01marAll DaySan Diego Dance Festival
Event Organized By:
Ronnie DeBenedetta, Carmen & Marnie Mattei
All Day (Wednesday)
San Diego, CA
Ronnie DeBenedetta, Carmen & Marnie Mattei
In 1986, a co-worker talked Rhonda into attending his weekly line dance class and she was hooked! Not long afterward, she met Randy Shotts and together they began taking lessons from Phil Adams and dancing with his teams Country Gold and Sizzlin’ Country. They also began dancing in the UCWDC couples divisions and moved up the ranks to the Masters Division by 1991. Also during this time, they danced on the original Worlds Championship team, the Midnight Cowboys. After moving to Portland in 1991, Rhonda became the editor of the Northwest C/W Dance Association newsletter, and she was instrumental in the formation and operation of the Portland Swing Dance Club. In 1998, she and Randy became directors of the Portland Dance Festival. In 1999, Rhonda became the first UCWDC Line Dance Coordinator and was instrumental in developing the program. Rhonda has also been active on the UCWDC Board of Directors as the Ethics Committee Chairperson and the Northwest Representative.
John began country dancing in 1993 at the Grizzly Rose Saloon in Green Bay, Wisconsin. By 1995 he was teaching numerous dance styles to hundreds of students. He introduced West Coast Swing and Cha Cha to the area, as well as the latest line dances from the most popular choreographers. In 1999, he decided to become a full-time touring line dance instructor. During his career, John has earned numerous awards as a competitor, including the Worlds VI Line Dance Male Showcase Champion title - which inspired his nickname “Mr. Showcase.” He was one of the first male line dancers to reach the level of SuperStar. John’s signature dance “Dangerous” took the world by storm in 1997. Since then, John has received countless awards for many line dances he has choreographed or co-choreographed. John continues to travel the globe teaching, performing, coaching, judging, emceeing, and choreographing. He encourages everyone to “Live happy, laugh often, dance daily.”
In 1977, at the age of 15, Grant’s father introduced him to ballroom, swing, disco, and country western dancing. In 1981, Grant began teaching dance classes in the nightclubs in Houston, Texas, and winning local dance club competitions with his partner Carmen Scarborough. In 1987, Grant opened Dance Connection in Fort Lauderdale, and enjoyed success competing in Division 1 of the newly formed UCWDC with his partner Susan McMahon. In the early 1990’s Grant formed the Dance Connection Show Team, and competed in the Masters Division with Darlene Long. Grant was a UCWDC Judge and Judge certifier for 18 years. He founded the Sunshine State and Orange Blossom Dance Festivals. In 1989 Grant branded Comfort and Ultimate dance shoes and boots with extra padding for dancers. As a Certified Pedorthist, Grant’s orthotic company has helped over 16,000 dancers with custom fit orthotics.
Steve grew up an Army brat then went on to serve as an Army Captain in Korea, Okinawa, and Vietnam. After his military service, he moved to Albuquerque, NM where he met Mike Haley, a Realtor, talented dancer, and owner of a successful dance studio. When Mike, his dance team and Mike’s dance partner Patti Miller traveled to events, Steve became part of their support crew. In 1987, Steve was asked to help out at the Portland Dance Festival as a “ballroom coordinator”. Steve was so good at his job that before long, he was ballroom coordinator for over 20 events each year, including the first 10 UCWDC Worlds events. Since that early beginning, Steve has received numerous awards from the UCWDC and he has even been King of the New Orleans Mardi Gras – twice!” Steve retired in 2005. “I just wanted to make a difference - helping and caring for others”.
Brian began dancing in Louisville, KY in early 1997. Competitive by nature, Brian entered and won every competition he entered in 1998 and went on to win the Advanced & Renegade titles at Worlds 1999. At Worlds 2000, Brian won his first of a record setting 5 SuperStars World Championship titles before retiring from line dance in 2011. Brian made a comeback to the country floor dancing with Megan Anderson in 2016. They qualified for Masters and finished 3rd at the 2017 World Championships. Always a trend setter in line dance, Brian combined training from different styles to create a technique-based style that helped pave the way for the SuperStars division we see today. Brian pushed the limits of country dance. He was the first to wear Latin style pants instead of the traditional Wranglers, and the first competitor to wear the welt-less styled dance boot seen today.
Sarah began dancing in 1986 while working for a CPA firm in Kansas City. Within two years she met Bob Bahrs and became his dance partner. Bob and Sarah competed at their first UCWDC event in 1991 and were immediately hooked on country. After quickly moving through Division 3 and Division 2, they competed in Division 1 at Worlds 1; they became Masters Division Champions at Worlds 2. Bob and Sarah added "event directors" to their resume when they began hosting the Heartland Dance Festival in 1993. Sarah retired from competition after the birth of their son Zane in 1996, is now a substitute teacher, and continues to do office work for Bob's dance floor and video business.
