About: Sonny Watson
Sonny Watson started dancing Hustle, Country-Western and various Swing styles in and around Los Angeles, California around 1979/ 1980 and competed with different partners during that time. By 1982 he had won many contests and began teaching West Coast Swing plus other dances in and around the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, California. Sonny then went on and founded the Valley Swing Dance Club with his friend and mentor ... the legendary Kenny Wetzel in February of 1985 which is still very active today.
In November of '85 he entered his first 'U.S. Open Swing Dance Showcase' with his then partner Valerie Browne. Since then Sonny has competed in the U.S. Open Showcase and Pro/Champion Strictly Swing divisions (plus 'N.A.S.D.E. circuit'.) Sonny's Showcase partners were Valerie Browne, Traci Roberts-Adams, Kris Hagerty, and Strictly partners Deanna Mollmann, and Marie Salazar.
Sonny competed in many Showcase Divisions across the country receiving many top honors and awards as well as the Local and National Champion division Strictlies, Jack and Jill's and Invitationals for many, many years. (Sonny was also invited to dance in the illustrious "Champion of Champions Invitational" in Arizona as well.) Later, Sonny and his then partner Deanna Mollmann took 'First Place' in the biggie ... the original ... "U.S. Open Pro Streetswing division" in 1997 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Ca. proudly becoming a 1st generation ''US Open Swing Dance Champion.'' (as of 2017 The US Open is in its 6th Generation :)
Through the years Sonny has competed in a vast number of contests, which have taken him all over the USA. Sonny has also received many awards, including two he is most proud of ''The U.S. Open Teacher / Promoter award'' and being inducted in 1995 and 2006 (yes 2x's) into the ''California Swing Dance Hall of Fame'' and then later in 2007 being inducted into the big-one ''World Swing Dance Hall of Fame''.
But it didn't end there. He was also inducted into the 2007, All~Swing DJ Hall Of Fame and last but not least the 2012 U.S. Open: Walk of Legends. Sonny has also been rated in the Top Ten N.A.S.D.E. Tour many times through-out the 1990's and is also credited in many dance books and dance manuals. Sonny has also been given the grand title of Council Historian (and Chairman of that Board mind you) of the Department for the World Swing Dance Councils 'Dance History Department' (which basically just consists of him, good title tho lol). ... This guy knows his stuff and his peers know it!
Sonny Watson was instrumental in helping the ''United States Swing Dance Council'' (U.S.S.D.C.) pass a bill to make West Coast Swing the ''Official State Dance of California''. Sonny is a certified, trained judge and when he isn't competing, serves as a judge at many of the national three-day dance events. He has Taught, Judged and or Competed at many national events including: the American Swing Dance Championships (A.S.D.C. New York,) Atlanta Grand Nationals (Georgia,) Phoenix SDC (Arizona,) Boston Tea Party (Boston, MA.,) Virginia State Open, California SwingThing, Various Las Vegas Dance Events in Nevada, Monterey Swing Fest, Jack and Jill O'Rama, Swing Diego, Dallas D.A.N.C.E., (America's) Dallas Classic, Mountain Magic (at Tahoe's Monte Bleu Casino,) New Years Dance Championships (Dallas, TX.,) Swing Worlds, US Open Swing Dance Championships and more.
As a nationally known and recognized swing dance Coach, Dance Educator, Choreographer, Adjudicator, and DJ. He has taught at many local and major three-day swing dance events from New York to California. Sonny teaches Master Group and Private Dance Lessons in Southern California (based in the San Fernando Valley). Sonny teaches what is generally recognized as one of the best looking basic foundation styles of West Coast Swing in Southern California from the ground up. With over 36+ years dance experience, he was one of the first to use the ''French Cross'' with contemporary rhythm (''and -three'') as well as the traditional rhythm (''three-and'') for the ladies and ''Tap-Pivot-Step'' (not Tap-Step) for the guys. His expertise in musical interpretation, creativity and various styling knowledge is unequaled in his field. His style is very recognizable in his students with one of the most solid basics one can find anywhere. He is very well respected throughout the United States and Jack and Mary Ann Bridges of the U.S. Open once wrote: ''Sonny Watson has one of the largest followings in California.''
Sonny has taught at many famous swing night clubs/ venues over the years in Southern California from San Diego to Santa Barbara on a weekly basis ... such as the Longhorn Saloon, Tavern On The Green, the Forge, Sleuth's Bar and Grill, the Valley Club, the Press Box, the Crest Lounge (aka Jitterbugs Lounge, Paladino's,) the Hacienda Hotel, Poinsettia Pavilion (Santa Barbara,) TGIF, Golden West Club, Borderline Bar and Grill, and various Halls and many, many more. He has taught at various dance studios such as Let's Dance L.A., Arthur Murray's, B and B Dance Studio, Debbie Reynolds dance studio, Starlight dance studio, Atomic Ballroom, Westmore dance studio, Moorpark College, Pierce College, Cal-Tech, UCLA and many others.
Sonny has had some wonderful training from some of the best like Eddy Vega (Hustle / Aerials), the Appels (Aerials), Jill Morton (International ballroom), Kenny Wetzel (Lindy, Mambo, WCS), Tom Slater (Aerials), Phil Adams, Lisa Nunziella (Aerials, Hustle), Skippy Blair and the Dinzels (authentic Argentine Tango) and others.
Sonny was seen in a few T.V. dance segments, such as the E Channel, Two On The Town, Eye On L.A., E Entertainment (''Worlds Coolest Clubs" with Brian Setzer), the Nashville Network, 7-UP Commercial with Patrick Swayze and danced WCS (in center field) for the L.A. Rams "Half-Time Show" to name a few. He has also worked on a few movie projects which never aired :( Sonny has worked with a few notable Music and Movie Stars such as Kim Catrell, Charles Rocket, Kay Lenz, Michael Monarch (of SteppenWolf) Barbie Benton, and Robert Duvaul, who are absolutely fabulous and fun people. Many dance books have been written that either feature Sonny or use Interviews, Quotes, or actual references from and to this website.
Sonny has worked with many dance teams such as the ''Show Stoppers,'' ''Leather and Lace'', ''Pierce College Dance Team'', and his own teams "Swingshift." Swingshift was created way back in 1987 by Sonny Watson as a social dance team but continued on to become one of the best West Coast Swing dance competition dance teams in the nation.
His memorable choreography to ''Lion Sleeps Tonight'' by the New Tokens and ''Baby I'm a Star'' by Prince have won Sonny praise for his outstanding choreography. Later Sonny formed the team again featuring any social dancer who wanted to take part called Swingshift 2: 'Back to Basix' ... 'designed to give anyone a chance to fulfill a dream by dancing in the Open' and the team did go on to compete in the U.S. Open that year, although they didn't place, that was not the purpose. Sonny does not perform the original competition team every year but is getting ready to put another competitive team together in the near future. He does have a performance team that works on a WCS routine together all year and performs locally. :) Sonny coaches and choreographs for others who are now competing and doing exhibitions ... some just starting out but many have even gone on to become successful competitors and teachers themselves.