While recuperating in the hospital her older sister, Dora, visited her to exclaimed there is a new dance out where upon she began to teach her the hot new craze, right there in the hospital. She was only 13 years old. She started studying ballet when she was only 3. Nelly Cotto hasn't stopped dancing since. For almost 30 years, Nelly has dazzled audiences all over the world. She was destined to become the premier hustle dancer of our time.
Dancing in the Bronx, NY, Nelly began to partner with Roy as part of the Latin Symbolics. We would rehearse and practice mambo and hustle but Roy wasn't ready to perform live yet, remembers Nelly. As the hustle originated in the South Bronx, Nelly explains how the girls, back then, did all the movements, the hustle had no turn patterns yet. The guy just stood there as the girl did all the movements. We would practice and dance at house parties. In 1974, a friend at the Butterfly Discotheque introduced her to Floyd Chishom. He was tall and slick. After performing in the motion film Roseland, Floyd was searching for a new partner.
The disco dance phenomenon was beginning to explode. A major tri state dance contest was being held. Nine dance clubs, from three different states, would hold preliminary contests. We won the battle dance contest at the Sesame Street Club which meant we went to the finals at the Copacobana in New York City. All nine finalists from the different clubs would compete for the chance of a life time to go to Hollywood and appear on the celebrated Merv Griffin Television show.
Floyd and Nelly won the finals and were flown out to California. I thought we were just going to appear on the show and be interviewed..... I didn't know we would be competing on TV, recalls Nelly. With only four months rehearsal time together, this young couple, (Nelly was only 16 years old) would shock the country with their incredible style of dance. Dancing to the sound track from the motion picture Thank God Its Friday; they would compete on television against regional dance champions from all over the USA. Dressed from head to tails in all white, this young NY couple would mesmerize the studio audience with lifts, tricks and hustle dancing never witnessed before on television. This was her defining moment. Dancing to the songs After Dark and Find My Way, Floyd and Nelly would become the King And Queen Of Disco, (in 1978), as they were awarded framed Gold Records from the motion picture Thank God It's Friday. The nationally televised Merv Griffin Show received their highest ratings...ever.
After returning back to NY, the team would continue to hoan their skills. A major contest was being promoted and would take place at the world famous Regines night club. The winners would be flown to Hollywood to compete on a new TV pilot called Disco Fever. Nelly and Floyd once again took first place honors and returned to Hollywood to compete on this new developmental television project. As they marched to the stage to tape their segment for the TV show, just minutes before the camera's rolled, Nelly and Floyd were paged to return to the office. We were told we could not compete. Floyd was in a frenzy, explains Nelly. Since Merv Griffin was owner of the new TV pilot, the producers felt it was unfair for us to compete since we had just won on the Merv Griffin show a few months earlier. Floyd was so heart broken he complained and they agreed to invite us back to perform on the Merv Griffin show in 1979, explains Nelly. The new pilot was filmed, (without them), it was a hit. The show was later renamed, Dance Fever. The rest is history.
The dance pioneers would return to NY and would appear on the Merv Griffin Show in a dance special, as agreed upon, when in Los Anglos. With assistance from dance coach and choreographer Rocco, they now had more experience under their belts. The couple would wow the audience and catch the eyes of many producers and organizers. Regine would ask them to fly to Paris to perform at her other night clubs abroad. With their new found celebrity status, Floyd envisioned starting his own dance troop. The Disco Dance Stars were born. After winning another contest in Long Island, Floyd and Nelly were entertained by another young couple that performed their style. Ricky Quintana and Lisa Nunziella had the showmanship they were looking for. Along with Danny Llaurado & Carol Famiglio, Eddie Espinosa & Barbara Procopio, the group took shape. The troop was managed by dance wizard Don Denotalia. Don had an extensive movie and dance resume' and was able to book the troop all over the world. In between tours, they stayed active competing in contests. The traditional club contest would run for a number of weeks picking weekly winners. At the finals, all the couples would be invited back to compete head to head to determine the grand prize winner. After winning the finals at Metro 700, Nelly took a hiatus. She was pregnant.
