Dean Collins was born in Columbus, Ohio on May 29th 1917. He grew up in Newark, New Jersey where, at the age of thirteen he learned Swing from his two older sisters. Within a few years he was dancing at every dance spot from Atlanta City to the "Savoy Ballroom" in Harlem, N.Y. By the age of eighteen (in 1935), he received the "Dancer of the Year Award" from the New Yorker Magazine.
Dean left New York for New Orleans to explore the roots of Swing dancing and finally arrived in Los Angeles, California with a dream of being in the movies in 1936. Reflecting on his early years of dance, Collins was quoted, "Young people in those days took their dancing very seriously. They spent a lot of time with their partner, learned the steps, invented new ones. It was more than a hobby; it was a real passion."
When Dean arrived in California the Savoy style of Swing was virtually unknown to Californians. The local dances of the day were the Camel Hop and Balboa, but their popularity quickly waned to Dean Collin's style of the East Coast Jitterbug. His contest-winning style was frequently spotted at the "Casino Gardens" and the "Diana Ballroom" and was quickly known throughout Los Angeles.
Dean's first big break came in 1939 when he was asked to choreograph sequences in "Let's Make Music". He went on to choreographed dozens more and danced in over thirty Hollywood movies, including "Hellzapoppin'" (1941), "Dance Hall" (1941), "Playmates" (1941), "Buck Privates" (1941),"Ride Em' Cowboy" (1942), "Springtime in the Rockies" (1942), "The Talk of the Town" (1942), "Always a Bridesmaid" (1943), "Kid Dynamite" (1943), "Junior Prom" (1945), "A Day at the Races", and "Living It Up" (1954).
In the 1950s and 60's, Dean taught most of the dancers and teachers in the Los Angeles area how to dance Swing, plus he taught many movie personalities as well (Shirley Temple, Ronald Colman, Ceaser Romero, Andrews Sisters, Joan Collins, Patty Andrews, Abbot and Costello, and Joan Crawford.) He also gave Arthur Murray lessons and taught other dance teachers such as Jonathan Bixby and Sylvia Sykes, who continue to share his teachings today.
Dean was ahead of his time when it came to dance. He could style like no other dancer to slow music and he became a cyclone dancing to a fast beat. His primary dance partner for eleven years was Jewel McGowen, who was called by her contemporaries the "Greatest female Swing dancer ever." Together, they were known as "Fred and Ginger of Lindy Hop." In the 60's and 70's, they danced to all styles of music, just as long as it "Swung."
Dean married and moved to Glendale, California where he was very active in the Swing Dance Community right up until his passing in 1984. When his widow, Mary Collins was asked if her husband was responsible for the emergence of West Coast Swing, she replied, "Dean insisted that there were only two kinds of Swing dancing - good and bad."
Jack Bridges had the vision and dedication needed to create the U.S. Open Swing Dance Championships, which has been the largest and longest running all Swing dance contest in the history of Swing dancing. (The Harvest Moon Ball, which ran from 1935 until 1974 in New York held other non-swing competitions.) Plus, he initiated the National Association of Swing Dance Events (NASDE), which established a tour of event directors who work together to promote Swing dance competitions.
Jack began dancing to the music of his father's band when he was a teenager. The band played at various dance venues in the San Diego, CA area and Jack's exposure to this environment gave him the inspiration to promote dance events at an early age. He began by holding sock-hops at his local high school.
Jack competed in many contests over the years and won the IMIG Manor Hotel's "Mississippi Room" dance championships fourteen weeks in a row with his dance partner, Kay Fox. Growing up in the San Diego area, Jack became very involved in the West Coast Swing dance community and eventually become president of the San Diego Swing Dance Club in 1977 - 1978. He later married Mary Ann Rogers who became his "right-hand" over the years.
