Jo Thompson Szymanski
Considered the “Queen of Line Dance”, Jo Thompson Szymanski has made quite an impact on dance floors worldwide. This year, she celebrates 35 years of teaching line and couples dancing! The whole Thompson family started teaching country couples and line dancing in 1980. Jo’s big break to worldwide fame came in the mid 1990’s through hosting her own show Danceline on The Nashville Network. Many of you might 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 Miss Texas 1987, placed top ten at Miss America and holds a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and Dance. 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 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 and couples 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 dances that she choreographed/co-choreographed 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, Tango Cha, Dog-gone Blues, Shoes of Another Man, Through the Fire, Showstopper, Kreedom, This Little Light, Wrong Side Slide, Wakey Wakey, Yes! and the list goes on and on and are favorites with dancers everywhere. Jo, along with singer/songwriter Scooter Lee, co-founded Dancing for the Dream Senior Line Dance Charity to help promote the many health benefits of line dancing as we age.
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, 5 shoulder surgeries, one knee surgery and a successful bone marrow/stem cell transplant later, Jo is back to dancing, teaching and feels great! She thanks to the dance community for the tremendous support throughout her journey. Jo along with her husband Tim and their 10 year old daughter Anna live in Denver, Colorado.
I am thrilled and honored to be a part of Dance For The Cure 2016! I have heard so many great things about this event. Thank you Jill and Julie for the opportunity to finally experience it in person! I look forward to seeing many friends and making lots of new ones at this wonderful event. Warm hugs to you all!
Years: 2016, 2019
Derek Steele was introduced to country line dancing in 1994 by his mother Hertha Steele who was a Line Dance Instructor. Derek started by helping his mother carry in the equipment and other items each week into her local classes. Derek continued to help by deejaying her monthly dances and small workshops. Not long after deejaying a few dances, Derek realized that there were way more women than men on the floor and decided to begin learning how to dance himself.
In 1995 Derek decided to choreograph his own dance, but with his own rules. Whiney Whiney was a 28 count, non-country music circle dance. Keep in mind in 1995 there was very little if any non-country music used, not to mention we were line dancers and he decided to create a “circle” line dance. It was later that year Derek attended one of his very first workshops in Kitchener Ontario hosted by Mary Hoedeman along with Max Perry and Jo Thompson. It was there “Whiney Whiney” was danced socially which then led to them asking him to teach the dance that afternoon. This was the beginning of the adrenaline rush .
In 1998 Derek had his first experience with the UCWDC in Toronto, where he was introduced to the world of competition in choreography and line dance. Derek went on to win a number of choreography competitions as well as Male Open Novice and Male Open Renegade. It was in that same year that Bill McLeod gave Derek his first opportunity to teach at the UCWDC level. It was this chance moment that Derek met his future wife Tiffany.
In 2003 Derek retired from dancing to spend time with his wife Tiffany and son Dylan. That would be shorted lived however. Since Tiffany and Derek met dancing, they were meant to keep dancing and in 2010 Derek came back to the scene which was now completely different than how he left it. Once again Derek would get back into competition, and in 2016 won his first UCWDC Choreography World Championship with the dance “Shades On Inside”. He would follow that up with wining two more consecutive World Championships in 2017 and 2018.
Derek’s choreography has and is being taught and danced around the world. Some dances include “Whiney Whiney”, “At It Again”, “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It”, “Uma Thurman”, “Play That Song” and “Music To My Eyes”. Derek has collaborated with a number of different choreographers and thanks each and every one of them for that opportunity. A special thank you to his mother Hertha, wife Tiffany, son Dylan for always being at his side and pushing him to do better. John Robinson, Dennis and Carol Waite, Bill McLeod, Jamie Marshall, Jo Thompson, Judy McDonald, Scott Blevins, and Max Perry for being the inspirations they were and continue to be. Derek would also like to thank anyone else who has helped him to continue to do what he loves either through hiring, promoting, teaching or dancing his choreography.
“I am beyond excited and honored to be a part of Dance For A Cure 2019. I have attended the past few years and it is truly one of my favorite events of the year and I look forward to it each year. So many friendly people and such a great cause all at one fabulous event. I can’t wait to dance and hang out with everyone.”