Twenty-nine years ago, Nelly Cotto learned to do the hustle, from her sister, while recuperating in the hospital at the age of 13. The year was 1974. Her precision and charm would earn her an allegiance of fans as she Wowed the country on the televised Merv Griffin Show. She was destined to become the premier hustle dancer of our time.
Disco was not quite at its pinnacle in 1980 but Nellie Cotto would eclipse her dancing for six months. She gave birth to her daughter. For the previous two years, Nelly and Floyd Chishom danced on national TV, performed shows, created a dance troop and won some of the most prestigious contests. I made my living on Dance Contests explains Nelly. But there were hard feelings between Floyd Chishom and her. Together they had achieved so much but Floyd, the dance giant, was drifting away from dancing.
The King and Queen of Disco were no more.
Another popular dancer, in and out of the night clubs, was also searching for a new partner. Eddie Vega was experiencing turmoil with his dance mate. A new partnership was formed. Eddie was a natural, explained Nelly. It was a seamless transition. The winnings kept coming. They took first place at the United States Ballroom Championships and at Anthony Lee's 1983 American Star Ball.
Standing only five feet tall and ninety-five pounds, the trophies towered over her. As the competitions became more political they directed their energy towards shows and performing. In the 80's the USBC's and Harvest Moonball became too political for us.
At an early age Nelly was able to develop incredible dance speed. Her movements had such quickness.... whether she was executing multiple spins or a triple flip in the air. As a dance couple they always pushed the bar higher as they raised the degree of difficulty in their lifts. When they achieved a double it was time to push for a triple.
This set her and her partners ahead of the pack. And to crown the dance, the costumes were always first class, designed by Tony Pena' , they were nothing less then breath taking.. hand made they rivaled those of the Las Vegas show girls.
In 1999, Nelly was honored with the Eddie Vega award. Then in 2000, she was invited to partner with Arte Philips when they performed for Prince Rainer in Monaco. This was another highlight of her life, one she is grateful to Arte for making happen.
In 2001 she entered the national Newport Dance contest. Competing in the finals in Florida, against 200 couples in all forms of dance, she won the $20,000. first place prize with long time friend and dance partner Kenny Gonzales. Kenny and Nelly have been friends since they were both 11 years old. Kenny is her daughters God father.
As we fast forward to 2003, her daughter is now 22 and finishing up college.
Nelly is a young 42 and still living in the Bronx. Next year will mark a 30 year odyssey thru hustle dancing for her. Still graceful and able to fly only where superman dares.... Nelly remains dedicated to her dancing. She still performs but has dedicated the last 15 years of her life to working with kids at After School Programs teaching kids to dance. Kids are humble, no egos they enjoy and appreciate dance; explains Nelly. My goal is to continue working with the kids. I see a number of up coming dance greats but many of them take two classes and think they are great, their aura is all wrong. Nelly is also concerned about the lack of creativity, today they are just not original. She encourages dance couples to take it to the next level. In her words, show me a flip with 8 turns.
Nelly just recently under went the knife having gallbladder surgery. But, she is back and on top of her game. At only 104 pounds, she is still air borne ... a true living daredevil. She just finished performing in the show Sexaholics along with John Legasamo.
Over the years, Nelly competed and performed with the finest Hustle dancers in the world. She helped expose the country to the hustle and a level of performing not commonly seen. In a certain way, it helped kill the Saturday Night Fever myth -- there is more to hustle dancing then just pointing your finger.
Written by: Ron Bess, Dancetalk.
When ground breaking musicians like the Rolling Stones and The Beatles rose in the 60's, they didn't attend any Rock & Roll Universities. They took creative license as they developed a new sound. Although the hustle dance took sail in the early 70s' it was still in its infancy. The Hustle is the youngest new social dance, only a mere 30 years old. Dance studios began to teach the basics and fundamentals in the mid 70's but the real hustle laboratory took place on the dance floor. One of the leaders of this dance study was a kind gentlemen, William Everett, known to most of us as Butchie.
