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O.C. Clubs | Wanna Dance?

At PCH Club, 'Retro' Rhonda Helps Revive the Roaring '20s

April 22, 1999|ZAN DUBIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With rain falling outside, the dance floor at the PCH Club in Long Beach was awash with laughter as "Retro" Rhonda Frankforter's students, who were learning the Charleston but refusing to take themselves too seriously, flubbed their step-kicks.

That's right, the Charleston.

Frankforter teaches a variety of East Coast swing on Sunday swing nights, but she also throws in the Roaring '20s dance that laid the groundwork for the Lindy Hop, which, as her students gamely proved, can also be done as a face-to-face couples dance.

"All social dances put us back in contact with each other," said Frankforter, 32, a swing devotee, deejay and instructor who most recently taught at the Long Beach Dance Centre. She says she wants to create an atmosphere that's welcoming to dancers of all skills and ages.

The vibe at her "salon" was relaxed one recent Sunday as those in jeans and Nikes repeated steps in tune with lyrics such as "Yes sir, that's my baby," and "I'm looking over a four-leaf clover."

Although the weather kept the night's attendance low, the Sunday event that Frankforter sponsors under the moniker the Dance District is too new to be crowded in any case. With swing's popularity filling other clubs, space on the dance floor is an asset, said Lake Forest resident Keric Morinaga.

"We like it because it's not crowded," said Morinaga, 29, sweaty from dancing with his friend Jean Chen, 26, a La Palma kindergarten teacher.

"The people who come here are really friendly," Chen said, "and Rhonda plays good Lindy music. It's not too fast and it's not too slow."

Frankforter spins Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, Cab Calloway and others, mixing tunes mostly suitable for Lindy and East Coast swing. The revivalist bands she plays include Royal Crown Revue and Lavay Smith and the Red Hot Skillet Lickers.

She also brings in guest teachers, such as Eddie Vedola Jr., one of the area's top West Coast swing dancers. He is scheduled to teach jitterbug moves May 16. Frankforter has a fashion show and contest planned for May 2, with La Bamba, a Long Beach vintage clothing store, supplying the retro attire.

The PCH Club, inside the Best Western Golden Sails Hotel, can't compare with the Derby in L.A. or with any other hip club that's spent lots of dollars on interior design.

But despite a sprinkling of Budweiser banners and with a recently enlarged dance floor, it's more than your basic hotel lounge. A large fireplace surrounded by small tables and comfy chairs add a cozy touch, and beverages at the club's bar range from $2 for juice and bottled water to $4.75 for premium well drinks.

BE THERE

All-Ages Swing Night at the PCH Club, Golden Sails Best Western Hotel, 6285 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach. Sunday, 7:30 p.m.-1 a.m.; free lesson at 8 p.m. Cover: $5, $3 for students. (562) 596-2332.

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