Heidi Fite (San Francisco, CA)
Heidi began dancing and teaching the Blues dancing in St. Louis in 1999 and has been dancing, teaching and performing ever since. An early promoter of Blues dancing, she founded the first national Blues dance workshop (Cheap Thrills), which has since transformed into the nation's largest Blues dance workshop and competition weekend (bluesSHOUT!). Heidi now lives in San Francisco and she travels the world teaching Blues dancing as a living tradition, with a rich history and an exciting future. From private lessons and local classes to international workshops and historical research and documentation of the dance, she is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Blues dancing. Her classes are inspiring and challenging, but her focus on the underlying principles and fundamentals allows her to break down the most difficult concepts and moves so they are easy to understand and incorporate. Heidi is able to communicate and instill in her students a love of dance and a dedication to the learning process. More important, her classes will put some serious "boom boom boom" and "aw haw haw haw" in your dancing.
Dexter Santos (San Francisco, CA)
Dexter Santos did not immediately see where Blues dancing would take him when he discovered it in 2005 having a background previously in ballroom dancing and Lindy Hop. Yet he found himself immediately drawn to the rhythms and sounds of the Blues that made his movements feel so natural, soulful, and expressive. There was something about the music it's emotional depth and range, the varied tales and stories, the gut-wrenching and the hip-shaking, the gritty and the smooth - that gave Dexter's dancing inspiration, passion, and a new direction. Since then, Dexter has studied and collaborated with the best Blues dance teachers and dancers who inspire him to make him who he is today in the Blues dance scene.
As a teacher, Dexter's passion comes from his desire to teach Blues dancing with respect to its roots, identity, to celebrate its art form, and more importantly, to inspire dancers of all levels with the possibilities that Blues dancing has to offer. Dexter teaches classes locally in San Francisco and has taught at nationally and internationally renowned exchanges and workshops such as bluesSHOUT, Austin Blues Party (Austin, TX), Down Home Blues Festival (San Francisco, CA), BamBLOOZled (Washington, D.C.), Emerald City Blues Festival (Seattle), Steel City Blues Festival (Pittsburgh), Mile High Blues Festival (Denver), and Fallin' In Blues (Grenoble, France) among many others.
When he's not teaching or performing, you'll find Dexter 'cutting his teeth' and refining his skills on the competition floor. Since the very first bluesSHOUT in St. Louis. Missouri in 2007, Dexter has won first place in numerous Blues dancing competitions around the country. Together with Michelle Richter (one of his teaching and dancing partners), he has won the title of Ballroomin' Blues champion at bluesSHOUT 3 times (2007, 2008, and 2010). At bluesSHOUT 2010 in Austin, Texas, Dexter won all four partnered competitions: Open Jack & Jill, Strictly Jook Joint, Strictly Ballroomin', and Champions Division. For more information about Dexter, visit his website at dextersantos.com.
Jerry & Kathy Warwick (Dallas, TX)
erry and Kathy have been laughing, dancing and teaching together for over a decade. Sometimes a bit wacky, sometimes a bit serious, always loads of fun. They will drill you with technique, blues movement and moves, make you sweat, make you think, and teach you ways to stretch yourself as a dancer. Blues Dancers all over the USA are begging for more.
Who are they? Jerry and Kathy have been a big part of the Dallas Blues and Swing dance scene since 2001. Hmmmm... National Blues events? Let's just toss out a few places they have taught... Blues Shout, Down Home Blues, Can't Stop the Blues, Denver Blues Summit, Enter the Blues, Emerald City Blues, Frankie 95, Dirt Cheap Blues, Austin Blues Party, Cheap Thrills, Blues Boot Camp, Mezzjelly Blues, Houston Fusion, Lone Star Championships, various regional events throughout the USA and their own Red White and Blues.
Amanda Gruhl (Boston, MA)
Amanda has been dancing since age five. Experienced in dance instruction, choreography, performance, and show production, she has studied blues dance, lindy hop, jazz, ballet, tap, contemporary, hip hop, ballroom, and many other dance forms. Amanda has been dancing, choreographing, and competing in blues dance since 2000, and teaching blues dance throughout the U.S. since 2003. She has taught at most national events and workshops, including BluesSHOUT!, Down Home Blues, Austin Blues Party, Mile High Blues, Emerald City Blues Festival, BFX, Blues Blaze, and many others. Her style of blues dance combines a strong connection to her partner, creative improvisation to the music, and elements from many of the different dance styles she has studied. This has given her a reputation as an incredibly versatile and inspiring blues dancer. Amanda has an amazing passion for teaching, and is known for being clear, knowledgeable, friendly, and encouraging with her students.
