Patsy Swayze

Yvonne Helen "Patsy" Swayze (nee Karnes; February 7, 1927 – September 16, 2013) was an American film choreographer, dancer, and dance instructor. Her credits include choreography for Urban Cowboy, Liar's Moon and Hope Floats.[1]

Patsy Swayze
Yvonne Helen Karnes

(1927-02-07)February 7, 1927
Houston, Texas, United States
DiedSeptember 16, 2013(2013-09-16) (aged 86)
OccupationFilm choreographer, dancer, and dance instructor
Spouse(s)Jesse Wayne Swayze
Children5, including:
Patrick Swayze
Don Swayze
Former groupsHouston Jazz Ballet Company
Swayze School of Dance

Early life

Swayze grew up in Houston, the daughter of Gladys Mae (Snell), a nurse, and Victor Elliott Karnes, a World War I pilot and geologist.[2]

When she was 10 years old, Swayze was hit by a car and her mother enrolled her in dance classes for therapy. She eventually trained in both jazz and classical ballet.[1][2]

While in high school, she met and married Jesse Wayne "Buddy" Swayze, a mechanical engineer.[2] The couple had five children, including actors Patrick Swayze and Don Swayze. The family lived on Wakefield Street in the Garden Oaks neighborhood of Houston. They later moved to another home on Del Norte Street.[3]


In the 1960s, Swayze founded and directed both the Houston Jazz Ballet Company,[1] and her own Houston dance studio, the Swayze School of Dance.[4] All five of her children became dancers and actors,[2] and Patsy's training has been credited for leading her son Patrick to his starring role in Dirty Dancing in 1987.[1][3][4] Patrick met his future wife, film director and actress Lisa Niemi, while they were Patsy's students at the Swayze School of Dance.[1]

In addition to her own dance studio, for eighteen years Swayze taught dance and choreography at the University of Houston.[1] Her most famous students included future Emmy Award winner Debbie Allen, Randy Quaid, Jaclyn Smith and future ten-time Tony Award winner Tommy Tune.[1]

Patsy Swayze transitioned to film by choreographing her first movie, Urban Cowboy, starring John Travolta and Debra Winger.[1] The success of Urban Cowboy essentially launched her career as a film choreographer.[1]

In 1981, Patsy Swayze moved from Houston to southern California.[1][2] She choreographed numerous films over the next three decades, including Liar's Moon in 1982 and Hope Floats in 1998.[3] She teamed with her daughter-in-law Lisa Niemi to choreograph the 2003 film, One Last Dance, which starred Niemi, Patrick Swayze and George de la Peña.[1]

She planned to retire from teaching and focus on film work, but instead opened a dance studio in a Simi Valley shopping center that operated for more than twenty years.[1][2]


On September 8, 2013, Swayze suffered a stroke at the age of 86.[2] Days later on September 16, she died of stroke complications at her home in Simi Valley.[1][4]

Swayze was predeceased by her parents, her husband, who died of a heart attack in 1982; her oldest daughter Vicky Lynn, who died of suicide in 1994 at the age of 45; and her son Patrick, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2009 at the age of 57; her sisters, Kathryn Buildt and Diana Latham, and brother, Elliott Karnes.[2]


  1. Kelly, Devin (2013-09-18). "Patsy Swayze, mother of Patrick Swayze, dies at 86". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-10-06.
  2. Kelly, Devin (2013-09-19). "Obituary: Patsy Swayze dies at 86; dance teacher was Patrick Swayze's mother". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2019-08-19.
  3. Hlavaty, Craig (2013-09-17). "Longtime Houston dance instructor, choreographer Patsy Swayze dies at 86". KHOU. Archived from the original on 2013-09-20. Retrieved 2013-10-06.
  4. Hlavaty, Craig (2013-09-17). "Patrick Swayze's Houston-born mother dies after stroke". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2013-10-06.
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