Congress Instructors and Presenters

Creative Director: Benji Schwimmer

A third generation swing dancer, Benji Schwimmer holds records in nearly every category of West Coast Swing and has been swing dancing for over 30 years this month!

Having an extensive background in most dance styles, Benji’s training, coaching, lecturing and choreography is a sought-after tool to both the recreational dancer to the most elite of competitors.

Outside of swing, “America’s Favorite Dancer” is the artistic director for various live tv shows. Benji is the Creative Director for the Us Open Congress since inception 3 years ago. When not dancing, he coaches and choreographs for some of the highest Olympic-level figure skaters in the world and is a recognized Olympic figure skating coach.

Instructors: Jordan Frisbee and Tatiana Mollmann

Jordan & Tatiana have been partners since 2000, and are 11-Time US Open Classic Division Champions, as well as each holding 20 US Open Titles across divisions. They also are multiple Grand National Champions, 7-time NASDE Champions, and are the most winning dance couple in West Coast Swing. Their TV and movie appearances include “30 Seconds to Fame”, “Star Search”, “Good Morning America”, “The Polar Express”, and “Love N’ Dancing” to name a few. They have earned a great reputation teaching all over the world as Certified Teachers for the Golden State Dance Teachers Association.  Their latest endeavor, JT Swing Teams, has created a new global community of dancers working together on a common goal to improve through choreography and gain exposure for West Coast Swing.

Robert Royston

Robert Royston’s professional career began on the competitive couples dance circuit in 1989. Quickly ascending the ranks, Robert successfully secured eight (8) “U.S. Open Swing Dance Championship titles,” six (6) different “World Country Dance Championship titles,” and two (2) “USA Grand National Championships Titles.” In addition, he holds national titles in Hustle, Salsa, and Cabaret. Inducted into the “California Swing Dance Hall of Fame” in 1999, Robert continued his rise as a dance legend becoming the youngest person inducted to the “UCWDC Country Dance Hall of Fame” in 2007. His inductions into the “World Swing Dance Hall of Fame” and the “Living Legends of Dance Society” in 2011 make him the only dancer ever inducted into all of these organizations. Robert’s exciting, high energy original work gained the attention of producers of the Broadway musical, “Swing!” This led to his appearance for 1-1/2 years in the 7 time Tony nominated musical as a principle dancer performing his own choreography. He later became the assistant choreographer for the first National Tour of the production. Royston’s work was highlighted in the production of “Gypsy of the Year on Broadway” at New York’s Palace Theatre, as well as “Destination Groove”, a Choreographer’s Showcase. His choreography again drew attention in the New York workshop production of “Urban Cowboy,” a production in which he also performed.

Yvonne Antonacci

Yvonne Antonacci has been dancing, teaching and judging since the 1990s. Although Yvonne was originally involved in jitterbug dancing, she quickly got involved with WCS when she saw it for the first time at the Phoenix dance convention.

She was so inspired by WCS that she started the first WCS club here in Chicago, and that club, the Chicago Rebels Swing Dance Club, still operates today. In addition to starting the club, Yvonne was also the heart and spirit behind bringing the first WCS dance convention to Chicago and that event was the original Chicago Classic, which was one of the original national events to join NASDE.

Yvonne, together with Barry Jones, were instrumental in bringing the “Rising Star” event from Dallas to Chicago, providing newer competitors with the opportunity to compete against their peers.

Yvonne has served as a Judge at many events on the NASDE circuit and continues to stay active here in the Chicago dance community.

Heidi Burns

Heidi (Groskreutz) Burns holds six US Open Swing Dance Championship titles from Showcase to Cabaret and on and has enjoyed competing and participating in the US Open since the young age of 7! She was a top finalist in “So You Think You Can Dance,” performing in two of the most successful Emmy award- winning dances and has been featured on every major American television network as either a choreographer, featured dancer, and talent scout for ABC.  She has coached and continues to train the top International Latin Dance couples in the world including the World Champions from the Youth to the Professional categories!!! Traveling the world teaching Swing, Latin, and other styles of dance has allowed her to fulfill her passion in pushing the limits and boundaries of both her world-class pupils and the art of dance itself.  Her most prized titles however are that of Wife and Mother. She is thrilled and honored to be a part of the US Open this year!

Mary Ann Nunez

Two Time Winner of the USOPEN Swing Dance Championship Showcase Division.  Inducted into the World Swing Dance Hall of Fame, California Swing Dance Hall of Fame, National Living Legends and the USOPEN Walk of Fame Legends of Swing. Three Time Feather Award for Most Outstanding Female Dancer and Three Time Dancer’s Choice Award for Favorite Female Dancer.

From inception of the World Swing Dance Council point system in 1992 until retiring from dancing in competition in 2014, she has accumulated one of the highest points in the competitor’s registry for Jack & Jill and Strictly Swing Divisions. This doesn’t include all the Jack & Jill’s she competed in since 1983 before the point system was introduced.  She is a Certified Golden State Dance Teacher and teaches Workshops and judges Nationwide.  Loves to help every dance enthusiast to become the best follower or leader they can be and have fun doing it.