During the disco era, the hustle dance was humming along gaining more respect in the Social Ballroom division. Although it started off as a street dance it began to take shape..... becoming polished like a fine stone. One extraordinary dancer that helped elevate the dance was Butchie. Whether he was leading or following he was a sight to behold. He did both, (lead and follow) with precision and finesse. The typical club or studio was packed with hustle dancers... the common ritual was to start a circle. Those forming the circle protected the dancers inside from being bumped and/or to prevent someone from walking thru and disrupting the dance. Butchie attracted the biggest circles. With all eyes on him, Butchie was in his element. His confidence was an A+, he was very creative and is credited with delivering many of the steps still used today. Combining hand &a arm movements, facial expressions, foot work and lighting fast spins....he commanded your attention.
Born in Elmhurst Queens, NY, this gentlemen did it all on the dance floor.
Alexis Dance Studio, 86th Street & Broadway, owned Monday nights. As you entered this popular dance spot, Hy Landa would greet you at the door. This was the nonpartisan studio where the finest came to dance: Melvin Scurry, Debbie Ferro, Diane Nardone, Arte Phillips, Kenny Gonzalez, Perico, Hector Berrios, Ray Bogart, Roma Moon, Keith Merriwether, Maria Torres, Scott Nurse, Ralph Lew, George Velazquez, Julio & Nelly Diaz, Kelvin Rolche, Derrick Allen, Miquel Marrero,and more. Bobby O remembers Hy Landa telling him, 'you got to see this guy dance', the amazement of watching Butchie in action. Along with the great Eddie Vega it was Butchie that was the trend setter, gliding around the floor...taking the uncorniness out of the hustle." Even the ladies watched in envy.
During the summer, dancers would gather in Linden Street Park. The local Disc Jockeys would hook up their equipment to the light posts and spin till midnight. There was a talented group of hustle dancers that ruled Bushwick, Brooklyn. At the center of the group was a young Butchie. His early styling influenced many other greats.... like a local neighbor from Queens, Arte Phillips. There was no one else like him; recalls Arte. He was dancing back in 1974, he came before most the others; Butchie saw Arte and took him under his wings. He gave Arte direction and helped him develop his dancing.
From here the clubs were the next dance stop. The 'after party' on Monday nights was at the Ice Palace, 57th street, for the weekly dance contest.He loved dancing very much, he was all about floor work; reminisces long time friend David Padilla. "Butchie knew how to execute lifts but he always preferred floor work Dancing 7 nights a week they hung out at Ipenema, Promoters in Brooklyn, Disco Inferno and the Limelight in the village....I remember the first person to do the grapevine into the hop, if I'm correct he invented that routine, he had incredible hand work, his floor work was no joke either.
The Tour De France of Hustle was the Harvest Moonball Championships. This was an annual fall competition held by the American Ballroom Association, which attracted dancers from all over the tri state area. In 1981, Butchie and Carmen Barba qualified for the Harvest beating out dozens of other teams. First place honors that year went to Eddy Vega & Nellie Cotto. Butchie would return the next year to qualify and move on to the final show down in the Moonball with another dance partner, Migdallia Paez, to give it another shot.
Butchie was an amazing dancer with a great attitude. He loved to dance and his passion was evident," Lisa Nunziella reminds us. Butchie, was a man with a small physical stature but his dancing was enormous. He had such presence and the ability to make anyone look great due to his incredible lead. I remember him at the Ice Palace back in New York when we would dance all night long. I enjoyed dancing with Butchie, he always inspired me on the dance floor....we miss him, expresses Lisa.
Although he is gone, Butchie has left an indelible mark, which can still be witnessed in the hustle today. Butchie lived for dancing and the classy hustle of today expresses the styling of William Butchie Everett. Some of the hustle greats of today teach Butchie's style and moves and give fame where it belongs.
