In the early 70's, this tall talent literally
began by dancing in the streets. He would go to
vacant lots, the parks, even basketball courts to practice dancing with
his friends. This is where the hustle was
born. "We just did it, no one taught us" shares dance pioneer
David Padilla. He was one of the originators of the hustle, a
true pillar in the dance community.
In the beginning it was called the Latin Hustle, " we started to do a salsa style dance back in 1968," says David. "there were no actual steps to this dance at first, nothing was formalized." Raised in Spanish Harlem, David never took formal dance lessons, but his natural skills took over as he applied himself, working his craft along with fellow dancers William "Butchie" Everett, Floyd Chishom and Melvin Curry. This band of self taught dancers were very creative and leaps ahead of the pack. In 1975, David along with Floyd, Annette Rivera, Eddie Espinosa & Gina Figoroa had the luxury of appearing in the first motion picture, "Roseland" that exposed the hustle to a national audience. Although he didn't have a starring role, he was on the ground floor of a dance bubble that was still 2 years away from turning the country upside down with hustle frenzy. Standing six foot two, with long side burns, David stood heads above the other dancers. In the late 70's, while hanging out at the "Silver Slipper Club" in Brooklyn, David met one of his first dance partners. An unknown dancer at the time by the name of Maria Torres. Together they would practice and then exhibit their skills on television competing on the popular New York dance show "Soul Alive." Good friends Melvin, and Butchie helped develop and refine the young Maria, "we taught her how to become a diva." The experience of competing on television would be a major turning point for David, lifting his confidence and challenging him to be better. He set his goals to capitalize on the opportunities that were popping up for dancers. David was driven to be a part of this cultural revolution. His ingenuity and powerful expression set him apart. In the dance turnstile of life he found himself training and developing new partners. He struck it very big with a tiny partner he met when dancing at Club Ipeniama. Migdalia Medina also known as "Baby," (before Dirty Dancing), created instantaneous chemistry with him. "She was another partner that was fierce." He taught Baby how to do the cork screw then while spinning place her other leg behind her head. David was a dance wizard but practicing was a challenge as Baby had a jealous boyfriend who didn't appreciate her dancing. They were forced to sneak out to practice, compete in dance competitions and ultimately had to hide her costumes from her boyfriend. Their hard work paid off as they would be victorious in several dance contests including Zachary's where they won approximately 7 times in a row. They also took part in the first hustle contest that was held as part of the Harvest Moonball. It was a dramatic event as some 60 couples competed in this landmark competition. David & Baby captured third place. This was a special time in David's life as he would see his picture displayed in the popular magazine "Details" which covered the Harvest Moonball. David was in his glory. Another memorable contest took place at Cherry's, in Long Island, where the owners gave away matching new cherry red Chevrolet Corvettes for the grand prize. Although they didn't win, they took third place, besting some of the finest couples of all time. The turnstile of dance would spin again for David, as Baby would leave dancing to marry and start her own family. David's dance compass now pointed him towards Hollywood. He would join forces with one of the premiere dancers from Philadelphia. Donna Boyle, was also a "fierce partner" that complimented his dance repertoire. "We took turns going to each other city's to rehearse," David recalls. " Donna would drive to New York and I would take a two hour bus ride to Philly." This new partnership set their eyes on the syndicated televisions show "Dance Fever." Winning the preliminaries earned them the privilege to compete on the televised show filmed in California. An all expense paid trip landed them on this top ten television show. " When I danced on Dance Fever with Donna, the trip was as much fun as the competition.", shares David, " that was my first time to California, it was a fabulous time." Their successful win advanced them to the semi finals. This exposed them to a national audience as their pictures would pop up in newspapers and magazines everywhere. David would once again get the opportunity to appeared on the silver screen as he auditioned for the New York thriller "Summer of Sam." Not only did he perform but he was hand selected by director, Spike Lee, to train the acting stars, Miro Sorvieno & John Leguzamo, " the correct way" to dance the hustle. Although the stars had been personally training for a month on the hustle, the director asked David to give them the real look and feel for the dance.
In 1991, David didn't see this one coming, as he became the victim of a bad accident. Subsequently, both of his ankles were severely broken. It left him confined to a wheel chair for one entire year. Doctors were very skeptical and warned him that he may never walk again. Support pins were placed in both of his legs, which he has been living in pain with ever since. This gave David even more determination to get back on the dance floor. He pushed himself to new heights in efforts to regain his dance skills. The turnstile would spin once again as David would begin working with a new up and coming dancer, Wanda Soto. They competed at Hustle USA and began performing in shows and contests when tragically, this budding star was killed in a horrific motorcycle accident. A with drawn David was left speechless. His heart was broken.
Management at the popular dance studio "Stepping Out" was looking to reenergize their weekly hustle socials after relocated to 37 west 26th street. They pursued David to co host along with Simone Assboeck. David provided a keen knowledge on how to attract dancers to the gathering, similar to how it was back in the 70's & 80's. Not an easy task, but after applying his years of experience, they have enjoyed tremendous success. "We have the best place to dance Hustle & Salsa every Wednesday night", explains David. This great achievement has lent itself to the creation of the first Friday of the month party at the studio. " It brings back the memories of the old school dancing (Dale Dance studios in Brooklyn & Alexis Dance studios combined)", shares David. Over the last 4 years while holding down a full time job, running his dance gigs at Stepping Out, David has partnered with Jesus Candelario. They took first place in the annual Queens Pride Salsa Contest in both 2006 & 2007. They also won a Salsa contest held by the Joyce Dance Theater at battery park in NYC which was hosted by his old friend, Maria Torres. There were 7 couples and one male & male Couple (David & Jesus). The crowd in attendance went wild when they saw two men dancing together. The decibels went even higher when they won the $1,000.00 dollars first place prize. This past April, after nearly 16 years of living in pain, David finally had the pins removed from his legs. Now recuperating, he is ready to launch the next chapter in his dance career. "Hustle has been a great part of my life it has kept me in great shape, great spirits, dancing is an excellent stress reliever. I'll be dancing till the lord says that is enough time till sit down, until then I will keep the hustle alive" explains David. His dance turnstile swings again as he will compete with Simone at this summers Discoamerica. David has gotten his mojo back. His statuesque physic has always framed him above the majority of dancers, but his kind soul has made him a great asset to the dance community. Expect more great things from this hustle pioneer.
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