The (Hidden)History of Let's Dance L.A.
You might want to pour a glass of wine and put your feet up. We’re talking 20+ years of great stories and fun, because as long as the Enio, Terryl, & Robert were involved, it was going to be a great ride.
This is not the history of how or why the studio started, it’s probably the reason though, why it lasted 23 years and why people still remember it so fondly. The stories are not in any particular order and hopefully they will trigger some memories and you will send them in so that we can add them to the list
The Best Story Ever
We have many but try to top this one. Robert had just returned from England with his new partner (the future British Champion and winner of England’s Dancing With the Stars) Miss Karen Hardy. So to open the show we ask two students to help us set the scene.
Kurt Rudolph a teenager of normal size and hormonal, and Terry McCalpin, a former semi pro boxer of the extra large variety. The plan was to have Kurt, the hormonal teen, flirt with Terry’s girlfriend throughout the evening. When the dance set ended before the show, Terry was to create a huge ruckus, kind of throw Kurt around and finally pull out a toy 45 pistol point at Kurt and yell Bang bang as a delayed cartoon shooting with ricochet sound effect plays. At which point Kurt is supposed to fall daintily to the floor and expire. Ok scene set…
Enter Hubert. Hubert was a very sweet student from Cambodia. Everybody loved Hubert. Hubert stood 5’4″, Terry 6’4″. Hubert weighed 140 lbs wet, Terry probably 230. At the moment that Terry yelled Bang!Bang! Hubert jumps up from behind Terry and jumps on his back like a Koala bear cub on his mamma. Hubert is riding Terry’s back yelling “Terry don’t shoot, don’t shoot!” It took a few seconds for the crowd to process this surreal scene. They thought Hubert was part of the plot. I am supposed to say on the mic “Is there a doctor in the house?” Instead I am laughing so hard, I am crying- it took me three times to say a complete sentence. Everyone is getting that something was not as planned and the waves of laughter start to build. Of course our hormonal teen runs with it and his expiration is more like the dying scene in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Poor Hubert is now red faced realizing it was part of the show. Little English Karen now comes out on cue dressed like Jessica Rabbit in a sexy mini nurses uniform. Karen has padded her top so she looks very busty. The plan is to take the almost dead teenager’s temperature, so she turns her back and bends over to reach into her doctor’s kit, at which point her bottom is directly above said hormonal teenagers face. Almost dead teenager sits up like he was shocked before he falls back now hopefully dead. Our sexy nurse now calls for Dr Beat and out comes Robert to the opening notes of Gloria Estefans Dr Beat.
But oh no the fun doesn’t stop there. Robert continues to reference Hubert’s bravery in between every number as did I. Of course the laughter is contagious and poor Hubert is burying his face in his hands. Robert takes care to tell Hubert that the Paso Doble does not really involve killing the bull so to please stay seated. More laughter
Hubert became famous that night. We recounted the story for weeks and whenever he was in class we introduced “Hubert The Hero” and he would always blush and laugh.
The Most Famous LDLA Student You Heard About But Never Met
I only have to say two words and most of you will instantly remember the story we told once a quarter for over a decade. Those two words “AMERICAN PARTY” Well finally, here she is- the famous Yoshiko.
For those of you who never heard the story, here it is. Right before I opened Let’s Dance, I was teaching at Westmor Studio in Koreatown. As I
was raising two very young boys I was only teaching at night. This very beautiful elegant lady from Japan was taking three lessons a day from us three champions. In the morning ballroom with US Ballroom Champion Victor Veyrasset, in the afternoon Mambo from US Rhythm Rising Star Champion Ramon Rojas, and in the evening, Latin from me. The problem was that Puerto Rican goofball Ramon was teaching Yoshiko bad words (badly). When I would come in, I would then quiz Yoshiko on what she had learned from Ramon. This one day she told me that she had learned a very bad word from Ramon… “oh gee”. I explained to Yoshiko that that was like saying ‘my Goodness.’ No she said, Ramon said very bad word.
So at that point I call Ramon ( and Victor) over. Ramon being the Puerto Rican equivalent of a ‘blonde” could not remember what he had taught her even after she repeated it several times. On about the fourth try we realized she was trying to say ‘ORGY’. and the three of us teachers started laughing. So at that point I call Ramon ( and Victor) over. Ramon being the Puerto Rican equivalent of a ‘blonde” could not remember what he had taught her even after she repeated it several times. On about the fourth try we realized she was trying to say ‘ORGY’. and the three of us teachers started laughing.
