Mary Hoedeman shocked her unsuspecting parents when she announced she was quitting college and her “set-for-life” job at The Kellogg Company – the company that was paying her tuition bills at Western Michigan University - behind. You didn’t leave that kind of a setup lightly.
Kellogg’s was a fixture in the Hoedeman family: Mom worked there; Dad worked there. Mary’s parents had met, married and raised their family - Mary is the youngest of three girls - all while working at Kellogg’s.
But Mary was not to be deterred. At a time in Michigan’s history when the oft-repeated tag-line was “Last one out, turn off the lights,” Mary folded her 5’8” frame (two-thirds legs) into her little yellow Mazda Cosmo and headed south. Upon arrival, she moved in with a high school friend, another battle Creek ėmigrė,
and her sister helped with securing a job at Occidental Petroleum.
But Texas was in the news for a reason other than the oil business. John Travolta’s third big movie, Urban Cowboy, a huge hit, had come out just a year earlier. Huston was crammed with paying customers, clamoring to learn those country dances; dance studios were struggling to find enough instructors to meet the demand. About the same time, Mary, a born athlete, decided corporate life was not for her.
"Dance Instructors Wanted, Will Train."
Our neophyte dancer was about to get very lucky. Mary answered the ad and began training under Nikki York, a World Champion through the Arthur Murray ballroom dance studio system. Nikki taught Mary ballroom technique, warned her that “If you want to win you have to fix that Waltz step,” and within months Mary was winning professional competitions. Working her way through the Country&Western competitive system, Mary won her first Country & Western Grand Championship in 1989 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
As her competitive career continued, Mary and her partner repeatedly placed among the top 5 competitors in the world. The style of country dance that blended traditional forms with ballroom technique introduced and developed by Mary, and several of her colleagues, remains the dominant competitive style today.
Mary continued to teach of course, but with the notoriety that comes with competition win after competition win coupled with Mary’s infectious love of her sport, her innate charisma, and the advent of video, her reach to potential students expanded exponentially. In 1990 Mary became a film producer when she, and her company, Country and Western Dancing U.S.A., filmed the instructional video, "No One Has Two Left Feet." There are now nine videos in this series. Mary's video library eventually grew to number 23 instructional videos with combined worldwide sales totaling well over 300,000 copies. Her video, “The Beauty of Dance is Only a Step Away,” done to celebrate Mary's 25th year as an "ambassador of dance" is #24.
Many who bought Mary’s videos contracted with her to her to travel to their area, and for the next twelve years Mary enjoyed a 340 day per year, teaching and performing touring schedule throughout the US and Canada. In 1993 the Pepsi Cola Company made Mary a national spokesperson.
In addition to Mary traveling to her students, Mary’s students traveled great distances to be taught by her. For over twelve years Mary hosted a twice-yearly week-long dance retreat week in Music City; Nashville, Tennessee. For many of those years, Mary and her students capped off the week by performing live for television at the world famous Wild Horse Saloon. Mary also does choreography and is responsible for creating the line dance for Ricky Van Shelton's music video, Wild Man.
Mary kept her dance foot firmly in the competition world by acting as a judge at competitions as well as competing with her amateur students. In 2005 Mary's pro-am student won his own World Championship in Nashville, Tennessee with Mary as his partner.
From 2012-2017 Mary taught locally at Indiana University in Bloomington.
While at IU Mary organized two “flash mob” events featuring her students. Interested in bringing awareness to the poor posture and other health risks associated with having one’s face constantly buried in a smartphone or tablet, Mary, and her students organized a flash mob set to Andy Grammer’s “Keep Your Head Up.” Next, taking a stand for self-respect and self-confidence; a second flash mob was organized using Karen Drucker’s “I’ve Got The Power.”
With a husband and two boys to raise Mary’s touring schedule is considerably less than 340 days per year. But Mary’s passion for sharing her love of dance is unflagging and her students continue to clamor for her attention. Hence the newest iteration of “The Beauty of Dance is Only a Step Away,” add a ‘click’ and you have Mary’s new twelve-week online video dance course!
The course is perfect for those who can’t travel to Mary on a weekly basis but want one on one time anyway. The course includes a review session with Mary every two weeks either in-person or via FaceTime, Facebook Video Chat, or Skype. The written study guide is especially helpful for those who like to analyze and highlight, highlight, highlight!
Over the course of the twelve weeks Mary will hold dance practice parties every three weeks. You’ll want to plan a short trip or two. Bringing the course to a fabulous close is Mary’s big blow-out weekend – you can’t get a better graduation celebration that; just check out the dance party videos at the close of filming for proof.
One viewer, after watching the videos, dubbed Mary the “Babe Ruth of Dance.” Mary has indeed hit yet another home run!