Hank, Kristen and SDM!

Kristen has trained in dance, gymnastics and cheer since she was a toddler in West Chester Ohio. As a basketball and football cheerleader there, at Lakota West High School, her team won the national cheer leading competition 2 years in a row, the only team to ever accomplish this feat. She worked her way through college coaching gymnastics at Gym America, a nationally renowned gym in Ann Arbor MI. It was in college that she discovered partner dancing, joining a ballroom dance company which performed in the A2 – Metro Detroit area. After college she discovered West Coast Swing which quickly became her main focus. 15 years and 2 children later, it is still the dance she loves most, but Cheer is her specialty.

Hank began dancing in 1994 when a girlfriend dragged him kicking and screaming into a country bar to take two-step lesson. He had never been exposed to either, but in no time he was hooked on dancing (the girlfriend not so much). It just so happened that this country bar, the Diamondback Saloon, decided to bring in the best instructors they could find as ongoing full time instructors. which were UCWDC world champion Mike Wagner and NASDE Champion Brandy Tobias (Guild) whom Hank worked with as his first professional instructors. In 1999, Hank discovered the Retro Swing movement where he focused his efforts on a Retro version of East Coast Swing, eventually learning many of the aerial lifts. Hank was soon hired by a talent agency to perform his retro style swing at corporate events for companies such as Chrysler Corporation, Diamler, Comerica Bank, Adistra Corporation and others. He also was hired to teach at various swing dance clubs and events in Michigan. While Hank loves WCS and two-step, his specialty is Retro ECS.

Hank and Kristen met on the dance floor, literally, in 2009 when she and her ballroom dance friends discovered WCS, attending a West Coast Wednesday dance. Kristen soon began showing up at all of the WCS dances in the area, which of course is where Hank was at and they eventually began dating. Having attended Swingin Dance Party since 2005, Hank was excited to take Kristen to it as the first large event they would attend together, since it was in Kristen’s home town of Cincinnati where her parents still live in her childhood home. SDP inspired them to hold their own events in Michigan, and the idea for Social Dance Mania was born. For many years Hank had helped his sister put on national events for the US Dart Association at hotels and convention centers in the Detroit area. He found that he really enjoyed event management, so he was eager to apply those skills to dance event management. Hank designed their own dance floors with the needs of dancers in mind (with no screws in the dance surface). Together Kristen and Hank hand produced over 800 of the small wood parts that are glued and screwed to the bottom of the panels which are used to keep the panels aligned and to keep the panel edges from lifting. They then assemble over 100 panels and edging. The large financial investment and months long process was a labor of love, love of dance and of each other.

The first Social dance Mania event was held in a banquet hall in Plymouth Michigan in the early summer of 2011 with a total of five held over the next year ad a half. Pros hired for these events included Annmarie and Jason Marker, Chris and Melissa Moy, Tim Johnson and Becky Larson, Antoinette Santoro and others. Hank and Kristen gave birth to their first son, Lochlan in 2012, putting Social Dance Mania on hold indefinitely. They continued to rent out and setup the dance floor and other equipment during this time for other events. A year after the birth of their second son, Parker, in 2015 the decision was made to move to the Cincinnati area due to a serious health issue with Kristen’s mom, necessitating Kristen’s help and devotion, as well as a desire to have the boys near to their only grandparents.

Once in the Cincinnati area, Kristen and Hank began attending all of Sophy and Jason’s dances, as well as taking private lessons. They also began providing their floor and other equipment for use in Swingin Dance Party every year. Kristen and Hank provided all of the floors, lights, pipe and drape, for Cincy Westie Bash every year until the Covid pandemic. They also continued to provide floors, lights, pipe and drape and sound for other events in the Detroit area. In 2022 Sophy asked Hank and Kristen to do all of the floors, lights, as well as pipe and drape for Swingin Dance Party which they were eager to do, but a week later, 5 months before SDP, Hank suffered a devastating back injury with a ruptured disc. With his ability to even walk normally again in doubt and the possibility of requiring major surgery, Hank suggested that Sophy contact Brian Barakauskas to do the floors while Kristen would still be able to manage the pipe and drape as well as the lights on her own if need be. While Hank recovered enough to help out and to attend SDP, he was left with some permanent nerve damage to his legs and feet, a dancer’s worst fear. At that point Kristen established her own company, Kris 10 Company to provide services to the dance community utilizing the equipment that had been accumulated,

When Sophy announced her decision to retire Swingin Dance Party, Hank and Kristen fully understood why and fully supported her decision. SDP has always been Hank and Kristen’s favorite event, it was the first event they ever attended together, it was the inspiration for Social Dance Mania! They also owned a good deal of the equipment and dance floors used in SDP’s production. So after discussing it with Jason and Sophy, and not knowing who else might step in to fill the massive void left without Swingin Dance Party, or what someone else might do in its place, or whose equipment they might use, Hank and Kristen decided to revive Social Dance Mania to ensure that the spirit of Swingin Dance Party which Sophy so carefully nurtured for 18 years would be kept intact – lots of fun and no competitions! It is hoped that the dance community that supported Sophy and Jason in their event efforts will continue to support Hank and Kristen’s efforts to provide an event where the dance community could continue to come together just to hang out, be social, dance and have fun! Kristen and Hank’s journey together started out on the dance floor which has remained an integral part of their lives ever since. They hope you will join them this August as the journey continues – on the dance floor.