Chris Mayer (Boston, MA)
Chris is known in the Blues dance community for his musicality, creativity, and fun-loving spirit. A self-proclaimed Lindy Hop addict until he found Blues in 2006, Chris was drawn into Blues by its unique freedom of expression. Since then he has created a style of his own, with influences from Tango, Ballroom, and everything in between. Chris loves the challenge and camaraderie of national Blues competitions - give him any song and any partner, and he's going to have fun. He is adored by students everywhere from Hawaii to Heidelberg, and his teaching and dancing can be summed up best by this quote: "Technique? Check. Fun moves? Check. Playful attitude? Check!"
Tommy Schwegmann (Austin, TX)
Tommy has been dancing blues around Austin since 2002. Austin didn't have a weekly dance at that point so he would follow blues bands around and just groove with the music. His style is known for its constant musicality and smooth but clear lead. In 2006, he started training and teaching over twenty forms of dance at Go Dance studio. He has also taken training camps with many of the national blues teachers including Barry Douglas, Brenda Russell, Damon Stone, Amanda Gruhl, Jerry and Kathy Warwick, and many more. These experiences combined have given him a clear understanding of dancing and how each teacher understands and conveys blues to their students. In 2007 he started his own weekly blues classes and has been teaching them ever since. Because teaching dance is his full time job, his classes are well structured, easy to understand, and filled with tons of fun.
Karen Smith (Seattle, WA)
Karen has been dancing since 2001, with her main emphasis in blues and lindy. Her teaching style incorporates unique perspectives from her diverse background in massage therapy and juggling instruction, including a high degree of body awareness; playfulness; and fun and interesting teaching methods. Karen has taught as a full-time instructor for the notable Go Dance Studios in Austin, TX; regional and national workshops; and regularly hosts, organizes, and teaches in Seattle. She is fascinated by dance as an access point to personal joy and self-expression – a mirror of how we interact with the world.
Her philosophy is that partner dance involves both our body (the encapsulation of our personal experiences) and other people (our relationship with the world, and with the opposite role); it offers a rich tapestry for self-awareness, compassion, and healing. What we learn about ourselves and the way we interact with people in dance are the same things we need to learn about ourselves in our life outside of dance. Karen is both challenged and joyful in her intention to live that herself and to bring that experience to others.
Steven "Dr. Feelgood" Watkins (Oakland, CA)
Steven, a.k.a. Dr. Feelgood, lives in San Francisco/Oakland, though he originally hails from New York City.
He began DJing Blues for dancers in 2004 and is constantly striving to spread his love for the BLUES. The Good Doctor tries to bring some smooth, sultry, gritty, "Hot Skirt Music" to the dance floor in order to transform venues into JOINTS.
Jerry Warwick (Dallas, TX)
"Hey, Jerry, I have a request. Could you play something crappy so I can rest? I haven't sat down since you started DJing."
I love it when I hear this while I am in the DJ booth. And don't get me wrong, I have lots of crappy music, I just know not to play it. Knowing what to play, when to play it and how to keep the dancers on the floor is what I love to do best.
I have been DJ'ing blues for dancers, including the Austin Blues Party, since 2004. I've seen lots of trends in blues dancing and in blues music and it continues to get better and better. I am looking forward to being back in Austin to DJ at ABP6!
Duane Grover (Washington, DC)
A regular in the DJ booth for his home scene of Washington DC, Duane has also DJed for a number of national events over the past few years, including last year's Austin Blues Party, and he is very excited to be coming back. There's really only one thing a dancer needs know about him:
"I like my blues like I like my scotch straight up."
...the other acceptable answer would be "a lot!"
Rachel "DJ BluRay" Jordan (Austin, TX)
Rachel was introduced to blues music shortly after her birth in Austin, Texas. In 2007 (less than half of your age plus seven years later) she became addicted to dancing swing and blues. She became a regular on the DJ rotation in Austin and as a house DJ for Kick Butt Blues. She has spun tunes at events all over the East, West, and Middle Coasts, spreading a passion for music that makes you want to get up and DANCE!
Jonathan Pechon (Boston, MA)
Currently in Boston, formerly a resident of Dallas, music has become a power part of Jonathan's life. However, growing up around New Orleans, Jonathan never really got a hold of the music that played everywhere in that city. It wasn't until much later, in the context of dance, he truly found himself able to get in touch with jazz and blues. Since then, he has had the pleasure of working as a DJ at events such as Emerald City Blues Festival and Blues Shout and once again returns to Austin for Blues Party.