In 1987, Mike Haley asked Patti to be his dance partner and taught her everything he could in the four months leading up to their first competition. Patti learned quickly how much she enjoyed performing in front of admiring audiences. Their 6 foot plus statures allowed them to move with a wonderful grace and beauty. They spent five years dancing and collecting numerous titles until they retired and began long and successful teaching, performing and judging careers. They were among the first to offer VHS instructional dance videos in the late 80s and early 90s. In 1995, Patti began devoting her time and energy to fund raising for Multiple Sclerosis Society under the name Dance Because You Can! Patti has raised over a million dollars so far for MS, and she continues to support MS projects today. She is grateful for all the support she's received and the friendships she's made over the years.
Laureen learned to dance the two step and west coast swing in 1989 while hanging out at her local country bar, the Saddle Rack. In 1991 she met her longtime country dance partner Robert Royston and together they won numerous country events including four consecutive Worlds Masters Division titles from 1995 to 1998. At the same time, they also competed at swing events winning numerous swing titles. After retiring from competition, Laureen appeared on Broadway in a show Swing! After the show ended, Laureen returned to swing competition and won the U.S. Open's Showcase division with her partner Ronnie DeBenedetta; they later won in the Showtime division too. Laureen was inducted into the WSDC hall of fame in 2014.
Linda first learned to dance by clogging, but then decided to take two step lessons where she met her dance partner, Bill Robinson. Linda and Bill attended their first dance contest in 1986 and fell in love with country dance competition. Together, Linda and Bill won an impressive 18 Division 1 titles and never once missed making the finals round of competition during their careers. At one point, they won 7 consecutive events and were undefeated in East Coast Swing for two years. In 1991 they retired from competition and started the Peach State Dance Festival in Atlanta.
Dawn started dancing in 1983, and soon after that she joined Dance West, a competition dance team. After her first competition with the team in 1985, she knew she had found her calling. She formed a partnership with Barry Durand and in their first competition, won a Division 1 title. Barry and Dawn went on to win numerous additional titles before becoming one of the first couples to compete in the new UCWDC division called Masters. In 1991, they became the first ever Worlds Masters Champions at Worlds 1. Also in 1991, Dawn&Barry won U.S. Open titles dancing swing in the Showcase Division and two step in the Cabaret division. Dawn married Dean Garrish in 1998, and together they have experienced great success performing, teaching, and coaching. Dean and Dawn are also co-directors of the New Orleans Mardi Gras.
Tom was one of the earliest pioneers of country dancing. After many years of competing and learning to teach disco and swing, Tom turned to teaching country dancing in the southern California nightclubs. By 1985, Tom was teaching country and swing dancing to thousands of eager dancers all over California. In 1986, Tom helped to create the Western States Rules (the predecessor of the UCWDC Rules). He was a founding member of the UCWDC, and he was the event owner/director of two sanctioned UCWDC events. More than any other person, Tom Mattox was responsible for convincing UCWDC and other country circuit event directors to include west coast swing as one of the dances offered for competition.
Jack and Sue started taking C/W dance lessons in a bar in Portland, Oregon in 1978. One thing led to another and soon they were competing in couples and team competition, teaching, judging, emceeing and coordinating dance events all over the U.S. Jack & Sue are the founders of the Portland Dance Festival. They are also founders of the “Country Goes Caribbean” dance cruise with NCL and Celebrity Cruise Lines. They were among the original authors of the Western States Rules, and they were founding members of the UCWDC.
Considered by many to be “Mr. Waltz”, Bob Bahrs created an immediate impact on country dancing with his partner Sarah Bahrs once they began competing in 1991. Bob and Sarah put together a string of 40 consecutive waltz titles during the span of their partnership, and in 1994 they became Masters Division World Champions. Bob and Sarah produced the Heartland Dance Festival for 11 years, and in 2001, Bob served as Worlds director when Worlds was held in Alberta, Canada. Bob was also instrumental in bringing Pro-Am competition to the UCWDC. In addition to providing dance floor and video services to numerous country, ballroom and swing dance events, Bob now competes in the Masters division with his wife Paula.
Considered the “Queen of Line Dance”, Jo Thompson has made quite an impact on dance floors worldwide. Jo started teaching country line and couples dancing in 1980. Her leap to worldwide recognition came from hosting her own TV show “Danceline” on TNN. She guest hosted “Club Dance” and the “Wildhorse Saloon” television shows, and she hosted dance contests all over the world for Country Music Television (CMT). Jo was voted 5- time International Line Dance Instructor of the Year and was one of the first inductees into the Line Dance Hall of Fame at the UK Crystal Boot Line Dance Awards. Jo has won numerous UCWDC Star Awards, and has taught, emceed and performed at many UCWDC events.