Jack Bridges always had a good business mind and a strong dedication to the Swing Dance Community. He felt that Southern California was the nucleus of both the best and the most Swing dancers in the country. Waking up in the middle of the night, he made the decision to create the "Biggest Swing Dance Event for Southern California." He promptly asked Mary Ann for her support and met with numerous dance friends to help him promote the idea. Kenny Wetzel agreed to be the emcee and help bring well-known dancers to the event, and Annie Hirsch agreed to be his head judge and sell numerous tables of event tickets. With his network of friends, plus the support of his family, the U.S. Open Swing Dance Championships was born.
Jack was lucky that Mary Ann had family, for her daughters were probably their best employees. The first several years were very difficult, requiring a tremendous amount of hard work.
Jack knew that "Swing" was a passion of many dancers, but it had a different look in different parts of the country. The South enjoyed the Carolina Shag, the East was going strong with Lindy, and the West was dancing West Coast Swing. The word "Open" in the title meant that the event was 'Open' to all forms of Swing (West Coast, Lindy, Shag, Balboa, Jitterbug, East Coast, Jive, LeRoc, etc.), and when the different styles came together, it meshed. Jack wanted to connect the Swing Dance Community - and he did!
Jack and Mary Ann sold the event in 2000 and Jack Bridges passed away October 11th, 2003 from inoperable cancer at the age of 76.
Frank Mannion started dancing early in life and was taking Tap dance lessons at the age of ten. He danced through out high school and was frequently seen around the San Francisco Bay area, always on the side lines, watching and learning from some of the dance greats of the day - Jack Willingham, Dean Collins, and Stan Hardiman. He started dancing with his sister, Joan, becoming a popular Swing couple and winning many contests.
At the age of seventeen, Frank started teaching at a major dance studio and started dancing with Marie Young, who became his partner in competition. Their dancing was fast and smooth, and they were soon known as "the Best." Frank also danced with Jo Chavez when Mambo and the Cha-Cha became popular. He quickly mastered these dances, becoming a dominant force in their beginnings, but he never lost his love for Swing which he continued dancing at many nightspots.
Frank served in the US Navy from December 1951 to November of 1955 and danced wherever he was stationed. While stationed in New York he won a Swing dance contest a month before his discharge and was very proud of that achievement. After leaving the Navy he resumed his teaching career, but had a difficult time adjusting to the big dance studio's policies for enrolling new students. He quit and got a day job, but continued teaching evenings and weekends in his home and at various dance venues.
Frank taught Swing at his home and popular dance spots for over 25 years, bringing joy and happiness to hundreds of dancers. Ed Cirio and Phil Trau were two of his students, for he was the master of Swing Dancing in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. People were on a waiting list to take lessons from him. As fad dances came and went throughout the 1960's and 1970's, by teaching Swing throughout those years, Frank was the one who kept Swing dancing alive in that area.
In the early 1960's, Frank and Arleen Storm (Stormy) became dance partners, winning Swing contests at places such as the "Casbah", "New Yorker", and the "Zansibar." In the early 1970's he partnered with Pat Frugoli, winning Swing competitions at several events. In 1972, they were sponsored by the California Swing Dance Club to compete at the San Diego Swing Dance Convention.
There have been many who have contributed to the art of Swing dancing, but few have started so young and contributed throughout a lifetime. Frank was active for thirty-three years until a car accident on June 1st, 1979 took his life. Loosing Frank was a big loss to the dance community, especially in the Bay Area where he had become a legend and is well remembered by those who admired his fast, smooth moving feet.
Kenny Wetzel started dancing as a teenager in East Saint Louis, IL. He and his sister became known as the best Swing dancers in all of Illinois. Kenny was known as the "King of Flying Lindy" and the "King of St. Louis Shag." In the 1950's Kenny moved to Glendale California with his mother, sister and nephew, Mike. Here he met many Swing dancers and started teaching for the Arthur Murray studios. Kenny was well versed in all styles of dance and he excelled in both Swing and Latin dancing. His natural talent won many dance contests, including the Harvest Moon Ball.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Kenny hosted many dances and was one of the very first DJ's to spin records here in the United States. Kenny is well known for his Swing dance formats but many don't realize that he was also a D.J. at many other dance venues such as Hustle and Latin. Kenny became very popular with the Swing dancers for his work at several clubs in the Los Angeles, CA area, such as the "Water Wheel" in Covina, the "Ivanhoe Lounge" in Temple City, and the legendary "Staircase" in Downey. This would prove to be his special calling in life, for no one could spin music as well as Kenny Wetzel!
