Dana Ortiz - Hustle / Disco Hall of Fame

Dana Ortiz -
by Ron Bess

‘Spot Light’ ------- Dana Ortiz Dancing has allowed her to travel the world, meet wonderfully talented people, many of whom have remained her lifetime friends. Looking through the prism of dance, Dana Ortiz has not only inspired us but captured our hearts on the dance floor. An early trailblazer of the hustle, Dana was the youngest of four growing up on Long Island, New York. Her Italian family range of music and song as her parents were avid Lindy dancers. I have a musical family, Dana explains. My sisters, nieces, and nephews all dance. My brother plays guitar & sings. Even my son has his BA in Music Performance. There is always music and dancing going on at our family get-togethers, it's in our DNA. Dana inherited her vivacity to dance. With no formal training when she was just 13 she began to learn the hustle. My sister Sandra and her husband Rene started the Hustle in Brooklyn, teaching and competing, shares Dana, Sandra was my real mentor. I started in a dance troop she put together and my brother-in-law even performed with me at my high school. She took to the hustle like a fish in water, hitting all of the hot clubs in New York where she would explode on the dance floor. Her favorite clubs included the Copacabana, Cork n Bottle, Ipanemas, Roseland, Starship, Leviticus, 2001, Kisses, Buttons, Uncle Sams, Cherries, Chaz, Spats, 231, Penrods, Decamerons, Bubbles, Faces. I remember dancing on Fire Island (Sea Turtle) and at Dale Dance Studios, Ralph Lew Dance Factory, & Dance Expressions Studios, shares Dana. It was about this time, that she met her future husband and dance partner. 1978, the same year Saturday Night Fever hit the theaters, Dana was frequenting the discotheque 2001 Disco. She was only 16 years old when 20-year-old Bob Ortiz made her acquaintance and they had an instantaneous connection. It was like lighting in a bottle. They became inseparable dance partners and friends. Initially, they began competing in NYC, Queens and Long Island, but their path to glory and opportunities would ultimately lead them to California. Along her travels, she would befriend fellow dancers Eddie Vega, Lourdes Jones, Maria Torres, Floyd Chisholm, Nellie Cotto and Lisa Nunziella. All dancers that inspired her. I was amazed by watching male dancers follow and telling myself I want to spin like that, explains Dana. And that she did. Landing themselves on numerous television shows, Dana & Bob competed in dance contests such as New Yorks channel 11, Soul Alive. She carved a unique niche in dance with her infectious smile and lightning speed. From local TV to national, the couple qualified to compete on the syndicated televised Dance Fever show, taped in Los Angeles. Her bejeweled costume caught everyone's eyes and their exciting choreography had viewers engrossed in their performance. Spinning like a top the couple mesmerizing viewers while dancing to Standing In The Shadows Of Love. They became the envy of audiences and fellow dancers young and old. After taping the Dance Fever show, the couple jet-setted to Magic Mountain, in Valencia, for another major contest; the $10,000 Coca-Cola/Kiss FM Dance Magic. This became one of Danas most memorable days, winning the $10,000 first place prize, truly was the cherry on top. Dance Fever was a blast but a very long day of rehearsal. Challenged to keep yourself pumped and warmed up by the time we actually got to do the show that evening, explains Dana. The grueling day left the young couple exhausted but still driven on adrenalin. Even though we are from NY we represented LA, since that is where we won our audition. My family watched the show in NY. My mom was very sick and watched my performance from the hospital. As soon as the results were announced, from Dance Fever, they flew out of Merv Griffin studio to Valencia, Ca. The couple was forced to make a quick costume change while still driving in the car and while running through the park. In the nick of time, they arrived just in time to sign up to compete. We won 1st place. I was dancing literally all day so by the end of the night my legs felt like cement had been poured into them. I could hardly move them during our victory dance. It was all worth it though shares Dana. As their winning ways continued, the young couple remained on the west coast where they continued to compete weekly, teach, perform and promote. Winning over 100 dance contests, they were able to make a living from their new found love, hosting weekly contests and lessons, radio commercials and private lessons. My gosh. we won everything from cash to100 gallons of gasoline (during LA gas crisis), haircuts, clothing, dinners, spa sessions and even a trip back home to NY explains Dana. Recognized as one of the premier dance teams, the young couple prided themselves on creating their own costumes and choreographing their own routines to songs that they loved. Living in California opened many new doors and exposed Dana to a new dimension of dance, including a performance on the televised American Bandstand and Billboard Magazine. The new environment kept them charting high on the dance radar. The night life was exceptional as well, frequenting clubs like Bubbles, Adrians, Cherries, Starship, Oskos, Icabods, Gashouse, Machonahays, Jockey Club, Discovery, Bogarts, Chippendales, Joshuas, Crescendos, Palladium, Chez-moi, and Disco 500. From 1979 to 1980 Bob and Dana were the California State Disco Dance Champions.

Many friends from New York would pay them a visit while in California, including Ricky Quintana & Lee Rafrano. While in Los Angeles taping their performance for Dance Fever Ricky & Lee spent time with Dana. In 1981 Bob and Dana returned to NY to make their partnership legal by tying the wedding knot. Soon after, they moved back to California where they started a family. During their 15 years of marriage, they owned & operated a few photographic studios. After the two parted ways Dana embraced the field of real estate and property management. With all the winnings and dance accomplishments, Dana still recognizes her two greatest achievements are her children. My son Bobby Jr., now 24, lives in Hawaii and is attending HPU for his Marine biology degree. Bobby has earned a BA in Music Performance. Over the years he has learned the Hustle, salsa, and tango. Her daughter Lexus, now 20, lives with her while attending Saddleback College. Lexus loves to ride & jump horses and dance Meringue. During her kids childhood, Dana put dancing on the back burner but now that her kids are older and she is single, she has been pumping up the dance floor. Over the last few years Dana has been actively involved in dancing and learning West Coast Swing. I've had a blast attending NYHC, IHSC and BTD events, shares Dana. My dream is to combine my love of cooking ( for others) and dancing by turning it into my new profession.

At a time when the country was locked in a disco Frenzy, Dana experienced the ultimate satisfaction of becoming one of the top dance couples in the country. A beauty, on and off the dance floor, Dana continues to inspire us today.

Dana Ortiz is a member of the Hustle Hall Of Fame. To view pictures please visit http://www.mjames.org/hustle_teams.html

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