Larry and Laurie were the first Texas couple to compete regularly on the UCWDC circuit. They began competing 1987, and competed for their final time at the 1997 World Championships where they won in the first ever Masters Classic division. They overcame controversy caused by their unique approach to styling and technique to become consistent winners. Their influence on country dancing was most noticeable in the Waltz and Two-Step. They were the first Masters Division couple to travel to Europe to perform and offer workshops. In 1990, Larry and Laurie founded the Texas Classic in Houston. The Texas Classic was the first UCWDC event to offer a large and structured Pro-Am competition.
Jack and Debbie have been a force in New England for over 20 years. They operated the successful country dance hall “Diamond Jacks” which helped propel country dancing to popularity in the region for many years. They also ran the highly successful Diamond Jacks formation dance team which included many prominent competitors. Their love of country dancing has also been apparent within the UCWDC. Debbie was the Worlds Registrar for many years, while Jack was the UCWDC Treasurer.
Much of the popularity of country dancing in Colorado can be attributed to the efforts of Scott and Cheryl Lindberg. Scott and Cheryl racked up Nine Grand Championships and Masters Championships, never placing lower than third overall during their competition years. They are known for their speed, continuous turns, and unique choreography. They also established and produced for many years the UCWDC's Colorado Country Classic.Among numerous awards they won together, Cheryl won the 1995 Feather Award for the Top Female Country Western Instructor.
Tony began competing in country dance in 1992. He moved quickly through the divisions, and by 1993 Tony was dancing in Division 1 and won the World Title that year. Once in the Masters division, he and his partner Sharon Leigh again won frequently.Tony's innovative use of "theatrical moments" moved country dancing in new directions. His career started in the 'disco" days where he and his partner Susan won many titles. Tony also holds World titles in Ballroom, Hustle and Theatre Arts. He performed on television shows including "Dance Fever", "Soul Alive", and he appeared in the movie "Roseland". He is certified a Coach and Choreographer in Ballroom, Country, Hustle, Theatre Arts and Swing. He is also a Master level UCWDC certified judge.
Robert started country dancing as a teenager, and has parlayed his favorite hobby into a remarkable career. Robert has been honored with numerous Star Awards for "favorite teacher, emcee, and personality". He is one of the most successful "crossover" dancers to come out of the country dance community. Not only has he won four World titles in country dancing, but he's also won many titles in the swing community with his former partner Laureen Baldovi. Robert has brought Country and Swing dancing to the mainstream public when he performed in the Broadway hit "Swing!", and more recently in "Swango" with his wife Nicola. Robert is an internationally recognized judge and instructor who teaches over 20 styles of couples dancing.
Sherry, co-director of the River City Dance Festival, is also a certified UCWDC® judge – one of the first to become certified from Canada. She was the first woman elected to serve as UCWDC® President; she served two terms (from 1999 through 2002). Sherry was the President when the World Championships event first ventured outside the United States - to Edmonton, Canada in 2001, and then in the following year to the Netherlands. In those years of rapid growth in competitive country dancing in Europe and North America, she kept the UCWDC®on track despite huge financial challenges and unpredictable growing pains.
Dennis and Carol are the first couple to receive the Hall of Fame award.As founding members of the UCWDC® they participated in the first Council meeting held in Grantville, Pennsylvania, in 1989. Over the next 14 years, they produced more than 40 events, including Chicagoland, and the Little Bit of Texas Country Dance Convention. In 1992, Dennis and Carol became the first UCWDC® event to offer competition in line dance. They coordinated the first line dance divisional competition atWorldsV. Together, Dennis and Carol published “The Dance Corral” Magazine for 7 years. Carol served as the Secretary of the UCWDC®for 4 years and served as the first UCWDC®Office Manager in 2000.
Dorsey began dancing at the age of 12 while attending school dances and record hops; he was hooked from the very beginning. He started dancing ballroom at the age of 15 and was teaching by the age of 16. For over 15 years Dorsey has traveled throughout Europe helping to organize, promote, and coordinate dance championships there. Dorsey is proud to be a founding member of the UCWDC.
