Peter di Falco: 60 Years and Still Dancing
to learn the peabody? the minuet? Call Peter di Falco.
Possibly the North Carolina Triangle's best kept dance secret, di Falco
retired to this area in 1999 after a long and multifaceted career in New
York City. But he is anything but "retired." His recent dance
activities include teaching private lessons and group classes in the American
Social Ballroom curriculum for Mad About Dance Academy, starring in a
Triangle Youth Ballet performance and developing a DVD textbook of American
Social Dance from the 1920s to present day.
"I have taken many lessons from Peter over the last few years and
have really enjoyed learning from a Master," said Tom Tucker, president
of the Triangle USA Dance chapter. "To this day, I still remember
every step and technique Peter taught me. He is truly a Master at teaching
and choreographing dance and a gem to our dance community."
Di Falco's professional dance career began with ballet and ethnologic
dance (Spanish flamenco, for instance) in the 1940s and expanded into
ballroom dance in the late 1950s. As a staff instructor at well-known
independent dance studios in the U.S. "mecca" of dance, he learned
social dances from visiting instructors who "wrote the book"
on Argentine tango, mambo, "English" dancing (now known as the
international style) and more.
"In those days, you couldn't get a job at a studio unless you were
trained to teach everything," said di Falco. "The studios would
invite 'street dancers' in to teach the latest dance craze."
In 1963, for example, di Falco studied Argentine tango with Juan Carlos
Copes, an Argentinean who was performing in New York City nightclubs.
Similarly, he learned "English" dancing from European dance
champions in the 1950s and 60s. We know this as the international style
of competition dance today.
"Peter was well known in the city for the breadth of his knowledge,"
said Wesley Boz, co-owner of Mad About Dance Academy and a New York City
student of di Falco in the late 1980s and early 1990s. "He taught
'fad' dances ... the minuet, the peabody. He has an extensive knowledge
of the different styles of dance."
Sandra Cameron, founder and director of the Sandra Cameron Dance Center
and an international style competition champion, invited di Falco to teach
Argentine tango at her school in the 1980s. His participation grew to
include teaching the entire American social dance curriculum. For five
years, he was also artistic director and choreographer for the center's
amateur performance company that performed throughout the city at street
fairs, charity events, hospitals, etc.
In 1991, Pierre Dulaine of the American Ballroom Theatre invited di Falco
to choreograph a tango number for his performance company. (Dulaine's
story was featured in Mad Hot Ballroom, a documentary produced in 2005.
It was also the basis of a 2006 mainstream movie, Take the Lead, starring
Antonio Banderas as Dulaine.)
In more recent years, the Ice Theater of New York has invited di Falco
to choreograph pieces for their skaters. Earlier this year, he spent several
weeks in Saugerties, N.Y., working with the skaters on a flamenco-style
piece that will debut in New York City in October.
When di Falco moved to the Triangle, Boz and his wife, Debbie Ramsey-Boz,
invited him to begin a ballroom curriculum for their dance school, which
at that point was focused primarily on swing. "Peter was a mentor
to me in the ballroom dances as Frankie Manning was to me in swing,"
said Boz. "Peter has a desire to share his extensive knowledge and
expertise, and we wanted to provide a venue in which he could do that
for the dancers in this area."
Dance has always been a part of life for di Falco, who aspired as a child
to dance like Fred Astaire. After 60 years of professional experience,
he is still dancing.
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