Melissa Dexter and Giacomo Steccaglia fresh from coming 2nd at the World Showdance Championships, were doing a 5 dance show for us. As is typical the guy talks while the lady changes from one sexy costume to another.
Being Italian, Giacomo spoke briefly but Melissa needed more than 2 minutes to change. So of course Enio and Giacomo start up with the trash talking about how Women take so long to get ready (When it’s really the opposite according to Terryl)
Enio’s reputation as a big kid is well earned. Hector Llamas had only been a LDLA student a few weeks and we had planned a competition pairing the teachers and our junior team members for a 4 dance competition. Hector being new, he was paired with Terryl. Hector used to like playing basketball down the street at LA Fitness. When Hector came in for his lesson he was wearing a knit beanie and Terryl pulled it off his head and put it on a table by the music system. As usual Hector like to trash talk with Enio who was just finishing a lesson. While Terryl was beating on Hector, he did not notice that Enio was next to his beanie. Enio had placed a pea size glob of glitter gel inside the cap and gone into the office. As soon as Hector finished his lesson, he grabbed his beanie, put it on his sweaty head and ran out the door to play some basketball before classes that night.
Twenty minutes later Hector stormed into the studio wanting to know which of the other team members had done him wrong. He accused the other boys one by one which only made him madder as they began to laugh at the glitter now smeared through his short hair. Enio innocently observed the procedure doing his best not to laugh. Finally, Hector running out of suspects to the crime, turned to Enio. Slowly Hector realized that he had been punked. Not knowing what to do he recounted that while playing ball, he had looked at the guy guarding him and noticed the guy had glitter on his arm. Hector asked the guy “Hey what’s up with the Glitter?” The other guy looked at Hector and responded “It’s coming from you Glitter Boy!” About 5 minutes later one of the other boys came running into the office yelling “Enio, you better go see your car, Hector is bending you antenna and windshield wipers!” Figuring he definitely had earned the payback, Enio was indifferent to the news, Terryl on the other hand rand towards the parking lot only to be rescued by the same boy, who stopped her a foot short of the back door. Hector had climbed up on the back door overhang and was waiting for Enio with a 30 gallon trash can full of water and almost doused Terryl instead- which would have meant being turned into a toad by Terryl’s magical powers had it happened. For weeks after Hector was referred to as Glitter Boy both at the gym and in the studio.
One summer night, class as usual, the both front and back doors open for any breeze, we had finished the warm-up and were just getting everyone into our normal teaching circle. All of a sudden I looked up and out of the corner of my eye, someone, face covered, and wearing only tidy whities, (although they were grayish) was bolting in past Nini at the front desk. Onto the floor, between a few students, coming right at Terryl and I. Given that we were about 4 feet apart, he ran right between us and continued straight out the front door and onto Main Street.
Why We Got a Building with a 23’ Ceiling
X- Marks The Spot
Once again Annetje had a part in this. A form of Swing Dancing unique to Europe is called Rock and Roll. The music is very 50s Bill Haley. It involves high aerial lifts and throws. Some of the moves have names like High Death and Skull Crusher. The girls are all trained in acrobatics so as they reach heights of 14’ or more, they often will do somersaults on the way up or down. As the Dutch Champions wanted to come to Los Angeles for a holiday, we were happy to offer the a chance to perform. I had seen the World Championships so I knew what to expect. In order to allow them a safe space, we took out 8 of the 2’x4’ ceiling tiles and a couple of the cross members. Jack & Collarette Eggles, were not fazed and practiced a couple times under the center of the open space. It was the coolest thing to suddenly see Collarete disappear on the way up, Invert and then come down head first out of the ceiling space.
While You’re Up There, Could You Change That Light For Me?
For our 1994 New Years Show, I had gotten a call that my dear friend Sharon Savoy and her husband David were going to be flying from Washington DC to China. Wanting to pick up a show on the way, I was thrilled to offer her an opportunity. David & Sharon Savoy had won the British Theatrical Championships several times, The Worlds, The US Championships and the US Swing Open many times. Their lifts are spectacular. But with them arriving the same day as the performance only game us a couple of hours to see where here big lifts would go and remove the ceiling tiles in that spot. It was critical that they be under that or the lift would not happen. Fortunately they are ultimate in professionalism and nailed it. For their excellent performance they were rewarded with a surprise show by Enio and a few of the students (look for RUBE Ballet story below)
Can You Take Just A Little Off the Top?