Kenny formed the Rebels Swing Dance Club in Orange County with Dino Restlli and Al White in 1972, and later joined Sonny Watson in many LA nightclubs. Kenny's Dance Club was so popular that clubs throughout the country franchised Kenny's club name. Kenny was the Emcee or D.J. to almost all Swing Events throughout the country, including the U.S. Open Swing Dance Championships (which he Emceed for 18 years).
Through his dancing, choreography, teaching, emceeing, "D.J.ing", and support of many dancers and competitors, Kenny probably did more to keep Swing dancing alive than anyone in those years. As a leader in the Swing Dance Community, Kenny supported everyone who was into dancing and knew just about everyone in the dance community. He helped choreograph several winning Swing dance routines for some of the best names in the Swing Dance World.
After being a D.J. and Emcee for over 25 years, Kenny semi-retired in November of 1998. He passed on in March of 2000 at the age of 71 from a brain tumor. Just before he passed away, Kenny wrote the book, Our World with Rhyme and Reason that was published by Dorrance Publishing Company in November of 2000. Many who knew Kenny sadly miss him, and today, those who never knew him unknowingly benefit from Kenny Wetzel's life in dance.
Jerry Crim of Tulsa, Oklahoma has been published in most all of the major dance magazines over the years. He was the first recipient of the U.S. Open Swing Championships Humanitarian Award in 1985. Jerry's sense of humor was catching, and his dance background extremely impressive.
In addition to his reputation as an outstanding Showcase dancer, Jerry was a well-known teacher of Ballroom, Country Western, and Swing for over thirty-two years. He was a member of the National Swing Dance Council, president of Supreme Swing Dance Club, and editor of Danscene. He wrote the original Slotted Swing Dance Book with a section on how to form local and national Swing clubs. His first video featured slotted West Coast Swing.
Jerry was faculty, advisor, and teacher for the National Dance Masters Conventions in 1985 and 1986. In Ballroom competitions he won The Best Swing Choreography at the Dallas Invitational in 1986, The Best Overall Routine at the September Fiesta 1986, and honors at the San Antonio Invitational in 1992. In Jack & Jill competitions, Jerry Crim won the Las Vegas Matinee with Sandy Trent in 1987, the National Swing Dance Convention with Sherry Lawson 1989, and the 1990 Overall with Michelle Mayer at the Anaheim U.S. Open.
In 1990 Jerry was inducted into the National U.S. Swing Dance Council Hall of Fame. He taught for Supreme Swing in Tulsa, and Swing Dances Unlimited in Oklahoma City. He has a book available on Swing, and a library of video tapes, including his method for integrating the Dallas Push, Houston Whip, and West Coast Swing. One of the most popular tapes was his "Tandem" tape that features dance routines for two women and one man.
Jack Carey grew up in Southern California, learning Tap, Jazz and Swing, first dancing at a very young age with girls in his neighborhood. (He says he was forced to dance with them.) His interest in Swing grew through high school and later on he was dancing Swing at the local clubs. During World War II his travels introduced him to various forms of Swing and when he was discharged from the service, he studied Jazz and Tap with the great Jack Cole.
Jack learned early on that Swing was his true love. He feels fortunate to be a part of the Swinging Era, with the big bands performing everywhere. By the time Jack started competing in dance contests in the Los Angeles area he had excelled in Swing with his partner, Lorraine Edwards. They became top competitors in the dance clubs competition circuit, winning the Harvest Moon Ball in 1949. That competition, sponsored by the LA Examinerlater becoming the LA Times) was very impressive with celebrities and the year Jack and Lorraine won the competition, Gene Kelly headed the judging panel.
