Ballroom Blogs

SomeWhere In Medeiros Time

Bonnie Diaz Dance - Wed, 08/24/2016 - 11:53am

Somewhere In Medeiros Time:
I have been a dancer since age three hailing from Boston, Mass. Trained classically, and in all types of dance but through a series of interesting events I ended up being a ballroom dancer. Let me begin.
At age sixteen I had just won a beauty pageant-talent contest in downtown Boston at the John Hancock building. It was called “Little Miss Lovely.” It had age categories for all.I was in the 15-18 year old age division. After two days of competition one of the prizes besides a new stereo was a scholarship to the Hart Modeling Agency located in Boston.I attended a series of summer classes in TV spokesperson, fashion, commercials, make-up and acquired my first set of head shots. Our graduation was a big runway show for all to attend. As we were rehearsing this graduation I told the director that I would dance and be happy to choreograph the whole thing. She seemed surprised a little reluctant but agreed. I chose the song from Sly and the Family Stone called “Dance To The Music.”Everyone including the graduates performed and loved it.I graduated with honors but decided I was not a model but a dancer So I continued my the Boston area. I would drive home at night either by myself or with a family member and we would pass a studio in Wellesley Mass. called The Mary French Dance Studio. I would always see the ballroom dancers taking class through the huge glass windows as we drove by and I loved it! This continued for a few more years and by this time I was attending Mass Bay Community College still in Wellesley and still passing by Mary French Dance Studio. One day out of the blue the director of the Hart Modeling Agency called me. She was opening up her own agency and wanted me to conduct some classes for her in movement, poise and runway walk for her new students. She was renting space at the you guessed it… Mary French Dance Studio.I showed up with the correct paperwork in hand and began the Saturday morning lessons. In between classes I would walk around the room and stare at the pictures on the wall.I always stopped in front of this one picture and was just mesmerized by the energy of this couple. Now of course I adored Sissy and Bobby from the Lawerence Welk Show but their was something about this man in the picture. He had a Valentino, Elvis Presley charisma way about him.

I graduated college in 1977 ready to head to Broadway and through a series of karmic events ended up dancing with Mr. Richard Diaz as a professional ballroom dance couple instead. Competing in the American Style which at the time was Foxtrot, Swing, Bolero and Mambo.Mr. Diaz had recently left the Fred Astaire chain already an established champion but because we were an independent team were excluded from all the wonderful coaching available to the chain couples. So we traveled to New York regularly, took Afro-Cuban Jazz classes with all the greats at the time and went clubbing at the Corso to practice all the rhythms with live latin bands and music. With that under our belts we became proficient in the Mambo and known for our unique style and rhythms.

So lets move forward to about 1982 or 1983 to a competition that was being held at the Bradford Hotel again in downtown Boston.We were in the final and we placed third. First was the amazing Charlie and Jean Penatello, second was Patrick Taverna and Rebecca Francour. BUT we had taken straight first’s in the Mambo across the board. I remember the competition like yesterday.

After the competition was over a very dark haired man approached me pointed his finger at me and said “You, your my girl! And the only woman on the floor! Be downstairs tomorrow morning to partner me in my seminar”. I didn’t think anything of it since I had never met the man but in the back of mind there was something so familiar about him.I just couldn’t connect it up.Toward the end of the evening when we were winding down I mentioned to Mr. Diaz about what this man had said and I described him with this huge black mane of hair like a lion. Mr. Diaz’s eyes popped out of his head and calmly told me I had been picked out of the crowd by none other than the greatest latin dancer in the world Mr. Bob Medeiros. And then it dawned on me where I had seen him before pictures of him and Sheryn Hawkins were all over the walls of Mary French’s studio. I showed up the next day we danced a Bolero for the crowd I had never experienced anything like him before in my world and of course I was smitten for life. He became my mentor, coach, confident and friend and he skillfully guided myself andMr. Diaz to become the first world champions for the United States in Mambo.The rest is history.

I am honored to have been asked to contribute an article for the fortieth anniversary issue of Dance Week. I met the brilliant Dr. Charles Zwerling through Medeiros.Once again this proves we are all connected by six degrees of separation. Congratulations to DanceWeek for all its years of success and many more to come. And you know I will be attending the tribute to Bob Medeiros at the BBCC to be held September 16th Friday night at the Park Plaza. Hope to see you all there.

Interestingly enough I don’t think I ever told Medeiros of how I first encountered him and his pictures back in my youth even after all the years we shared together. But I know he knows looking down guiding us all and dancing for joy in heaven. For you see Mr. Bob Medeiros is truly timeless!

Respectfully, Bonnie Diaz August 22, 2016 All rights reserved.

Categories: Ballroom Blogs

What dance should I learn first?

Dance Talk Blog - Tue, 10/28/2014 - 5:12pm
What dance should I learn first? Read the complete answer here!

Having taught partner dancing for almost four decades, I have been asked this same question hundreds of times. I will briefly answer this question for partner genres of dancing like American style ballroom including rhythm and smooth, East & West Coast swing dance, Latin dances including salsa, bachata and merengue and Argentine tango. I will also  provide some links for further reading.

Many people have the privilege of starting dance lessons as children, training in ballet, jazz and tap. Nothing is cuter than a group of toddlers dancing the yellow, ducky dance as their first performance. My nieces had this fantastic opportunity to perform and acquire grace and coordination at a ballet school as children, pre-teens and teenagers. This head start in learning dance makes it easier to pick up new dance genres throughout ones life.

Many of us, however, started later. I started learning formal dance in college with ballet and jazz classes. Later, in my mid-twenties, I walked into a ballroom dance studio and began training in partner dancing and also was mentored in dance teaching by many experienced and even famous dancers. After three years training and teaching in a ballroom dance studio in San Diego, California, I branched out on my own and have continued to run my own teaching company since 1980.

I recommend starting with one of these dance genres if you have never danced before and/or have no musical background:

Recommended for newcomers to dance!

East Coast Swing/Jitterbug  (Read more about East Coast Swing here)
American style Waltz (box step, etc.)
American style Foxtrot (walking steps)
American style Rumba (box step, breaks)
Merengue (Latin walking steps)
Salsa Dance (Club Latin dance with Basics, Turns)

Recommended after the fundamentals of dance have been learned.
I recommend these dance genres after one has acquired a few basic concepts including the concepts of rock steps (breaking action), walking steps (forward & back) and triple steps (three weighted steps for two beats of music).

West Coast Swing (Read more about West Coast Swing here)
Argentine Tango (walking and rock steps)
Hustle  Dancing (either L.A. style or N.Y. style using rocks & walking steps)
Night Club 2 Step (side steps and break steps)
American style Cha cha (triples steps and rock steps)

Additional Recommended Dance Genres.
There are a variety of other dance genres to pick up in each of the major groups of partner dances as follows:

Swing Dance (Read about the swing dance styles here)
Lindy Hop
East Coast Swing (triple)
Carolina Shag
St. Louis Shag

* Read the Differences between Lindy, East & West Coast swing and Jitterbug here.

American Ballroom:
Viennese waltz

International Style:
Latin Dances include Samba, Cha Cha, Rumba, Jive and Paso Doble
Standard includes: Foxtrot, Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Quickstep

Club Latin:

Blues Dance:
Improvisational dance to blues music

Country Western Dance:
Country Western 2-Step
C&W Waltz
C&W Cha Cha
Cowboy cha cha
C&W Polka
Pony Swing
Rodeo Swing

The questions of why humans dance and when it started will be featured in future blogs and articles. Please check back and read more articles by Pattie Wells here.

Categories: Ballroom Blogs

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