By: Hubble Smith
There’s a regenerative culture growing and thriving at the Aruba Club in downtown Las Vegas and it’s not in the men’s bathroom. Check the dance floor.
A cluster of dedicated, free-spirited Lindy Hop dancers form the nucleus of this culture, meeting up at the retro Las Vegas motel and nightclub almost every Friday night for lessons, dancing and socializing. They’re bringing back swing dance and music from the 1920s and ’30s like the Charleston and Balboa and they’re doing it in style.
These are physically strenuous dances, so it’s mostly an energetic under-40 age group twisting and turning and occasionally pulling off some of the aerial moves you see in the black-and-white film running on a back wall screen. They do accept over-the-hill folks like me in the club, as long as you’re having fun and showing some effort.
The leader of the pack is instructor Mark Brunton, a charismatic Las Vegas native who engineered the successful launch of the Lindy Hop culture nine years ago at the Aruba. His ebullient personality and sexual puns make the lessons not only educational, but part comedy show.
“There is no greater joy than learning how to have a conversation with your partner through swing dancing without words,” said Brunton, who teaches a free introductory Lindy Hop class along with $10 beginner and intermediate classes. “The idea that if one is truly having fun with their partner and is committed to their safety and enjoyment, then nothing can stop you.”
Las Vegas definitely has a Lindy Hop culture going on, but it’s not on the forefront of the movement, Brunton said. Lindy Hoppers can be found in any major city across the country and it’s common to couch-surf at their pad while visiting, he said.
Brunton, a graduate of Cheyenne High School, College of Southern Nevada and Kaplan University, was vacationing in Southern California when he came upon a swing dance competition on the beach. He approached two of the contestants who were from Las Vegas and asked where he could learn it. “The rest is history,” he said.
Brunton and fellow instructor Nick Peterson turned the Aruba Club into Lindy Hop Central, the longest-running dance venue in Nevada.
“I think there is something for everyone at the Aruba, whether you want to dance, drink, catch up with friends. It is a very relaxed and friendly environment, which is demonstrated by its longevity,” Brunton said.
For more information on swing dance events in Las Vegas, go to www.swingdancevegas.com.