Harry Reese is a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War. He has been a professional bowler, a martial arts black belt, a college teacher, a carpenter, a plumber, and an executive for a Fortune 500 company. Above all, he is a dancer, a choreogra­pher, and a teacher – the current owner and operator of Harry Reese Dance Studios in Wichita, Kansas.

Harry’s dancing history began with his mother. She was a na­tive Hawaiian, a hula instructor, dancer, and vocalist who began teaching Harry Hula at the age of three or four, with high expectations. After all, “Expectations in Hawaiian families are that you can sing and dance before you can walk.”

At age sixteen, Harry saw “Jitterbuggers” dancing at a California nightclub. He tried to duplicate the dance from memory and about six months later succeeded in giving a respectable, though not necessarily accurate, Jitterbug display at a high school dance. He learned “Wow! Girls like guys who can dance!” He had a new motive for dancing, and dancing he did! For the next eighteen years he slowly drifted from Jitterbug into Lindy. Then, the moment arrived when he became hooked on West Coast Swing.

In 1978, he attended a West Coast Swing class in Tulsa, Oklahoma taught by Swing Dance H-O-F member Jerry Crim and Jody Bridges. Harry was quickly hooked and couldn’t get enough. While Jerry was his part time instructor, it was really Jody who taught him much of his dance foundation. He also credits Rudy Debruin, a great dancer with Fred Astaire Dance Studios, for teaching him body mechanics and a dance frame.

The next thing Harry knew, he was involved in the Tulsa Swing Club, eventually becoming President. The list of members during that time include many of the foundation dancers of the era: Gary Long, Barry Jones, Judy Ford Lafemina, Doug Morris, Beverly Johnson, Tom Cameron, and many others who influenced dancing then and continue to impact the World of West Coast Swing today.

Harry’s accomplishments reflect his enthusiasm not just for dance, but his love of West Coast Swing. He founded or assisted in founding several dance clubs and aided in the founding of several great contests. He has been and continues to be a competitor, and has been a judge at local, state, regional and national contests, including the U.S. Open and Dallas D.A.N.C.E.

It is his role as a teacher that has given Harry Reese his most lasting satisfaction. He began teaching in 1981 and has taught thousands to dance. He has taught champions, and teachers of champions, all of which he is proud. But in his words, “It is the couple that may never become great dancers, but that come to me and learn how to dance and appreciate the dance that has been my life – that gives me the greatest satisfaction.”

 

Awards & Accomplishments:
  • 1979 – Participated in the expansion of the Southwest Regional Dance Association to include Oklahoma
  • 1980 – Put together the first two Tulsa Invitationals with Bob Bridges
  • 1980 – President of Tulsa Swing Club
  • 1981 – Founded the Swing Tulsa Style Dance Club and has served as club president at least a half a dozen times
  • 1983 – Co-Founded the Oklahoma State Swing Dance Association & OK State Swing Dance Championship
  • 1984 – Put together the first Buddy Austin & Oklahoma City Dance Championships with Charlie Stinson
  • 1986 – Helped Terry Rippa with the creation of Dallas D.A.N.C.E. – designing the logo, ads, tickets, and judging
  • 1993 – Co-Founder of the River City Swing Dance
  • 1994 – National Swing Dance Hall of Fame Inductee
  • Multiple Winner of OK State Swing Dance Championship & Southwest Regional Swing Dance Championship
  • Assisted in the initial organizing and instruction for: Oklahoma City Swing Dance Club; Wichita Push Club; & Ft. Smith Swing Dance Club
Bio provided by Harry Reese - Photos courtesy of Harry Reese & Terry Rippa
Harry Reese