Rusty Frank Gets the South Bay on Its Feet and Swinging into the New Year

Gotta dance.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Jen Turquand
  • Photographed by
    Monica Orozco

They say it’s impossible to be sad while you’re dancing. I have to agree.

Dancing has a way of setting worries free and lifting our spirits. Yet as an adult, it is not something that I often have the opportunity to do here in the South Bay. Sure, there is dancing at outdoor festivals or weddings, but social or partner dancing is a rare find—or so I thought until I found Rusty’s Rhythm Club.

My quest began after a visit to Baltimore to see my 24-year-old son. He took me to Mobtown Ballroom for a free Lindy Hop lesson followed by a night of dancing. It was such a blast that we ended up staying until after midnight. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so joyful. I left humming a tune, a little out of breath and thinking there had to be something similar for me close to home, right? 

Back at the beach, I put my Google skills to work and found Rusty’s Rhythm Club in Playa del Rey. Their monthly swing dances include a free intro lesson and feature live music. With plenty of free parking, a 2,300-square-foot dance floor and a full bar, how could I go wrong? So off to the dance I went, husband in tow.

Swing dancing—and specifically Lindy Hop—is a social dance, meaning you don’t need to bring a partner. You can dance with anyone you’d like. There are two designations, lead or follow—you choose which you want to be and learn those steps at the free mini class at the beginning of the night.

It is not a choreographed routine but rather specific steps to put together as you go. Or more accurately, as you are “led to,” so each time you dance it’s different. This allows anyone—coupled or single, any gender or orientation—to select your role, meet new people and get in some laughs with your cardio as you dance the night away.

“To me, the amazing thing about swing dancing is that by doing this one dance, you get the combined activity of countless others that contribute to overall well-being and happiness—including exercise, socializing, brain development and stress alleviation,” shares Rusty Frank, owner of Rusty’s Rhythm Club.

Rusty is a first-class tap dancer and Lindy Hopper, producer, choreographer, writer, dance preservationist and member of the California Swing Dance Hall of Fame. In 1998, after decades of dancing all over the world, she started teaching a weekly swing dance class in Hermosa Beach at Pointe 705 and hasn’t stopped teaching since.

Lindy Hop originated in the 1920s at the legendary Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. Young African American dancers at one of the only integrated dance halls of its time created the dance, and it quickly spread like a California wildfire—first across the nation, then throughout the world during the swing era of the 1930s and ’40s. Now even bigger than in its heyday, you can find swing/Lindy Hop dances and lessons almost anywhere.

At Rusty’s Rhythm Club, the energy is high. The live bands are amazing, and the crowd brings together a great mix of old and young, beginner and experienced. As a bonus, each monthly dance has a different theme.

These days Rusty and the club’s co-owner Ron Campbell find purpose and joy in introducing people to swing dancing and Lindy Hop specifically—thus the aptly named Lindy by the Sea, their El Segundo dance school that has been offering varying levels of group dance classes for almost 25 years. “I have worked so hard to keep the classes and club joyful for all,” Rusty says. “Basically, I’m trying to create the world I want to live in.”

Of course, I signed up for lessons—with big plans to surprise my son with my fancy footwork the next time I visit. As the saying goes, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” And while I am still working on perfecting my moves, it does keep me smiling.

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