By Tom Cameron
But Should Have Been
Yes, that was the actual title of a Dance Contest and it was held in February of 1984. In1984 Tulsa had one of the greatest collections of Open Swing Dancers ever assembled at one time, all living in Tulsa. There were at least 15 open dance teams, that’s 30-open dancer!
It was either Jack Nevel or George Wright who came up with the idea of the contest, they would match up a male open dancer who was not the regular partner of a female open dancer. These dance teams would never have existed if it weren’t for the contest!
The contest was held at the February party for the Tulsa Swing Dance Club. Eight male open dancers and 8 female open dancers agreed to dance in the contest. They were matched together so that no team had ever danced together as a team in a major dance contest. The pairings were kept secret until 13 days before the contest, then they were announced giving the teams just 13 days to make up a routine and practice!
The night of the contest a huge crowd arrived to watch and there was excitement in the air! Jack Nevel was MC, He and Pam Wright started the contest off with an exhibition. All the couples danced great; there were great costumes and fantastic routines!
Dancing first were Tom Cameron and Brenda Klemensky, between them they would go on to win 15 major dance contests, including 3 national invitational titles. Dancing second were Richard Wilde and Debbie Nevel; they would go on to win 5 major open titles. Richard was the first Buddy Austin Showcase Champion and Debbie the very first Oklahoma Open State Champion. Dancing third were Barry Jones and Kathy Burgess; what can you say about Barry, he has won over 30 major dance contests and is still winning! He has won 3 U>S> Open Showcase contests and is in the Dallas Dance Hall of Fame. Kathy won the very first Buddy Austin Showcase contest. Dancing 4th were Larry Binz and Judy Ford. Larry was the first Oklahoma State Champion. Judy was a National Champion, the U.S. Open Showcase winner, Dallas Dance Champ and would win 15+ major dance contests. Dancing 5th were Doug Morris and Lynne Cameron; Lynne won the Tulsa National Invitational Dance Contest the first time she ever danced in a contest. Doug won 1st place in every major dance contest of his era and won over 15 major titles. Dancing 6th were Frank Klemensky and Beverly Langley; they would go on to win 6 major dance contests, including a Southwest Regional, Mid-West Challenge, State and National Invitational. Dancing 7th was Kurt Meeske and Star Morris; Kurt was Tulsa Swing Club’s very first dance instructor, he was a Southwest Regional champ and took a third in 1980 National Championship. Star would win 10 major dance contests and she danced in the 1st 10 U.S. Open contests! Dancing last were Jim Ransbottom and Mary Wilde; they were the only couple to never win a major open dance contest, although Jim won the 1980 SW Regional Novice Championship and Mary placed in many, many major dance contests. They had never been at the right place at the right time. They were really great dancers. On this magical night they had a fantastic routine to a disco version of “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy”. It was great, in fact so great they won 1st place! Barry Jones and Kathy Burgess took 2nd and Doug Morris and Lynne Cameron took 3rd.
Jim Ransbottom and Mary Wilde were in the right place that night and won one of the best and most unique contests ever held! “the Contest That Never Was” But Shouldn’t Have…” never mind, it was great!
P. S…. Tulsa Swing Club has a video tape of this contest.
P.S.S……I hope to get it posted here and on our you tube channel soon. The quality is not the best, but the memories are priceless,