28th Annual Black Hills Dance Festival April 25-27, 2024
Jo Thompson Szymanski
Considered the “Queen of Line Dance”, Jo Thompson Szymanski has been teaching line dancing for 42 years and has made quite an impact on dance floors worldwide! Jo was Miss Texas 1987, placed top ten at Miss America and holds a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and Dance. The whole Thompson family started teaching line and couples dancing in 1980. Jo's big break to worldwide fame came from hosting her own television show “Danceline” on The Nashville Network. Many of you probably remember Jo’s big Texas hair, tight leggings and cowboy boots! She guest hosted TNN’s Club Dance and the Wildhorse Saloon TV shows as well as 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 two people (with Max Perry) to be inducted into the Line Dance Hall of Fame at the 1999 UK Crystal Boot Line Dance Awards. She has won many Crystal Boots, United Country Western Dance Council (UCWDC) Star Awards, Dancer’s Choice Awards and in 2012 was inducted into the UCWDC Hall of Fame.
In addition to line dancing, Jo’s teaching and dancing experience includes Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Swing,
Salsa, Ballroom, Square Dancing, Round Dancing, Clogging, and Latin. She has taught throughout the world and her dances such as Come Dance With Me, Midnight Waltz, Just For Grins, Dizzy, Jukebox, Splish Splash, Enchantment, Por Ti Sere, Cut-A-Rug, Rita’s Waltz, Jo ‘n Jo Tango, Hideaway Cha, MJ Moves, TGIF, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Shoes of Another Man, Rose Garden, Get Wild, The Bounce, Showstopper, Love Lifted Me, This Little Light, Pull You Through, Cliché Love Song, Remember You Young, Country in 3, Where Oh Where, You’re My Favorite, Hot Tamales Jr…and the list goes on and on…are favorites with dancers everywhere.
Jo’s life was practically picture perfect! However, in November of 2004, while pregnant, Jo was diagnosed with a very rare, life threatening bone marrow disease, Aplastic Anemia. Also affected were her joints leaving her unable to walk, much less dance! 2 total hip replacements, 6 shoulder surgeries (including one total shoulder replacement,) one knee surgery and a bone marrow/stem cell transplant later Jo is back to dancing, teaching and choregraphing! She is grateful to the dance community for their tremendous support throughout her journey. Jo, her husband Tim and their 17-year-old daughter Anna live in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.
Michael started teaching dance when he was only 17 years old. His first professional teaching job was for “The Journey”, a young adult night club where he taught large groups of students to dance the Hustle and basic Cha Cha. It was not very long before Michael began teaching full time at a popular dance studio in San Diego. Within two years Michael was offered a teaching position with another more reputable studio in La Jolla, CA. Fulfilling a dream to own his own studio, in 1982 Michael opened the Starlight Dance Studio in San Diego. Since its inception, Starlight Dance Studio has grown to six times its original size with over 30 very talented instructors and over 300 students!
In 2017, Michael sold the Starlight Dance Studio and relocated to Charlotte, NC. He is actively involved in helping build the Charlotte West Coast Swing community, as well as offering a range of services. Michael regularly competes, performs, coaches, judges, and hosts dance events throughout the year on top of his very busy teaching schedule.
Kurt Senser’s passion for dancing and serving as a dance instructor began in the 1980s in San Diego. Today, he offers private dance lessons in Atlanta and the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1999, Kurt moved to the Bay Area and opened his dance studio, Rhythm Street, which he ran for ten years. He has won many competitions, including the United Country Western Dance Council (UCWDC) World Championship Division III in 1997. Today, Kurt continues to compete and judge at numerous dance events; however, he is most proud of winning the award of “Top Teacher” for the last several years. Teaching is his true passion, and it shows in every lesson taught.
Kurt’s success as a competitive dancer and as a teacher is due in part to his calming, approachable presence, and his skill at explaining technical details in a simple and easy-to-understand manner. These are potent components that make a great dance teacher, for he helps his students feel comfortable on the dance floor. Kurt Senser is very experienced in understanding body mechanics. He communicates how you can correct small details in your movement to create a significant impact on how you look and feel on the dance floor.
Debbie has been teaching dance in the Rapid City/Black Hills Area since 1993. She started teaching line dancing through Community Education of the Black Hills and lessons grew to include numerous couple’s classes. She offers private lessons and loves working with bride/grooms, wedding parties, social events, and seeing the smiles on the faces!
Debbie created the Hot Shots Performance Dance Team after doing Dancing in the Park Programs for kids in the summer, working in the PE Classrooms, and doing after school programs. The Hot Shots team consisted of kids ages 8 to 18. They performed year-round at venues such as ½ time for basketball games, Heart Ball, Central States Fair, the State Capitol, and many other local events. She managed, instructed, and coached the team from 1997 until its retirement in 2020.
Debbie loves to travel to dance events, take workshops, and meet dancers everywhere. She continues to encourage people of all ages to learn the fun and joy of dancing.
Dance! It's Good for the Heart!!
My passion is Teaching students "How to Dance" to all the different Rhythms! I moved to Casper, Wyoming in 1980 from Missoula, Montana where I grew up! I taught Disco Line Dancing and then worked under the Ballroom Instructor at the University of Montana. I learned to Dance many Rhythms, including Foxtrot, Waltz, Jitterbug, Polka, Rhumba, American Tango, & Cha-cha! In Country Dance, we learned Country Swing, Two Step, Polka, & Waltz!
In Wyoming, Country Dancing is the most popular! Line dancing is also popular and some Ballroom, too! I have taught dancing throughout Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, and Indianna! My husband and 2 kids opened up a "Family Dance Studio/Club" in the 90's where we hosted a lot of groups, parties, and weddings! So, in the 90's my family became DEEJAY'S, too! Also In the 90's I hosted the "ROCKY MOUNTAIN REGIONAL DANCE FESTIVAL"