Along with all the others...we thank him.
Written by: Ron Bess, Dancetalk.
His YouTube videos are becoming legendary, as thousands of curious enthusiasts view the “back in the day” excitement.
Leading some of the finest dancers on the map, he was born to perform. Nick “Dominick” Lotiere ruled the dance floor. Not everyone had their eyes set on sparkling trophies. Some dancers just treasured the opportunity to perform. Nick did all of that and more. When the lights went up and all eyes were fixated on him, Nick was at his best. His YouTube videos have garnered more hits than just about all other hustle videos.
As a child growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Nick was engulfed in dancing. Both his parents loved touch dancing. His father was a lindy-hopper. His mother championed cha-cha and won competitions held at the Copacabana, in NYC. In 1975, when Nick was just 11, Debbie a friend, would come to his house and teach him the newest club steps. The following year, Nick would venture out to the ultimate, real night club experience. Although he was only 13, he already felt at home. In 1977, before Saturday Night Fever tore up the movie theaters, Nick was already frequenting ‘2001 Odyssey’ in Brooklyn. He became his high school “Disco Champ”, trophy and all, by executing the rope hustle and Bus Stop. Dressed in polyester and nylon, Nick was recognized as the local disco king. When he turned 16 years old, he accepted a position with ‘New York Hustle’ dance studios as a teacher trainee. Having the opportunity to learn and develop under the studio owners, Jeff & Donna Shelly, had a huge impact on him. Hanging with fellow teachers he would metamorphous at night time as they would descend on night clubs and studio hop after work. This is where he would befriend many of the dance icons including John Merisier, Diane Nardone, Artie Phillips and Maria Torres. His social dance schedule was packed with choices that included; Monday night dancing at Desire in Brooklyn or Alexis Dance Studio in the city. Tuesday nights were the Penthouse in Brooklyn or Flavors in Queens, Wednesdays was Jasmines or Sticks in NYC, Thursdays was Darien’s Dance Studio in Brooklyn – the only place to be, Fridays & Saturdays were either Fantasy Island in Brooklyn, Roseland, Inferno or La Bomba in NYC and Sundays were either Jasmines or the Ice Palace in NYC. He instilled not only an enormous quantity of time into his dancing but the highest level of quality. Dancing was becoming his life. His next professional teaching stop was Dale’s Dance Studio, where he not only taught on staff but also became a member of the 3rd generation ‘Hustle Kings’. The dance troop was well received and performed throughout the region. “The Fabulous Hustle Kings” was made up of Diane Nardone, (who also choreographed), John Merisier, Lisa Nunziella, Maria Torres and Melvin Curry “the mastermind who created some of the famous arm movements still used today,” explains Nick. The Hustle Kings were one of many troops that performed in the NY area. The Disco Dance Dimensions, Ralph Lew Carnival, Dance Connection and the NY Hustle Dancers were other well respected troops, but the Hustle Kings specialized in club dancing. With some of the finest dancers in the country they entertained at night clubs, studios and private parties. Sadly, the troop disbanded in the summer of 1980, subsequently Nick see-sawed back to ‘New York Hustle’ studio to work. Six months later, Nick re-engaged with Dale’s studio where he partnered on a professional level for the first time with Diane Nardone. Together they competed at various contests including Zachary’s, Constitution Challenge Cabaret and other local contests where they either placed first or received top contender honors. Nick continued to explore other styles of dance when he selected a staff position at Fred Astaire Dance Studio’s in NYC in 1982. (He would eventually own his own Fred Astaire franchise) where he worked with the late/ great Artie Phillips and Maria Torres. Dancing virtually every night, the three of them became inseparable. Laughing and enjoying themselves as they absorbed the attention they received as they mastered and monopolized the dance floor. “They use to call Artie ‘Dennis the Menace’ and I was known as Dennis Jr.,” recalls Nick. Along with two of his diva partners, Maria Torres and Diane Nardone, Nick would continue to perform and compete in contests. Not a big fan of tricks and lifts, Nick wasn’t a regular in competitions but when he did elect to participate, he rocked the house. With great success on the dance floor, in the fall of 1983, it was time for Nick to pack his bags and welcome a new exploration and challenge that would take him to the west coast, Southern California. He strategically selected this area since the top talents in the International Latin competitions resided there. At this point in time he began studying under Latin Champions Ron Montez (the voice of PBS Ballroom) and Liz Curtis. Nick once again excelled in his new endeavors as a National Finalist at the USDC in American Style Ballroom , Fred Astaire Regional Latin Champion and Top Teacher and Arthur Murray Regional Top Teacher honors.