No one did more shows at Let’s Dance LA than Natalie Mavor. She had already done at least 7 shows with other partners including 3 with Enio. When she paired with Curtis Collins to go onboard Crystal Cruises they were pretty new and their first show did not have any lifts. After about a year at sea they came off the boat for a break and I invited them to do a show. What I did not know was that they had added a whole bunch of lifts into their show while they were at sea. (Natalie’s mom and dad had been World Lift Champions and the kids had been dancing in the family show as soon as they could walk. That included being tossed high into the air by dad Roy)
Their number Story of My Life, involved Curtis hoisting Natalie into a T Press over his head and proceed to helicopter her as he pivots around the floor. Curtis had gotten ridiculously fast in his lift spin. As they did a their first lift, I realized the dozen or so ceiling fans were spinning on high speed. I rushed to the back and turned off the fans but hoping that they would come to a full stop before Natalie went up again. As they came to the finale lift the fans had slowed to almost imperceptible movement, Phew! The ceiling at 216 was 12’8” at the Granada 23’.
Why We Got a Building with with 23’ Ceiling
Bruce Lee Never Kicked Over a Tree
The scene: Annetje our Dutch teacher was so creative at decorating with for holidays with the simplest of materials. One year she cut flat christmas tree shapes out of cardboard boxes, painted them green, cut holes in them and inserted real Christmas balls tied with fishing line. They were about 4 feet tall and she hung them with fishing line from our 12’8” high ceiling.
For our Christmas party we hired 7 time US Latin Champion and her new dance partner Colton Green. They had been parents in a stage musical and were just putting a show together. With my long standing relationship with Liz as a classmate and later one of my coaches, I was thrilled to have her debut her show for us. Well Liz had a nickname that had been well earned- Calamity Curtis. She was kind of the embodiment of Murphy’s Law. Watch at 1:40
First due to another event they were attending, they arrived at the end of our party. Fortunately, no one had left. After the first couple numbers went well, their third number included a lift with Liz being lifted by Colton as she does a front scissor kick over her head. Yep, you guessed it Liz manages to kick one of the Christmas trees. BOOM! the tree explodes off the ceiling and comes crashing down on her as the 10 Christmas Balls separate from the tree and roll across the floor in every direction. Of course being friends we ribbed her as she took the microphone after that number.
Messing With Celebrities pt 1
In 1994 Dance Action Magazine’s Cay Cannon asked me if Canadian Champions Jean Marc Genereux and France Mousseau could do a show for us. Being that I had competed with them and we were friends. I quickly agreed. The plan was that they would do both a Latin and Ballroom show. When they arrived that night we had a full house. Before they performed the Ballroom set, I announced that since they were FRENCH Canadiens, we would play their National Anthem, much like they do a International sport matches. What they didn’t realize is that Robert and I had planed to have a little fun.
Before they had changed into their outfits for the Latin set, We played the Star Spangled Banner and everyone stood at attention. Then we announced we would play the Canadian National Anthem. Jean Marc snapped to attention.- Only to hear us play the FRENCH national anthem the Marseilles. We cut it out after a few bars and apologized for the mistake saying we would be right back with the correct song, but back to dancing in the meantime. As they were ready to start the Latin set we announced we had found it. This time Robert started playing the famous Can Can Offenbach. Jean-Marc looked at me and knew the game was on. After his first two numbers I told Jean Marc that we were still looking.
Messing With Students pt 1
Our mid 90’s parties became so good that lots of non students were joining us and the floor got packed. Unfortunately the San Gabriel Valley had no nearby Salsa clubs and some students did not like driving late on weekend nights to the Westside. With the growth of Salsa, we thought it would be fun to organize a “Destination Unknown” group outing to one of the many clubs on the west part of LA. The outing was met with energetic response and so our bus sold out. Since we kept the location a secret, any others wishing to join us had to follow the bus. A full bus with Salsa music playing, champagne flowing, and people trying to guess where we were going was rocking through town. As we exited the 101 freeway in Hollywood, directly in front of the bus is the big white building Tropicana.
In any other city, the name Tropicana would create images of Havana, Cuban Vegas type shows and elegant nightclub patrons. In LA, though, the Tropicana had become a very popular women’s MUD WRESTLING club. As we pulled to a stop in front of the Tropicana, the buzz suddenly got very loud. The driver opened the door and I said “Ok, everybody out.” The howls of protest from the ladies was quite pronounced but everyone slowly de-boarded. I deliberately took my time lining everyone up in a orderly line, and we marched up to the front door as the buzz got louder. As I got to the pay window I turned around and yelled, “Just Kidding! Everybody back in the bus! Oh the signs of relief. The laughter as we then drove to the Sportsmens Lodge lasted for the next 15 minutes as everyone realized they’d been pranked.