Rusty Frank, Takayo Fischer and June Berk spoke at “Barbed Wire to Boogie Woogie” in 2018 at the Santa Monica Main Library.

REDONDO BEACH — “Barbed Wire to Boogie Woogie,” the story of resilience in World War II America’s concentration camps, will be presented on Sunday, Jan. 29, at the Woman’s Club of Redondo Beach, 400 S. Broadway Ave., Redondo Beach.

Part 1 (1:30-2:30 p.m.): Presentation featuring camp survivors June Aochi Berk and Takayo Tubouchi Fischer and professional dancer and dance preservationist Rusty Frank, followed by Q&A.

Part 2: Beginner swing dance lesson at 3 p.m. Swing dance to the Fabulou Esquires from 3:30 to 6 p.m.

Frank takes us on a journey through one of the most troubling times in American history, but through a very different lens of resilience and joy. Her acquaintance with camp survivors Berk and Fischer, who became lifelong friends at age 10 when they were both incarcerated in the Rohwer, Arkansas, revealed the story of how parents did everything possible to “normalize” the lives of their children with education, sports, art, culture, and swing music and dance.

The program features a brief history of the camps, rare photos of camp dances, a private collection of camp dance cards, as well as an interview with Berk and Fischer about their personal experiences. The presentation ends with a Q&A.

Like the thousands of children in camp, these children spent their time “having fun,” not realizing until decades later what their parents had done to normalize their lives during these brutal times. Provided with an array of activities and learning opportunities, the children did, indeed, pass the years without fully understanding the drama of what had actually happened to them and their families.

Former incarcerees in the audience were asked to come forward during “Barbed Wire to Boogie Woogie” at the Santa Monica Main Library in 2018. Standing: June Berk, Rusty Frank, Takayo Fischer.

Every one of the ten War Relocation Authority camps had swing bands that played at regular dances. With names such as The Jive Bombers, The Music Makers, and the Stardusters, these bands brought swing music to the young prisoners and played a vital role as therapy, as joy, and as a connection to the outside world.

There will be a short beginner’s swing dance lesson before the band plays. And there will be plenty of swing dancers there to help all the newbies cut a rug.

Light refreshments will be served. Cash bar. Tickets: $25 in advance, $30 at the door. Reserve seats at Sponsorships available.

For more information, email or call (310) 316-9766.

In light of the tragedy that occurred last weekend, the Woman’s Club of Redondo Beach has decided to donate all proceeds from this event to the Monterey Park Lunar New Year Victims Fund. 

“We hope you’ll join us in support of your community, whether that be the Asian American community, the dancing community, or our worldwide community of empathetic humans,” the club said in a statement.

Rusty Frank leads a swing dance lesson during “Barbed Wire to Boogie Woogie” in 2018 at the Santa Monica Main Library.

Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo

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