For twenty five years Nick’s childhood dreams became a reality. He had been teaching dance, which was his passion.In 2002, Nick decided to take a dance hiatus. He would continue to teach on the side, but directed his focus on his career as a PC Technician.
Today, Nick is an avid DJ, performing at parties and events. His commitment to dancing is not over. He still has fond memories of dancing with Karen Lynn Gorney, on the stage at Radio City, for the 25th anniversary of Saturday Night Fever, where he taught the Bus Stop to a full house at Roseland (for the after party) and franchising his own Fred Astaire Studio in Stamford, Connecticut.
Nick started dancing and teaching at a very young age. Although he was years younger than his peers, in the hustle circle, he was respected and admired by all those in the dance community. Whether he was leading his partner with great control and finesse or following with such style and fluidity, all eyes turned to Nick. Not only was he technically sound but he could light up the room with his energy and charisma. His contributions were many but his journey is not over. Look for more excitement and creativity from Nick in the near future. (published 1/15/11)
Arte was a true leader in the Hustle community. He embraced the very essence of including people on this “journey we call dance;” as Arte would say. Arte was best known for being the life of every party from New York to Los Angeles until the wee hours of the morning. The dance floor was where Arte came alive, and we were all so very lucky to be a part of it. From Broadway to Star Search to our past president of IHDA, Arte did it all and he did it with style.
So many people knew of Arte because of the way he would travel the globe teaching dance in weekend workshops and performing in shows. There are many, many dancers both amateur and professional who have benefitted from Arte’s contribution to the Hustle community. Through his fun and innovative choreography, Arte taught us to think outside the box and create art for the sake of art and never stop allowing dance to be a true expression of music and life.
As the President of IHDA, Arte’s administration was responsible for bringing great foundation to our great organization. He stood on the principle that every dancer should have a voice and be able to be heard regardless of where they came from or their level of dance.
We love you Arte and will miss you terribly. We will never forget you or what you always gave to us, your time, your passion, and your gift of dance. May you find peace and serenity and may you always be with us on the dance floor.
This shy, introverted gentlemen, would light up the dance floor with his charm, good looks, coupled with incredible dance skills. Ricky Quintana was one of the early talents that rocked the hustle dance floor. He mastered the art of adagio and performed effortlessly.
