacked in piles around the room, the cement floor awaits a carpet, and the lighting isn’t quite finished. But by last week, the most important feature of the Grand Ballroom — the dance floor — was laid and ready for spinning steps and swirling skirts.
The 3,700-square-foot maple floor will be the centrepiece when the Grand Ballroom, the first ballroom dance centre in Canada, officially opens April 10. For Andy and Wendy Wong, professional ballroom dancers and owners of the new facility, the Grand Ballroom is the culmination of years of dreaming. Almost a year to the day after they started looking for a location, the husband and wife team will preside over the opening of their new facility in East Richmond.
The Wongs have already sold 260 memberships to the dance hall, an indication, Andy said, of the strong interest in ballroom dancing. He estimates there are close to 6,000 active dancers — people who dance at least once a week — in the Lower Mainland. “We feel there’s another 5,000 who would (dance) given a good facility,” Andy said. “My fear is not whether people will come,” he added. “My fear is whether we can handle all the people and make them happy.”
Thirteen-time B.C. ballroom dance champions, the Wongs turned professional and have been giving lessons for the past year. But the focus of their new ballroom is not on instruction, Andy said. “If we were to stress lessons, I would just need a floor and some mirrors.” Instead, he and Wendy have put thought and planning into creating “an intimate social atmosphere” for the Grand Ballroom’s dance parties four nights a week. “We’re selling a good time,” Andy said.
The decision to give up amateur competition to open their own centre was not a difficult one for the Wongs. “It’s a logical step upward and forward,” Andy said. The tough decision for him was whether to give up secure, full-time employment as a pharmacist to pursue a dream. But, as he and Wendy have said, the Grand Ballroom is an opportunity for them to accomplish a dream they’ve had during the 15 years they competed as amateur dancers.
“No one else has had the opportunity — or the guts — to open a place like this,” Andy said.