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PCH Club Gives Dancers a Day to Put Zing in Their Swing


Every Saturday, the ordinarily humdrum lounge at the Golden Sails Hotel in Long Beach sizzles. There, a clutch of Southern California's top West Coast swing competitors and less ambitious but no less zealous practitioners gather to swirl, slink and sweat at the PCH Club.

Seen on a recent weekend: A guy initiated a ripple in the tips of his outstretched hand that traveled through his upper body to the clasped hand and undulating torso of his partner like the continuous slither of a sea snake. Another dancer led his partner through a dozen tightly wrapped spins.

West Coast swing tends to attract dancers in their 30s, 40s and older, but younger devotees enjoy the club, too.

Its Saturday afternoon dance, from 4 to 8 p.m., originally convened a few blocks away at La Mirage (formerly Moose MacGillicuddy's), but it lost its entertainment permit, forcing promoter-deejay Bob Brewer and his followers to relocate.

The move lost some of Brewer's crowd but fortuitously coincided with a $90,000 refurbishment of the hotel's once uninviting lounge. Its dance floor has doubled in size; fresh, pastel-hued paint and new lighting brightens things up; and, even if it still lacks character, the place now has a cared-for, cleaner feel.

Unlike Lindy Hoppers, who prefer blaring big bands, '90s-style West Coast swingers dance to a great variety of music. Brewer plays blues, jazzy R&B and pop-rock by artists such as Sheryl Crow and Boz Scaggs.

The PCH Club's afternoon crowd (happy with Brewer's selections) dresses down, which may mean jeans and tees, although some don leopard-print tops, maybe even spandex. They leave the sequins for evening. Cheesy? Well, it's not as hip as the retro gear that makes heavily lipsticked Lindy Hoppers look like extras from a period-movie set.

But clothes don't make the dancer. And these accomplished dancers could wear hand-me-downs and dazzle. West Coast swingers design and execute their own filigreed footwork and borrow bumps, grinds and body waves from the modern age of lost innocence.

You're not likely to see the sorts of aerials that Lindy Hoppers like, but the place gets jumping nonetheless. So, lead, follow or get out of the way.

* Swing dancing at PCH Club, Best Western Golden Sails Hotel, 6285 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach; (562) 596 1631. 4-8 p.m. Saturdays. Cover: $5.

More Swing

West Coasters, including some from Golden Sails, and Lindy Hoppers alike will vie for prizes over Thanksgiving weekend for the 16th annual U.S. Open Swing Dance Championships.

That event, expected to draw 3,000 to Anaheim's Disneyland Hotel, is one of the swing world's biggest and toughest competitions, although contestants will compete only against others dancing in the same style.

Dancers from across the U.S. and other countries will put on a spectacular show throughout the weekend, but hours and hours of social dancing are planned day and evening. The event is open to all.

* U.S. Open Swing Dance Championships, Nov. 26-29 at the Disneyland Hotel, 1150 W. Cerritos, Anaheim. A social dance kicks off the event on Thanksgiving at 8 p.m. Cover: $5. Daily admission Nov. 27 through Nov. 29 is $40 per day, or $100 for all three days. Hourlong workshops, to be taught by leading competitors, are $10 each. Open dancing and competitions throughout the weekend. (800) 537-8937.

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