Twistin’ the night away

Nate Wright

Photo courtesy of Nate Wright

When Nate Wright moved to Chico in 2012, he found there was something missing in the local nightlife scene. He wasn’t into the dance clubs around town and wanted something less structured than the studio dances he was used to. So Wright, who owns a marketing company in town, decided to offer a new way for those who appreciate old-fashioned social dancing (think jitterbug, Lindy hop, etc.) to have a space to do so. Six months ago, he launched Chico Vintage Nights, where people can step back in time to the first half of the 20th century. In addition to holding regular events, Chico Vintage Nights is now available to nonprofits looking for a unique fundraising experience. In a recent interview with the CN&R, Wright explained how traditional social dances are an excellent alternative to urban nightlife. Follow Chico Vintage Nights on Facebook, or visit its website at

Do you have a background in dance?

I started dancing in the Air Force Academy in Colorado. At that time, in 1998, I was shy and a late bloomer. Swing classes were available, and I started taking them. I was a slow learner; it took me six months to learn the basics. I loved it. My best happy moments were when I was dancing. I kept learning new styles, became way more comfortable with myself and other people, but I took a hiatus in 2001, and didn’t really come back to it until I moved here.

What makes the dances “vintage”?

For one, the clothes. You’ve got to dress up! Some people dress up to the nines; others, not so much. The etiquette is different, too, very traditional: the man is the lead, and the women follow. It doesn’t have anything to do with gender rights; it’s just old-school. We have gay and lesbian couples that come and follow that style. We don’t only play old-timey music, and we encourage people to dance with each other and not their favorite partner. It’s a fully immersive experience.

What do you see for the future of Chico Vintage Nights?

Right now, we have about 20 core people who show up to these dances, and I would like to see that reach 100. We’ve already outgrown our first venue, so we’ve moved to the Chico Grange, and now we have to have people pay to get in. I just want it to pay for itself, and I really want to give back to the community by hosting dances for nonprofit fundraisers.

Do you offer lessons?

I offer a free basic lesson at the beginning of each dance, but currently, I do not teach. The studios around town are great and have some really talented dancers. I’m not here to teach, just to dance.