2004 "Person of the Year"
Sponsored by ABC
Skippy Blair - First Lady of
When setting the criteria for
the USA Swing Net "Person of the Year" award, we sought candidates who,
"because of their achievements, actions and example over the past year,
demonstrated excellence and helped to enhance the image of Swing in a
significant way." Based upon input from event directors, judges,
competitors, and Swing fans around the country - Skippy Blair stands at
center stage. She is our 2004 "Person of the Year."
* * * *
She is fondly referred to as
the "First Lady of Swing". The title suits her nicely.
Blair’s love affair with Swing started in 1938 on the Steel Pier in Atlantic
City. All the Big Bands of the day played there, and in 1941 Skippy and her
partner, Red Rex, from California won the big yearly Jitterbug contest that
was held there.
late 1940s and early ‘50s, Skippy married a marine and had 4 children, but
still took time out for teaching tap dancing classes. In 1958 she opened
her first studio and started training Champion Dancers and Teachers.
In 1974 she inaugurated National Dance Teacher Intensives which involved
detailed, comprehensive training in dance knowledge, teaching and judging.
They continue today and the seminars run anywhere from 3 to 7 days and are
often integrated into major weekend dance events.
In 1975 Skippy appeared in the
movie, "Queen of the Stardust Ballroom". She later appeared in the
1987 Movie, "Tales of the Hollywood Hills". She spent several years
as a choreographer and performer for TV shows like "Let's Dance", "Truth
or Consequences" and "Bob Barker's Varieties".
Skippy Blair's dance resume is
formidable: Co-founder of the World Swing Dance Council, a Feather Award
recipient, member of the Swing Dance Hall of Fame, founder of the Golden
State Teachers Association, developer of the Universal Unit System®,
Director of Dance Dynamics Studio, creator of the "Swing World" website for
continuing dance education, and the author of 7 books and 14 videos. Her
1978 publication, "Disco to Tango and Back", has become a collector's
item on Amazon.
That's the LONG history.
In 2004 her contributions to
the World of Swing continued in earnest. She taught weekend Dance Intensives
in Atlanta, Seattle, Detroit, Chicago, Anaheim, Monterey, San Francisco,
Downey, Irvine, Nashville, San Jose, Palm Springs, Sacramento - and even
Hawaii. Over 1,000 dancers attended her Intensives over the course of the
Skippy also offered Dance
Critiques at many of the competitions she attended and was one of the
premier judges at the 2004 US OPEN. Her dance and judging tips are
published on websites and in print all across the country. And each year,
she presents a number of Dance Scholarships to deserving dancers.
But the crowning moment of
2004 took place on March 15th when Skippy Blair turned 80 years young. It
was a milestone for "Lady Swing" and a shared celebration for her fans
across the country. At each venue she traveled to, dancers held special
Birthday Ceremonies to salute her and her career. One special tribute took
place at the Michigan Classic on 4th of July Weekend in Detroit. There,
Skippy stepped onto the stage in a red, white and blue outfit and sang a
song she wrote and recorded years ago that was entitled, "What Is
America?". She received a standing ovation for her performance and a
flurry of tears from the hundreds of dancers in the audience. Afterwards,
80 dancers holding flashlights with red, white and blue lenses formed a
circle around her to represent 80 "candles" on a human birthday cake. It
was one of those "Kodak Moments" that none of the attendees will soon
Perhaps this personal comment
from Skippy defines the lady and the dance she loves better than any salute
we could give her...
"Today - right now - this is a
wonderful world we live in. Those who are fortunate enough to be a part of
the Dance World can count their blessings for all the wonderful people who
are a part of their extended family - as well as the exciting and
ever-changing life that they get to experience.
"I don't think I would want to
go back - even if I could. There is a season for everything, and
experiencing each one in its proper order is the miracle of life. God bless
everyone - and Keep Dancing!"
Skippy Blair is fondly
referred to as the "teacher's Teacher" and the "First Lady of Swing". She
is a Swing icon and has been an inspiration to tens of thousands of dancers
across this country and around the world for more than 66 years now. She is
But it is not just the resume
that we honor here, nor the longevity of her dance career. Instead, we
spotlight Skippy Blair as a SYMBOL for how a person and how a dance can
enlighten the lives of others at any age and in any forum. Skippy
represents the "life breath" of dance, in general, and West Coast Swing, in
particular. At the youthful age of 80, she remains a driving force in the
dance community and one of its all-time greatest Leaders.
And so, for all that she
represents in the way of inspiration, motivation and passion to all the
dancers who have come in contact with her, and for all the dance knowledge
she has passed on to those same dancers, we are extremely proud to select
Skippy Blair as the USA Swing Net "Person of the Year" for 2004.
(We'll all be there to celebrate your 90th!)