Sue started dancing at the age of six, and continued dancing ballet into adulthood. In the mid 80's, Sue competed on the clogging circuit and in 1985 became the NCHC National Clogging Champion. In 1979, Sue began teaching country dance classes and has been teaching ever since. Sue was instrumental in the development of formation dance teams and the creation of team rules. Her team the “Rug Cutters” was number one for several years. Since 1987, Sue has been the director for the Southern National Dance Competition. Along with other instructors and directors, Sue was instrumental in developing the UCWDC Judge Certification program. She served as the Council's first Treasurer and Secretary, and served many years as theVPof Judge Certification.
Kelly has been dancing since the age of three. She has danced professionally on stage, on TV and in the movies. She once had her very own TV show.With her husband, she owned and operated Arthur Murray studios and also a talent agency too. Kelly is a voting member of the UCWDC® as the representative of the NTA (National Association of Country Western Dance Teachers). Kelly has served as NTA president for many years. She developed the Accreditation (teaching training) program and spends a great deal of time judging and teaching all over the world. Kelly is a member of the UCWDC Judge Certification committee, a Master Level certified judge, and one of the select few who teach and test judges in the Judge Certification program.
Steve has faithfully served the country dance community since the early 80's. Steve quickly determined that there existed a critical need for a common set of competition rules that could be used at other events. Early efforts creating rules in conjunction with other directors eventually led to the Western States Rules, and then the UCWDC rules a few years later. Steve has served on various committees within the UCWDC® including Rules, the Business Team, Ethics committee, and as the Director of the World Championships forWorlds II throughV. Steve was elected the UCWDC's third President, a position he held in 2003 and 2004. Steve is the director of the longest running UCWDC event (since 1985): the Frezno Dance Classic.
Linda was quick to excel at the dance training opportunities that came within her reach. Early exposure to ballet, jazz, and social dance sparked her interest and gave her the foundation to pursue a career teaching dance. Linda was one of the original American Bandstand regulars. She was one of the featured dancers on Dancin' USA, and she served with Club Dance in Tennessee as the show's choreographer. Linda produced her first Southeastern Regional Dance Championship in 1984 and served as the event director for 15 years. Over the years, Linda has been recognized with numerous awards for her contributions to the world of dance.
Bill is the event director for the Peach State Country Western Dance Festival held each March in Atlanta, Georgia. Bill and his partner Linda Hembree competed for many years on the UCWDC® dance circuit. Bill and Linda were the top Polka and East Coast Swing competitors of their era and won many Division I Grand Championships. Bill is a member of the Judge Certification committee and is a current Master Level Judge. He travels the world judging and serving as the Contest Coordinator for numerous UCWDC® competitions.
Jeff became a dance competitor in 1946 just after he saw his first Fred Astaire movie; he remained a competitor for 23 years. His professional dancing career started with Arthur Murray in 1954. By 1969, Jeff had become the Arthur Murray Dance Director, and the lead dancer, choreographer and manager of the traveling show troupe “The Arthur Murray Dancers”. In 1979, Jeff converted to country dancing because of the traditional values for which it stands. In 1987, Jeff became one of the principle developers of the North American Rules for Country Western dancing (known today as the UCWDC® rules). Jeff was the creator of the UCWDC® bylaws and was elected the first UCWDC President in 1989 - a position he held until 1999. Jeff is the organizer/director of “Halloween in Harrisburg”.
Barry has been the Director of the Easterns, Swing Fling, and VSO in Washington DC. He was the first Masters World Champion in 1993 with his former partner Dawn Garrish (Blorstad). He is a several-time US Open National Swing and Cabaret Champion, an American Swing Dance Champion and he awed audiences across the world with exhibition partner Lisa West (Austin). Barry has choreographed and taught Line Dance worldwide. His country and swing team Dance West was undefeated during several years of competition. Barry has been awarded the US Open Humanitarian Award and was the host of the TNN Country Dance Challenge for four years.
Mike grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and began dancing at the age of eleven. He began competing as a ballroom dancer at the age of thirteen. He was teaching private lessons by the age of sixteen, and he opened his first studio when he was eighteen. Mike began competing in country dancing with Patti Miller in 1988. Over the next four years, Mike and Patti competed as many as 25 times annually, and never finished below third place overall. Now retired from competition, Mike choreographs routines and provides coaching for competitive dancers. He became the director of the annual New Mexico Dance Fiesta in 1989, and has directed three of the UCWDC® World Championships, including the very first one in 1993.
Dave has been involved with the UCWDC® since its origin in the late 1980s. He has been an integral part in developing the rules, scoring system, contest procedures, and the judge training and certification programs. Dave has held a number of key positions within the UCWDC®, including VP of Rules and VP of Judge Certification. In addition, Dave has been the Worlds Contest Coordinator for each of the 23 years it has been held. Dave is proud to have choreographed for and coached many World Champion dancers. He continues to provide coaching and choreography for social and competition dancers across the US and around the world.