Author Archives: Enmanuel Diaz

JACK BRIDGES | 1989

Jack Bridges, with his wife Mary Ann, created the U.S. Open Swing Dance Championships, which aimed to welcome all swing dance forms. He was also President of the San Diego Swing Dance Club.  

Public Recognition: 

  • 1977-1978 – President of the San Diego Swing Dance Club
  • 1982-2000 – Founder, owner, and promoter of the U.S. Open Swing Dance Championships 
  • 1995 – Initiated the National Association of Swing Dance Events (NASDE)
  • 1989 – Inducted into the World Swing Dance Council Hall of Fame (formerly the National Swing Dance Hall of Fame)

Dance Biography:

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.

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GARY LONG | 2008

Gary Long has been an integral part of the swing community since the 1970s, particularly in the Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas areas. He was instrumental in building the Dallas swing dance community. Gary has been a dancer, teacher, competitor, choreographer and mentor, inspiring many dancers over the years.  

Public Recognition:

  • Winner on Merv Griffin’s Dance Fever
  • Appeared on stage with music group The Temptations
  • Instructor on TV’s Texas Country Nights
  • Appeared on Good Morning Texas, State Fair of Texas, Dick Clark Road Show
  • Director of Multiple Sclerosis Metro Dance Benefit
  • Named one of the Oklahoma / Kansas “Kings of Swing”
  • First recipient of America’s Classic Heart and Soul Humanitarian Award
  • Winner of East Coast Tournament of Champions Rising Star Award
  • World Swing Dance Council Hall of Fame

Dance Biography:

Gary Long started dancing with disco in 1976 and swing dancing in 1977, when he joined the Tulsa Swing Club, eventually becoming a charter member of the Club. Recruited by the Arthur Murray Studio, he taught line and nightclub dances. 

Gary is one of the most popular nightclub instructors in Dallas. His lessons and workshops have introduced thousands of new dancers to the community. He was the instructor at the legendary Belle Star, which introduced swing to country western dancers. Gary is well-known for his interpretations of slot-cross slot, the contemporary version of the double resistance rock-step, quick-time and same side variations. 

Gary was founder and co-owner of the A.M. Connection Dance Studio, which opened in 1977. In 1985, he founded For Dancers Only, one of Dallas’ most popular swing clubs, where he was Dance Director. He opened his dance studio Dancin’ Room Only at the Stampede. He is very proud of the young and senior dancers he works with at local recreation centers, schools and retirement villages.

Within his first year of swing dancing, Gary had won numerous local contests, including the Tulsa Championship. He began competing seriously with Judy Ford. In 1978, Gary tied for 1st Place and won Best Routine at the Swing Clubs of America Third Annual National Convention in St. Louis. He received the first of many wins at the Southwest Regionals and Midwest Challenge in 1980. In 1981, he won 1st in the Club Division and 3rd in the Open Division at the Las Vegas National Swing Championships. In 1986, he and his best friend Mario Robau Jr won the Tulsa Invitational Cabaret division with their infamous “Living in America” routine, which they later performed as an exhibition at the US Open Swing Dance Championships.

Gary is a well-known director and choreographer of formation teams. He has directed sixteen of them, with five teams winning 1st place at Dallas Dance, including his Swingin’ the Blues team with seventeen couples. His 1989 team Flashpoint won the US Open and his 1995 team Escape Velocity placed 2nd. His New Friends teams introduce novice dancers to the competition field. Win, place, or show – these people “are what swing dancing is all about, and their energy and excitement is contagious.”

Gary serves the dance community by teaching, judging, MCing, and promoting, from local Texas dances to dances as far away as Johannesburg, South Africa.  He was SWRDA judging coordinator for ten years, and has judged at the US Open and America’s Classic. He has been the MC for many city, state and regional events, Dallas DANCE, and US Open (2000). 

For twenty-one years, Gary hosted his annual Labor Day Splash Bash, when dancers from all over the country showed up after Dallas DANCE to relax, eat, swim, play water volleyball, talk, share, mix, party and dance. The late Kenny Wetzel called it “the best after the contest” party in the country!

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