Swing is her thing Rusty Frank keeps
swing dance kicking in PdR
Through thick and through thin, Rusty
Frank sticks with swing.
The swing dance teacher
hosts weekly swing dance events. Her latest is a Big
Band swing dance with a World War II-era swing radio
broadcast theme scheduled for 8 p.m. Wednesday, July
28th, at the Westchester Elks Lodge, 8025 Manchester
Ave., Playa del Rey. Tickets are $12, and swing dancers
are encouraged to show up dressed in Allied Forces
attire or 1930s/1940s period clothing.
Frank has not only been a touring
performer, but also a writer and producer of programs
and books on swing. But Frank first emerged as a
professional tap dancer and teacher.
Tap! The Greatest Tap Dance Stars and their Stories
1900-1955. The nature of her work nostalgic dance
exposed her to another vintage form. She eventually fell
in love with swing dance, especially the Lindy Hop, and
swapped it for tap.
In 1996, she started hosting swing
dance events and swing culture has gripped her
"I love the social side of swing dancing,"
she says. "With tap, you go to your class, do your
routine and go home. With swing, you dance and interact
with other people all night long. And afterwards, you
socialize or go to a diner."
originally hit its highest peak from the mid-'30s to the
mid-'40s but fell off the pop charts after the
introduction of bebop, rock 'n' roll and
So what attracts someone to
"I think people are attracted to
it because it's upbeat music," says Frank. "It has a
happy heart to it. It's not about death and destruction
and violence, and I think a lot of people are craving
music like that."
And swing making a comeback is
not just a pipe dream of Frank it actually happened.
In the late 1990s neo-swing outfits like the Brian
Setzer Orchestra, the Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Big Bad
Voodoo Daddy hit the pop charts and a swing craze swept
the nation. The retrofitted style and attitude was
"I had a surge in students during that
time," says Frank.
"And the strange thing was, I
could suddenly go out any night of the week and go swing
dancing at a club instead of just occasional special
events dedicated to swing. It was definitely a fad
again, back above the radar."
moment of the '90s swing resurgence for Frank was when
senior citizen Pete Vincent was walking his dog past one
of her classes.
Vincent was a swing aficionado
back during the first wave of swing. When Vincent heard
swing music coming from the class, he had to poke his
What he saw put him in a state of awe.
Here it was 50 years after the swing scene of his youth,
and he was witnessing a class full of youngsters dancing
to swing music. Swing was back, and Vincent and other
old-timers hadn't been clued in.
He was so
excited, he stayed until after the class and introduced
himself to Frank.
Vincent dusted off his old
dancing shoes and became a regular at Frank's swing
Frank's senior citizen participant Fae
Callen had a similar story. Callen started showing up at
Frank's events and before long, Callen was a popular
dance partner of the younger men, an original swing
dancer showing the younger generation her moves, says
Frank. Callen would write about her swing dance
resurrection in her journal, says Frank.
time afterwards, I went up and asked her how many guys
she danced with and she said, Oh, I danced with 26
guys,'" Frank remembers. "I was shocked? Where else can
a senior woman go out and dance with young guys all
One tricky but essential element of a
swing dance party is having a live Big Band. Putting
together a sixteen-piece big band is often economically
But there are a few neo-swing bands
out there nowadays and even some neo-Big Bands that find
ways to survive, often by making the band a nonprofit
organization, allowing the band easier fundraising
Due to their sparsity and the financial
issues, Frank books about one big band every two months
at her dances. She's hosted the Bill Elliott Swing
Orchestra and The Fabulous Esquires and will have the
Wartime Radio Revue at her upcoming