New Sensation 

A new dance club in an old location gives Memphis nightlife a shot of class.

God, it's so cold out here. Standing in line to get into a club is very New York and all, but can't they understand what this humidity is doing to our hair?" says my best pal, Misti. The two of us are waiting in a line on a recent Saturday night at Senses, the new dance club inhabiting the old Amnesia building at 2866 Poplar. About 20 people are ahead of us, waiting for the beefy bouncer to open his chain and herd them into the warmth within.

As soon as Misti utters these words, a wiry guy standing next to the door calls us to the front of the line. He informs us that he's allowed to pick a couple of girls to bring in with him. And tag, we're it. So as we thank him for saving our hair, we enter the colorful ultra-mod lobby, and the muffled boom-boom-boom of the bass inside becomes audible. The excitement is building, and Misti and I exchange looks. We know this may be the place -- that one fabulous club that will make up for all of the time we've wasted testing out shitty clubs with generic DJs and microscopic dance floors.

Dance clubs are nothing new to Memphis, but before last fall, it wasn't easy to find a club that offered a menu of fresh-spun techno and local DJ talent. With the launching of Club Vortex in Overton Square in September followed by the opening of Senses in December, it's almost as if the once-thriving rave scene has been re-birthed. Only now the kids are all grown up and the party locations are more like a functioning work of art than the cold concrete of warehouse buildings.

Case in point: Senses' Orange Room. As we enter this first room adjoining the lobby, my jaw drops in amazement. I used to frequent Amnesia, but that place was a dump compared to this one, with its bright-orange horseshoe-shaped bar and space-age plastic chairs that resemble something you'd see on one of those futuristic sci-fi TV shows. If it hadn't been for the people crowded around the bar and gathered at tables, I'd have thought we were in an interior designer's showroom.

"Memphis is growing, and I thought it would be nice to bring something here like we had in Las Vegas, where I'm from," says Dennis Mironovich, who co-owns Senses with his father George. "We're playing dance music that's a little different for the area. Like, we might play Outkast or something that people know, but we'll present it in a reworked dance mix with a certain energy level and style."

According to Mironovich, Senses has just teamed up with Silver Promotions, the company that brought top-name DJs to town for massive raves at the Fairgrounds back in the scene's heyday. He says we can expect to see those big names -- Icey, Baby Anne, maybe even Sasha & Digweed -- at Senses in the near future.

Throughout the week, local DJs Tree and Justin Hand spin house and techno, occasionally mixing in popular dance tracks. And on Sunday nights, local guest DJs, such as Soulshower's Jason "Witnesse" Sims and Suga-Shane of NRGLuv Productions, try their hand at keeping the crowd moving.

The dance floor, which is separated from the Orange Room by a glass door, is an oasis of sound and lights. DJ Hand, high above the crowd in a booth, is spinning some familiar beats in a unfamiliar way while multicolored, honeycomb-shaped lights are darting over the packed hardwood dance floor. Go-go dancers in super-short skirts and fishnets are displaying their superior skills in three gated, circular platforms on the perimeter of the dance floor.

And by the looks of things, this isn't a white club or black club or straight club or gay club. It's an everybody club. We spot an older black man in a button-down dress shirt dancing next to a young Asian-American girl in a trendy belly-baring tank top and flared jeans. Misti points out a middle-aged straight couple kissing on the far edge of the dance floor, and as we're discussing how disgusting their show of public affection is, we notice two guys walking across the dance floor holding hands. On this night, Senses patrons run the gamut from young to old, and sexual orientation is not an issue.

"We're a club for anybody who wants to come and have a good time," says Mironovich. "We don't care who you are. Your life is your business. As long as you present yourself well and you're having a good time, that's all we're concerned with."

Of course, there are certain standards, but Mironovich says he doesn't like the phrase "dress code."

"Some people think they can't come in here wearing tennis shoes, but if you're dressed nicely and you've got tennis shoes on, you're fine," he explains. "But if you come in looking like you just got through playing pick-up basketball, it's not the tennis shoes that'll be keeping you out. Our dress code is determined on a case-by-case basis. It's all about how you carry yourself."

Senses is all about ambience, and Mironovich and company have transformed the building to accommodate the different moods of patrons. The aforementioned Orange Room is a visually stimulating environment for that chilling-at-the-bar feel, while the Martini Lounge is a laid-back room with plenty of comfortable seating. The VIP Ultra-Lounge, available by reservation only, looks like a sleek living room with several plush couches and plasma screen TVs and Xboxes. The dance floor provides a high-energy setting, and when you need a breath of fresh air, you can step out to the Beer Garden, a patio bar.

Mironovich says he spent two years on the concept and design of the club. He hired top-name companies to prepare the lighting and interior design, and now that's paying off. Senses was one of four clubs recently nominated for Best Lighting at the Club World Awards in Las Vegas.

Misti and I stay until closing time and reluctantly leave the dance floor as the lights come on. Walking back to my car, we exchange that familiar look again. For once, we didn't spend a night in agony listening to a DJ alternate between Nelly and 50 Cent while white people with teased hair and mullets attempt to booty dance. Senses has just the right amount of hipness and class to make you feel, if only for a moment, like your somewhere cooler than Memphis. We have found that fabulous club.

Senses is open Wednesday-Sunday nights. Call 454-4081 for more information.

E-mail: bphillips@memphisflyer.com

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