Laureen Baldovi

Laureen is a 4-time UCWDC World’s Masters Division (Country Dance Professional Division) Champion (1995-1998) and has won 8 U.S. Open Swing titles in multiple divisions which include, Classic (1995), Superstar (1996 & 1997), Showtime Invitational (1998), Teams (1993, 1994 & 1996), and Showcase (2003) Divisions.

In 1999, a life-changing opportunity crossed her path, so she left California and moved to New York City to be a Principal Dancer in a Broadway musical show called Swing!

The California Swing Dance Hall of Fame awarded Laureen the Nova Star in 1998, the Rising Star in 2002, and the Shining Star in 2016.  In 2014, she was inducted into the World Swing Dance Council’s Hall of Fame.

In January, 2015, the UCWDC (United Country Western Dance Council) inducted Laureen into their Legends of Country Dance category, and in 2016, they inducted her into their Hall of Fame.

She currently resides in San Diego, CA teaching group classes and private lessons out of Starlight Dance Studio.

Dawn Garrish

Dawn Garrish has been teaching dance for over 30 years.  She started off in the Country Dance Scene and 6 years later was introduced to West Coast Swing.  She has numerous Country World Titles to include being the first Master World Champion in 1990. A friend (Phil Adams from CA) convinced her and her partner to compete at the US Open.  Never even seeing the Open and understanding what it even was she agreed. She now holds 7 US Open Titles. In 1991 (her first time) She became the first to not only win the Showcase Division but also the Cabaret Division (doing a Country Two Step). In 1992 she won the Champions Jack & Jill, 1993 Showcase and team division, 1994 & 1996 teams.

She has coached and choreographed for over 10 US Open Champions, and multiple Country Dance World Champions. Her daughters (Alexis 18 & Taylor 13) are both multiple time World Champions.

In January, 2015, the UCWD (United Country Western Dance Council) inducted her into the “Legends of Dance”. 2016 She was then inducted into the “Hall of Fame”.

For the last 10 years she can found as the Head Judge at Many NASDE and WSDC events.  She is known for her, “Always put the competitor first and VERY FAIR style!”

She lives and teaches in Damascus, MD and plans to teach dance the rest of her life!!

Sarah Vann Drake

Yusuf Nasir

DANCER, CHOREOGRAPHER, INSTRUCTOR

Yusuf Nasir’s love for dance is infectious and can be felt far and wide. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Yusuf began dancing at age seven at Studio J in Berkeley, California, under the direction of Kris Bell. He is a graduate of the San Francisco School of the Arts, and attendee of the Ailey School in New York. A highly versatile dancer, choreographer, and instructor, his credits span through Film, Television, and Stage.
Dance credits include: Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Miley Cyrus, Neil Patrick Harris, Ceelo- Green, Wayne Brady, Donny and Marie Osmond Live in Las Vegas, Ray Charles Live – B’way Tryout, Dancing with the Stars, MTV Video Music Awards, Spike TV Video Game Awards, Festival di San Remo, Mark Feuerstein and many more! In addition, he has appeared in not one but five national commercials. Now moving into directing and choreography and made TOP 5 contestant in the second season of the television choreography competition show “Every Single Step” Produced by Nigel Lythgoe and Brian Friedman. From that show, he was selected to be contributing choreographer for Jackie Chung World Tour, Directed by Emmy-award winning choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon (Nappytabs).

Currently, he is an Adjunct Professor of Dance at the American Music and Dramatic Arts College and Conservatory Los Angeles and the newest edition to the Joffrey West Ballet School. Past studios: Edge Performing Arts Center, Millennium Dance Complex, Chapkis Dance.

Toni Basil

Singer    Dancer    Actress    Choreographer    Judge    Film Director

A multiple Emmy Award and Grammy Award nominee, She has choreography and directorial credits on over 50 videos and has choreographed and co directed concerts for Tina Turner, David Bowie, Bette Midler, David Lee Roth, Mick Jagger as well as many others.

In 2008 received Hip Hop International’s highest award “Living Legend of Hip Hop.” One of the 7 original lockers; “the group that changed the face of dance.”

Emmy award for a commercial featuring MC Hammer. She has worked on an incredible range of television programming and numerous Music Awards shows.

Toni’s feature film credits include choreography for such classics as American Graffiti, and Legally Blonde. Her subtle choreographic hand was visible throughout Tom Hanks directorial debut; That Thing You Do. Toni has acted in numerous films including, Easy Rider, and Five Easy Pieces.

Double platinum record for her smash single Mickey and a Gold Album for 1981’s Word Of Mouth and holds the same from the UK, Canada and Australia. Billboard magazine’s #1 song for the month of December, 1982, Mickey was installed in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as one of the groundbreaking singles of the 1980s.

Classically trained dancer, with expertise in world dance and partnering Afro/Cuban, Tango, Flamenco, Salsa, east coast and west coast swing. From judging street dance events internationally to being a trending viral video, Toni has always being on the cutting edge of pop culture, and shows no sign of stopping.
Check this out…
https://www.bttoronto.ca/videos/toni-basil-still-breaks-it-down-to-hey-mickey/

Jeremy Abbott

US OLYMPIAN: JEREMY ABBOTT

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVuh8616umk

More Instructors to Come!

Celebrity Athlete:

Olympic Judge/Coach

TV Casting Director

Questions? Contact:

info@usopenswing.com
800-537-8937