Jack and Lorraine later appeared in the movie "Living It Up", starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. The movie featured a legendary Swing dance scene, with many of the top Swing dancers of the day. Jack is very proud to have danced in Vaudeville at the Orpheum Theatre. At the Million Dollar Theatre, he performed on stage with Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole, and Lionel Hampton. Jack also enjoyed performing in early Television on "The Bob Hope Show", "Meet Millie", "The Benny Rubin Variety Show", "Eddie Cantor", and "The Red Skelton Show".
Jack's style is very smooth, clean, syncopated and fun. He has been featured in many magazine articles, including Life Magazine (he is the one with the "droopy socks") and the Herald Examiner Newspaper (now the LA Times). Jack is credited with coining the term "Jack & Jill" in the 1950's and inventing a particular type of dance contest in which the dancer does not know in advance what the music will be, nor who will be his or her partner. Jack is also credited with advancing the slotted form of West Coast Swing.
Jack Carey continues to be an active judge, serving as the chief judge at numerous dance events across the country, including the U.S. Open Swing Dance Championships. Along with his partner in life, love and Swing, Annie Hirsch, he has been instrumental in keeping Swing dancing alive from coast to coast. This introduction by emcee, Steve Zener says it best, "Jack continues to inspire us with his zest for life, his love for Annie, his talent for dance, and his ability to stay up later than most of us to dance the night away."
Herb and Rosalie Rosen have been known throughout the West Coast Swing dance community as "The Dynamic Duo" and "Mom and Dad" of Swing dancing for many years. Their passion for dance and generosity to everyone is an inspiring story filled with love, kindness, consideration, and dedication.
Let's start with Rosalie, for she started teaching Tap and Swing at various studios back in 1941. She met Herb in March of 1948, at the Bill Williams Dance Studio and the "Dynamic Duo" was born. They married on June 30, 1949 and honeymooned on Catalina Island where they entered a Jitterbug contest and won first place. This was the beginning of a forty-year success record in local and national Swing competitions - last competing in 1989.
Over the years, they attended many clubs like the "Casino Gardens" and the famous "Palladium". They can remember going out almost every night and then getting up early for work. Eventually, they bought a home and converted it into a party house with a beautiful thirty-foot ballroom they named the "Rosenland Ballroom." They threw fabulous dance parties that people will long remember and opened their ballroom to many dance teachers, free of charge.
They have been continually involved in the promotion of Swing since the day they met. Rosalie continued to teach Swing, Tap, Ballroom, and drama at the Shenandoah St. School for the L.A. Board of Education, and at the Hollywood Professional School, and she organized Swing dancing shows for several Hospitals.
They danced professionally at the "Casa Manna", "Meadowbrook Gardens", "Zuccas Opera House", and the "Paris Inn", and have judged many Swing contests over the years. They danced on several T.V. shows: "Eye on L.A.", "Two on the Town", and "Channel 28." When the July, 1988 issue of the Seniors Life Newspaper ran their picture with the headline, "Back to Swing" they ended up introducing over 100 people to Swing. Dance Action Magazine presented an article about them that inspired young dancers to start the "Next Generation" dance club.
Most outstanding about Herb and Rosalie Rosen is their efforts to promote Swing have always been non-profit. Everything they've done, including spending their own money, is purely out of love for the dance and the dancers. They help raise money for dance events; they welcome out-of-town dancers to stay at their home; they help dancers with car troubles; they treat everyone like family - the list seems endless.
On February, 1990 UCCA sponsored a Swing Dance Ball at the "Alpine Village" and presented their annual "Build a Better America" award to Senator Quentin Kopp for authoring Senate Bill 2460, making West Coast Swing our State Dance. Rosalie played an important part in this achievement, for when Senator Roberti refused to pass it out of his committee, Walter Harman asked her to see what she could do. She succeeded in knowing the right people.