Ricky was a dance star. His dance legacy began while working at the famous Radio City Music Hall, home of the Rockettes, in Manhatten. "I was an usher at the age of 15, when I saw Billy Fajardo & Sandra Rivera perform back up dances for Iris Chacon," recalls Ricky. This was virtually a revelation for him. "Billy was splitting in mid air and making Sandra fly. I knew when I saw them that hustle and theater arts was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life," explained Ricky. One of the most popular Discoteques was Ipenema, this is where he met his partner to be, the adorable Lee Rafrano. With no previous dance training, they worked hard and were on the path to becoming accomplished dancers. Ricky & Lee, would compete in local contests and won the opportunity to dance on the televised contest, "Soul Alive". With moderate success, Ricky continued to apply himself and honed his skills. Next, they won the chance of a life time when they qualified to represent New York City on the nationally syndicated TV show, "Dance Fever," the highest rated dance show of the day. Ricky and Lee dazzled television viewers with their sassy routine. Performing to Patrick Hernandez's "Born To Be Alive," they were stellar. They exposed to viewers, watching at home, a dare devil routine never seen on national TV before. The costumes had a Vegas flair as Lee wore a virtual nude body suit that had the network execs biting their nails. Their lifts and tricks were cataclysmic, light years ahead of the competition. The couple left their mark on California. They returned to the big apple where many new doors swung open. They competed against the dominant team, Floyd Chisholm & Nelly Cotto at a contest in Queens. After the competition, they were invited by Floyd & Nelly to join their dance review, The Disco Dance Stars. "It was because of them, I became a professional dancer at the age of 16," says a thankful Ricky. They joined this elite group of multi talented dancers that included, over the years: Gina Figueroa, Carol Famigletti, Lisa Nunziella, Evie Hoover, Danny Llaurado, Arte Phillips, Eddie Espinosa and Pat Taverna.. Ricky & Lee continued to compete and perform at clubs like the infamous Plato's Retreat. After his gallant return, Ricky bumped into Lisa Nunziella at Club 2001 Odyssey, where the motion picture "Saturday Night Fever" was filmed. The two created a new partnership and entered a dance competition at Club Starship on 42nd Street. They took second place to Eddie Vega & Kenny Gonzales. "Kenny was throwing Eddie around his neck, which blew me away," explains Ricky. From that day on, Eddie and Ricky developed a close relationship. "He was so impressed with my dancing that he took me under his wing. Eddie Vega was the best". Vega encouraged Ricky to study Ballet & Jazz, which he did from the renown Phil Black. As his talents continued to develop, Ricky and Lisa would go on to win The United States Ballroom Championships then The World Dance Championships held in London. This was the most prestigious contest Ricky had ever won. After this competition, Lisa and Ricky captured the World Ballroom Freestyle Championship in Hustle/Theater Arts. They represented the USA and out performed 15 other countries. A very humble Ricky is quick to remember his roots and those who helped guide him. "Eddie and Lisa always encourage me to be the best that I could be. I had the great honor to spend the last five years of Eddie's life touring with him. He was my friend, my mentor and my greatest inspiration. Lisa is always in my thoughts and still gives me hope and encouragement.Â For me, Lisa is the best of the best."
Ricky had the rare opportunity to dance with some of the most talented "fierce" women in the world of hustle: Lee Rafrano, Lisa Nunziella, Lourdes Jones, Maria Torres, Stracy Diaz and Lisa Paternostra. "They had the attitude and the skills to bring to life the choreography that I had in my heart. Without their collaboration, input and great abilities I would have never been able to accomplish anything."
Ricky also appeared on Star Search, Buscando Estrellas, You Can't Stop The Music (with The Village People), Flight To Jordan (Music Video with Tito Puente), Son of Sam........
To be a dancer of the highest level, it takes many skill sets. Up and comers aspire to possess the impeccable abilities of a Ricky. Whether its his floor grace, performance ability, incredible kicks & Leaps, effortless lifts and tricks - new dancers study performances on TV, observe contests, watch social dancing - molding themselves to be like him. It becomes an inescapable conclusion that Ricky is one of those unique dancers that exudes talent and comes along only once.....every few decades.
Ricky currently teaches private lessons at Fazil's Dance Studio and Ripley Grier Studios in NY. "Dancing has been one of he best things in my life. It is good for your mind, body and soul. Above all else, it should be fun, so enjoy it, because dancing can change your life - it changed mine. I plan to dance until the day I die."
Written by: Ron Bess, Dancetalk.
Of Spring, March 21, 2008 we lost a dear friend. Gladys, a lover of life, a lover of people and a lover of dance. You could not help but smile every time you were approached by this woman. The hustle community will truly miss her.
Surviving to cherish her memory is her husband Rick; daughter Liani; son Rico and wife Amy; father Angel Rodriguez; sister Evelyn and brother Louis Rodriguez, and other family and friends. Visitation 6-9p.m. Tuesday with a Vigil Service at 7p.m. at Klein Funeral Home. Funeral Mass 11a.m. Wednesday at Christ The Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Spring with burial following at Klein Memorial Park FM2920. Gladys wanted this to be a time of celebration of her life, so the family requests proper celebration attire (nothing black). In lieu of flowers, memorials should be made to MD Anderson Cancer Research.
