Nevada City dancer takes top honors in swing dance |

Nevada City dancer takes top honors in swing dance

Matt Richey of Nevada City dancing with various partners.
Submitted photo |

Know & Go

What: Rhythm Busters with Matt Richey

When: 7 to 11 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 18 (lesson 7 to 8 p.m.; dance 8 to 11 p.m.)

Where: Veritas Church, 435 Sutton Way, Grass Valley (next to Sutton Cinemas).

Who: Ages 13 to 93

More info:

Lesson & Dance - $10

Dance only - $7

No dance partner required!" target="_blank">Text">" target="_blank">Text">

After winning 55 swing dance titles in competitions all over the world, it was this summer’s breakthrough performance at the Sea, Sun and Swing 2014 conference in Le Grande Motte, France, that bumped Matt Richey to a new international class of high-end dance professionals.

“I really enjoy moving to the music and showing everyone in the room what I hear,” said Richey, 22, of Nevada City.

In France, he and partner Kara Frenzel of San Luis Obispo took first place in the showcase division for their West Coast Swing performance. They have also competed at numerous other events this year, including the SinCity Swing 2014 conference in Las Vegas.

“I love dancing because of the freedom of expression in this art form and that I have been able to meet people and make friends from all over the world,” Richey said.

After more than a decade of dancing, Richey this year is on a roll — or, maybe it’s an up-swing.

“Before I started dancing, I was lazy, lonely and I did not like people,” said Richey, who often refers to dancing as his “drug of choice.”

“Dancing got me to a more healthy and more social lifestyle.”

Despite his now-international connections, Richey maintains a strong local presence when he is in town.

He will teach and host an all-ages swing dance — “Rhythm Busters with Matt Richey” — this Saturday in Grass Valley. The venue, Veritas Church, is the same place where his dad, Mark Richey, is an elder.

In addition to hosting regular swing dances at Veritas (the last dance had 57 students in the beginner class, he said), Richey rents out space in the church building for his private lessons.

“My sister is the one who got me to go to my first class at age 11,” says Richey, who was just invited to teach and perform at the Snowball convention in Stockholm, Sweden, over the New Year’s Eve holiday.

“She begged, pleaded and dared me, and I went, kicking and screaming.”

Next month, Richey will start his second year of touring with the National Association of Swing Dance Events, a group that pays out thousands of dollars in prize money to top competitors all over the country.

The tour includes dance gatherings of Lindy Hop, his first dance love, as well as West Coast Swing, his second but equally strong passion.

The youngest of four children of Mark and Judy Richey of Nevada City, the reddish-blonde-haired dancer attributes his success to his family.

When he was about 12 or 13, Richey’s parents realized that he needed a higher level of training than what was available locally.

They began taking him every weekend to dance conventions to practice and learn from the masters.

“I have had the opportunity to take lessons and meet old-time famous dancers from the 1930s and 1940s, such as Frankie Manning, Norma Miller and Jean Veloz,” Richey said.

As a teenager, Richey joined a dance troupe called Razzamatazz, which later performed on cruise ships and at Disneyland. The troupe was led by well-known Nevada County dance teacher Dominique Del Chiaro, who later moved to Hawaii. Del Chiaro was Richey’s first dance teacher.

“I was doing five or six hours of lessons a day,” Richey said. “My parents were very supportive; I owe them everything.”

Richey was home-schooled, which allowed a flexible schedule for dance practice. He later received an associate’s degree from Sierra College.

Despite his travels this year in New York City, Texas, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Denver and Los Angeles, Richey still nurtures local dancers.

“We were delighted to include Matt Richey as a teacher of swing dances in October 2012, and now in both East Coast Swing and West Coast Swing classes,” said Lucy Galbraith, co-owner of Salsa Sierra at Fletcher’s Dance Hall, 542 Searls Ave., Nevada City (530-477-0767).

“Matt also teaches teen and youth swing classes and the kids love him,” Galbraith added.

Galbraith, whose studio also has classes in salsa, waltz, country, nightclub two-step, hula hoop and Zumba, said Richey’s expertise comes with a large dollop of humor.

“He’s a sweet person who is full of joy and the love of dancing,” she said.

Richey also teaches Lindy Hop and East Coast Swing Friday nights at the Midtown Stomp in Sacramento.

To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email or call 530-477-4239.

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