December 2012 | On My Mind

Words from the publisher

In this month’s issue we focus on jazz and hip-hop. As we were brainstorming about the content for the jazz section, I found my mind wandering back to the mid-1970s, when as teenagers, my twin brother, Rennie, and I would go with our mom to New York City to take classes from the jazz masters of the time. Many of those classes were with Luigi, who is featured in this issue.

At that time there were no mega-schools like Broadway Dance Center or Steps on Broadway. Most teachers, especially those who taught jazz, had their own studios. I remember all those hot summer days and jam-packed studios with dancers from all over the world. We all wore those shiny Lycra jazz pants with legwarmers and sweat was flying all over the room. Sometimes we couldn’t even see because of the sweat pouring into our eyes. There was an almost indescribable energy in those classes—the closest I can come to expressing it is that we weren’t tired after those classes. We wanted more.

On a good day in the city we would pull off three or four classes. We’d take Luigi’s 1pm class, run to Phil Black’s class at 3 o’clock, and then grab a slice of pizza before heading to Betsy Haug’s 6pm class. Back in our hotel room, we’d go over everything we had learned that day. And then we’d wake up the next morning and do it all over again.

I remember being in a class with Lee Theodore of American Dance Machine, who was one tough teacher but knew so much about the history and legacy of jazz dance. Part of what made these crazy days in New York City so great was that we would take classes that encompassed different eras of jazz dance, immersing ourselves in the historical background of the movement we were learning. Lee taught one of the hardest classes in the city, but we sure felt good when we made it through. And we felt smarter each time.

There was a bohemian quality to those days, too. At Betsy Haug’s studio, the resident cats would run through our legs during class and Betsy was always eating potato chips. I remember being in JoJo Smith’s class and seeing babies in a playpen. Once, when Rennie and I were in Luigi’s class, he looked at us and said, “I have always seen double”—he has an eye that wanders—“and now I’m seeing fourple.”

After a few days, we’d pack up the car and head home to Boston feeling totally motivated and, without a doubt, like we were better dancers. Even more than the classes we took, the trips were reaffirmations of our passion for dance. The experiences would be fuel enough to keep us going until the next time.

All those moments are coming back to me with this issue of the magazine. So, Luigi and every other teacher from those steamy New York City days, thanks for the memories.