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Lori Ortiz
Competitions
Hustle
Shag
West Coast Swing
Deauville Beach Resort
United States
Florida
Miami Beach, FL
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Recap—Miami Festival Workshops—Hustle Plus

by Lori Ortiz
May 4, 2009
Deauville Beach Resort
6701 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33141
(800) 327-6656
International Hustle and Salsa Competition Workshops
In Miami, early May, the Deauville was a hothouse of serious fun. The dancing at the International Hustle and Salsa Festival is anything but standard. Canned wedding dance floor anthems don't guarantee the artistry in these social forms. But Van McCoy, R.I.P, wanted to celebrate the moves with his "Do the Hustle" in 1975. Legend has it that he saw a group of kids dancing their parents' Mambo, improvising and making it their own. He invited them to his nearby upper Manhattan studio, where he wrote the song. Great disco dancers in marshmallow shoes from the burroughs had seen the dancers too. So did the makers of Saturday Night Fever. The "disco sucks" backlash has let up but not the dance.

Hustle's sociality is evident on the dance floor, but the same improvisation and creativity drives the competitive and exhibition arms of the Miami festival, on stage. Between shows, instructors (all hustle pros) and participants performed informally. They warmed up in sizzling back-to-back hustle and salsa workshops.

If there were some rumblings of malcontent and personal dramas running through the weekend, they were invisible to the casual observer. Judgment could cloud amidst the glitz and glamour, in the balm of sun and sea. But the festival proved common aphorisms: 'The body doesn't lie' and 'The camera doesn't lie.' Festival guests were determined to have a good time. They danced and danced.

Early birds at beginners 10am workshops were decked out in dancing shoes. Midday styling workshops were for tricks, dips and lifts. Some think the fancy acrobatics caused hustle's downfall. When the dance got more complicated, all but the most talented fun seekers left it behind.

Billy Marti, forty-five, has been doing the hustle since 1975. He said he would teach his group of beginners HOW to dance. They tried non-progressive hustle steps, in which there is no travelling, and by the hour's end, they were going places. As in Argentine Tango, he advised the men to learn to lead AND follow. Eventually, when the body assimilates the moves, the impetus is in the torso and feet.

Self-described club kid Maria Torres led a whip-smart workshop in Latin hustle. "When you understand the music, you can play." she said. Torres modeled for the women, using her hips to get more freedom of movement.

In 1976, Philadelphian Donna Boyle was sneaking into Jersey clubs. "We lived it," she said. She credits the competitors with shaping the hustle. They were out on the dance floor. She danced for fun but also won many competitions. Boyle organizes Disco America, the annual festival in King of Prussia, PA. She also teaches and heads a performing troupe of three or four couples. She says she does not teach the finger pointing pose seen in Saturday Night Fever.

I chose the hustle as my focus, but detoured into hustle champion Tybaldt Ulrich's West Coast swing. This relatively new form of touch dancing has gained in popularity because of its versatility. Importantly, you can set it to different types of music, including contemporary pop and dance music. The moves look lyrical and natural. Ulrich led in a Western style shirt, setting the relaxed and festive mood. Couples circled the floor with hands clasping at hip level. The group responded to the varying paces of the music, rather than to a constant disco beat.

West Coast swing and shag, another swing dance, are the modern partner social dances with loyal, young, followings today. Shag was recognized as South Carolina's official state dance in 1984. National Championships are held there several times a year.

Hustle, when correctly done, is about attitude. It developed as a response to the heady climate and music of the '70s. But history repeats and refers to itself, thus, the style looks entirely refreshing. It is not too late to reclaim hustle as the official New York State dance. According to NetState.com, none are designated.

Though it started to die out in the eighties, and by 2000, no one wanted to pay twenty dollars to go out dancing, the pros are helping to keep these modern touch dance forms alive.
The Deauville: Home of Miami Hustle and Salsa Festival '09

The Deauville: Home of Miami Hustle and Salsa Festival '09

Photo © & courtesy of Lori Ortiz


Billy Marti (center) hustle workshop

Billy Marti (center) hustle workshop

Photo © & courtesy of Lori Ortiz


Judy Smith in Billy Marti's 'Fun and Easy Social Hustle'

Judy Smith in Billy Marti's "Fun and Easy Social Hustle"

Photo © & courtesy of Lori Ortiz


'I know what women want,' says Donna DiSimone (r) in her intermediate hustle workshop.

"I know what women want," says Donna DiSimone (r) in her intermediate hustle workshop.

Photo © & courtesy of Lori Ortiz


Maria Torres 'Hustle the Latin Way'

Maria Torres "Hustle the Latin Way"

Photo © & courtesy of Lori Ortiz


Donna Boyle demo

Donna Boyle demo

Photo © & courtesy of Lori Ortiz


Tybaldt Ulrich swings with Sharon Snowden

Tybaldt Ulrich swings with Sharon Snowden

Photo © & courtesy of Lori Ortiz

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