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Peter di Falco: 60 Years and Still Dancing

Peter di FalcoWant 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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