Over the last 50 years Annie Hirsch has been the chief judge at almost every major swing event across the country. Along with Skippy Blair, Annie started the World Swing Dance Council as a means to promote swing dancing and keep it alive. Annie implemented many of the swing competition rules, guidelines, scoring systems and the Dancers Registry that is in use today. Her efforts have been instrumental in the popularity of swing today.
Skippy Blair’s dance resume is formidable: co-founder of the World Swing Dance Council, Feather Award recipient, founder of the Golden State Teachers Association and developer of the Universal Unit System® a complete system of dance notation that allows dancers to “read” a dance much like musicians read music. Skippy Blair has been a significant figure in the world of dance and, particularly, West Coast Swing since the early 1950s. She is generally credited with popularizing “West Coast Swing”. In 1958 she opened her first studio and started training Champion Dancers and Teachers. In 1974 she inaugurated National Dance Teacher Intensives which involved detailed, comprehensive training in dance knowledge, teaching and judging. Even today Skippy continues to be extremely active in the dance world and has coached some of the leading swing dancers in the country.
Dani Canziani started dancing and competing about 30 years ago in the country-western circuit, and over 25 years ago on the swing circuit. She has competed in both couples and team divisions, as well as performing on two dance cruises, and also placing at the US Open two-times with the award-winning west coast swing team, River City Rhythm. Dani has been teaching WCS private and group classes for over 20 years as well as coaching and choreography. In addition to teaching and coaching, Dani is well known as a national judge, working swing and country events from the west to east coasts. Prior to judging, Dani administered and ran scoring systems for country and swing events for about ten years. Dani is on the board of the World Swing Dance Council (WSDC) and a representative on the board of the National Association of Swing Dance Events (NASDE). She has also been the convention chair for the Capital Swing Dancers’ Presidents’ Day Convention, Sacramento, for 20 years running.
Yvonne has been dancing, teaching and judging since the 1990s. She has served as a chief judge and judge at many events on the NASDE circuit and continues to stay active in the Chicago dance community. Yvonne also has experience as an organizer and an event director. She was a key member in a group which started the first WCS dance club, the Chicago Rebels, in Chicago. As a member of the Chicago Rebels she was then instrumental in organizing and creating the Chicago Classic, the first WCS dance convention in the city and one of the original national events to join NASDE. Besides Jack and Jill, Yvonne and her late husband Jim competed on a team that placed at the US Open. Yvonne is currently a full time real estate agent. Yvonne started her career in real estate simultaneously with her dancing career, 20 years ago. Over the years, Yvonne has been a top producer in the Chicago area and during the peak of real estate she was in the top 1% of agents in Chicago. Prior to Yvonne’s career in real estate she was instrumental in the start-up of a highly successful strategic planning firm (McMillan/Doolittle) where she worked with top executives in the retail industry (such as Mobile Oil, Sears, Ikea and Dayton Hudson, just to mention a few). She provided her clients with a high level of communication, knowledge of the market, customer service, and integrity. She brings those skills to the WSDC.
Estelle began her dance journey at age 13 when she discovered Lindy Hop. She was hooked with her first dance steps, and swing dancing quickly became a true passion and a lifestyle that pushed her to follow her second passion – traveling. She decided to travel the world and learn as much about the dance as possible, and eventually discovered West Coast Swing. She realized that this was the dance for her – mixing smooth, graceful, and technical qualities with her beloved swing – and she immediately fell in love.
In 2011, she moved to Montreal for two years to teach, learn, and improve herself among the best of the community. She traveled to places where she could compete, and she became the first French All-Star. She also trained professionally as a dancer and teacher of the dance during this time, developing her technique and pedagogy.
Estelle now lives back in Europe, where she competes, teaches, judges, and head judges at WSDC events. She continues to travel the world to share her passion with everybody. Her joyful personality and easy-going, open attitude make her a renowned teacher, and her way of making harder concepts easy to understand will make everyone in her class walk away with more confidence and understanding of the dance.
Jim Coakley has been involved in West Coast Swing for over 20 years and has watched the development of our dance over the years. He was a member of the Next Generation Swing Dance Club in the 90s and now lives on the east coast. He was one of the lucky ones that got to dance at the top of the World Trade Center, drinking champagne at the parties held by Gotham Swing. Jim is the president of the Young Adult Swing Dance Association and has worked to reach out to young dancers in our community to support them in their desire to learn West Coast Swing and to compete.
At the age of 16, Line Dancing and Country Two Step brought Demery to the dance world. It wasn’t until many years later, however, that he was introduced to the West Coast Swing dance scene. Demery is a chief judge at several swing events throughout the United States and Canada. When not acting as Chief Judge he also takes on the role of Assistant Chief Judge at many other events. At home in Jacksonville, Florida, Demery works alongside the Jacksonville West Coast Swing Club to keep the swing community growing. Teaching weekly group lessons and running dances, Demery strives to promote the dance he loves and create an environment where people want to learn.
Kim Liu has been dancing West Coast Swing since the mid-1990s, primarily in the San Francisco Bay area. She focuses on social dancing, although she used to compete in Jack and Jills and the occasional Strictly Swing. Kim travels extensively throughout the US to swing dance conventions, and is looking forward to attending international events.
Kim has served as President, Treasurer, Membership Director and other roles for the SF Bay Area’s The Next Generation Swing Dance Club and its annual swing dance convention Boogie by the Bay. Her professional background is marketing and management consulting.
Jim Tigges has been active in the swing dance community since he started dancing in 1992. Jim and his wife Cathy have been competitors and ‘students of the dance’. Jim is a versatile and knowledgeable member of the swing dance community. He has been a competitor, judge, chief judge, scorer and emcee at numerous events around the nation. In 1997 Jim and Cathy were the directors/coordinators for the very successful Greater Phoenix Swing Dance Competition’s 4th of July convention. Jim has been serving on the WSDC as an executive director, event liaison, membership database facilitator and Swing Dance Hall of Fame coordinator. When not dancing or working events, Jim is also a studied and successful interior architect in the Phoenix, Arizona area.