Vega, like a lover pursuing his beloved, pursued the breathtaking magic of dance with every other thought, breath and heartbeat. Eddie is a professional dancer--one of New York's finest. He has been a featured artist and has made special guest appearances throughout Europe, Japan and the United States. He has appeared in several movies such as "Crossover Dreams" starring Ruben Blades, "Cada Dia un Dia" starring Julio Iglesias and has choreographed dance segments in others such as "El Barrio" and "East Side Story". He also appeared in the movie "Salsa" and "Dirty Dancing". His choreography extends to pop videos for top vocalist such as Brenda K. Starr, Earth Wind & Fire, Fascination, Cover Girls, Denise Lopez, Iris Chacon, Sophy Hernandez and Cher. He has worked with actress Jennifer Beals in Japan promoting the movie "Flashdance". He was a season dancer on NBC's Don Kirschners Rock Concert and made special guest appearances at the EMI World Dance Championship in London, England. He worked along with Patrick Cassidy filming the television series "Dirty Dancing". He starred in Kenny Ortega's Las Vegas Revue the "Latin Quarter" (Riviera Hotel). He has made numerous television appearances, radio and magazine interviews. He has performed with Marlon Jackson in the "Tribute to Lionel Ritchie" NAACP Awards. He has worked with great choreographers such as Michael Peters, Paula Abdul, Hymie Rogers, Kenny Ortega and Miranda Gibson. He contributes his talents annually to Parsarela Modeling Studios graduation ceremonies creating a spectacular event. He has had the honor of winning television's 1981 "Dance Fever" $25,000 Grand Prize and in 1987 fifteen consecutive, undefeated Star Search championships (a first in its category for the television series), including the $100,000 Final Grand Prize. He has won both national and international titles and awards in dance competitions such as the United States Ballroom Championship (Exhibition division) and the California State Dance Championship. He has performed for Leukemia Fund Raisers, Jerry's Kids and a host of other charitable events. Eddie performed with four partners throughout his career--Lourdes Juers (Jones), Nellie Cotto, Lisa Nunziella and Maria Torres. Together they achieved breath-gasping, one-handed high-speed aerial feats that became his trademark. He has taught private and group dance classes for beginners and professionals.
On March 12, 1992, Eddie Vega 29 years old died of Karposi Sarcoma cancer. AIDS related. At the age of 29 Eddie had seen more doctors, needles and hospital beds than most people will probably see in their lifetime. In the midst of a young, aspiring, talented life befell what some might refer to as a mere misfortune, others might deem it a frightening nightmare--for Eddie it was a way of life and the heaviest partner he had to carry--a burden lifted by death.
A Black military uniform embroidered with gold sequins embraced his body, white gloves survied the fingers of hands that used to guide his partners in such a special way that it can happen only once in a lifetime. He layed there without worry, without pain. . . .without life. . .so peaceful surrounded by pictures and vidoes of times past (maybe so we could remember moments with him/or so he would, if he could, remember moments with us).
He lived each day with the hope that success will knock on his door once more--bringing a cure. He set out for his biggest competition ever and the trophy was his life. Strong when he felt weak, and laughing when his heart ache to cry. He never gave up and never gave less than everything (from Eddie you couldn't expect anything less). With each pneumonia, fever, and other life-threatening complication that arose he managed to dig deep down in the heart of his soul where he keeps his showbiz magic and release one more magical breath. Another moment of life, another mark of success. The battle continued seemingly endless. He learned that everything has its season. . .a time to live, a time to die, and a time to let go so he said goodbye and gently breathed his last breath. Everything also has a purpose.
I have never stopped learning from him. I believe in him and he will always be loved. Rest peacefully sweetheart. . .dancing on the clouds.
By Lourdes Jones