Chris Mayer (Boston, MA)
Chris likes to play music that not only moves your feet, but opens your creativity. He uses his musically trained ear to hunt down songs that have great instrumentation, drive, and style; and he uses his heart to find powerful vocals, lyrics, and sounds. He can now be found sharing his love of Blues in Boston, MA, and across the world as he travels for dance.
Colin "The Reverend Shady Glenn" Wise (Austin, TX)
Colin has been a DJ in the Austin dance scene since 2000. In his spare time, he preaches about blues, gospel, and soul music - especially local bands - to both the converted and the heathen.
Organizer - Sonja "DJ Honeychild" Hartley
Sonja has been moving to the music since infancy. She found partner dancing back around 2003, journeying from St. Louis to the Boulder/Denver area and finally landing back home in Austin after a detour through Madrid, Spain. In addition to her current contributions to the Blues Association of Austin Board, she regularly shares her passion for blues music at Austin's weekly venue - Kick Butt Blues. As a DJ, she strives to create sets that combine her love for her old blues heroes and her new discoveries.
Organizer - Susan "Thrakkozog" Shelton
Susan grew up in the home of Gilley's (Pasadena, TX), and learned how to 2-step in high school. After moving to Austin for college, she dabbled in ballroom dance before leaving it all behind to be a stage manager at a local theater. Six years later, she rediscovered ballroom dancing and never looked back. Since 2003, she's been an avid American Style ballroom dancer, picked up Lindy in 2004, and then Blues in 2005. She's served on the boards of Austin Ballroom Dancers, Austin Swing Syndicate, and the Blues Association of Austin. She's been involved in the organization of the Austin Blues Party since its inception.
In the real world, she is a Technical Editor for Freescale Semiconductor.
Live Music Coordinator - Rachel "DJ BluRay" Jordan
Shortly after the inception of Austin's weekly blues dance, Kick Butt Blues, Rachel convinced the organizers to book their first live band at a low-risk cost - the price of a pizza! That night, they packed the house and asked for more! Since then, her lifelong love of the Austin music scene has been put to good use joining passionate blues musicians with enthusiastic dancers.
Housing Coordinator - Zarina Saidova
Zarina started swing dancing in Austin in September 2007. A few months later, she wandered into a Blues dance lesson, not knowing what to expect, and after 45 minutes was completely addicted. She loves dancing all around the Live Music Capital, and is excited to share her city's warmth (July, in Texas, is very warm), and hospitality as the housing coordinator for the second year in a row.
Food Coordinator - Kayla Gabriel
Kayla laughs now about those high school nights in her best friend's room trying her darndest to dance. Those hips just weren't moving... Thank goodness she can laugh about it now! She picked up a love for lindy hop and blues in 2009, and these dances never cease to tap a thrilling energy. Late at night, you'll find a variety of snacks/food to help you find that second, third, or even eighth wind.
Graphic Designer - Sha-Kera Nelson
Sha-Kera, better known as Kera, has been a Texas girl all her life. Raised in Houston and educated in Dallas, she's finally found her home in Austin, Texas. Kera first learned to swing and blues in the summer of 2009 under the jurisdiction of the Warwicks and the ACME Swing Company. There, she fell in love with the people and the dance. She studied design and post production art from a small east Texas university and graduated in 2010. Kera makes a living from teaching art to children and technology to adults. She also freelances her graphic design and is the artist behind the design elements for the Dynamic Blues Dance workshops.
That Web Guy - Clint Zehner
Clint loves long walks on the beach...sorry, wrong bio.
With a long and varied history, Clint has traveled...and is finding that it's getting harder and harder to avoid the police. He began dancing swing weekly (and sometimes weakly) since 1999 and discovered the joys of blues dancing in 2005. In addition to all of the past Fusion Exchanges, Clint has been webmaster for over a dozen dance websites, most of which he has treated as his own personal empires, but prefers to think of as "benevolent dictatorships." Clint is former President of the Blues Association of Austin and one of the founders of the Austin Blues Party.
- Aris Allen and Dancestore.com - competition sponsors
Please visit dancestore.com to see our full line of swing dance shoes, apparel & accessories!
- Galaxy Dance Studios
Our dance studio host for the weekend
- Wanderlust Yoga Studios
Our hosts for the Saturday Night Main Dance
- Dialtone Records
Home of Pamela Allen & The Biscuit Rollers and many more fabulous Austin bands!
- Kick Butt Coffee
Purveyor of awesome and home to Austin's weekly Friday night blues dance
- The Blues Association of Austin
- And Bri Zitnyar and Sam Chang - Our Official Photographers