The year was 1972. The motion picture 'God Father' was a box office bonanza, Helen Reddy released her classic song "I am Woman" and a guy from Brooklyn opened a dance studio called "New York Hustle."
During the summer of 1966, Jeff Shelley started working for his cousin at a Fred Astaire Dance Studio. But it wasn't until Jeff and his younger brother Jack began hanging out with some girls from a hair salon that they got the impulse to open their own studio. "They turned us onto the hustle." They began to frequent clubs like "The Monistaire" and "Lazardan" in Queens. The year was 1971. Jeff with his business partner, Jack, decided the time was right. "New York Hustle "studio was born. Jeff took his Fred Astaire styling and adapted it too the hustle. Their first hustle studio opened in Flushing, Queens in April of 1972.
The following year, Jeff along with Jenny Costa (WKTU Mixmaster) went to audition for the Joe Franklin Television Show. Jenny was one of the top dancers, whom today is best known for her radio mixmaster contributions in NY. The disco momentum was building and Jeff befriended some of the great dancers of the day. George Velazquez and Craig Yee were some of the most eye catching dancers on the dance scene.
A new club opened that had lines going around the building. The popular "Murray The K" was the host. This club brought some of the most exciting young dancers together. According to Jeff, "This is where I met Floyd (Chishom) and Patty, Billy (Fajardo) and Sandra (Rivera)."
The music and dancing was becoming a life style. Jeff's popularity in the dance world was growing. He was pursued to do a record album which would include instructional dance lessons along with dance songs. The album sales for Columbia House took off. The record was called, "Do The Hustle." In all, three records would be released. The record business was exploding. Over a quarter million records would be sold. Jeff and partner Donna, were pictured on the front cover, which included pictures on the back demonstrating various dance steps.
Jeff and Jack capitalized on the dance phenomena and went main stream launching a radio and TV advertising campaign. They ran as many as 10 radio spots a day on the prime dance stations....WPIX and WBLS. Jack wrote all the scripts and the results were incredible. It was time for another studio as the demand for lessons continued to grow. New York Hustle opened their second location in New Rochelle, NY in 1974. Dance champion, Billy Fajardo came on board to help teach.
The demands and opportunities kept coming. Exhibitions, lessons, running studios, television performances and shows. While at Ipenema disco Jeff befriended dance legend Ralph Lew. This again opened the door for more shows and performances. The following year, Jeff would take the plunge with his dance partner Donna as they walked down the isle. Together they would open 3 additional dance studios and franchise them in Manhattan (at 79th street) in Brooklyn and Staten Island. With the release of the motion picture "Saturday Night Fever" the demand and interest in hustle dancing went off the meter. Jeff would now put his multitasking skills to work as he then signed a two year contract to teach lessons and perform exhibitions on the hugely popular television show "The Soap Factory." The show was shot right from the popular discotheque "Soap Factory" in Palisades, NJ, which was shown in 69 markets all over the USA. For the next 2 years, Jeff and Donna would teach viewers how to dance in the privacy of their own living room via TV. The show was hott. Dancers would perform in wild costumes, some on skates and you never knew what to expect. While taping the television show Jeff met the Harvest Moonball champions, Tony and Susan Marolda. This relationship grew as Tony & Susan would eventually teach at one of the NY Hustle studios.
With so much on his plate, the Shelley's took on a new challenge...writing a book.
This modern day Fred Astair could do it all. With an extensive background in social dancing, Jeff had wonderful footwork, could execute difficult adagio moves (with his partner/wife Donna) including flips and over head aerial lifts. Dancing was 24/7. Along with his brother Jack Shelley, they partnered with choreographer Lester Wilson to write a book. (Lester helped teach and choreograph routines for John Travolta in the motion picture Saturday Night Fever.) Lester was well known for his "magic footprints," the easy way to learn to dance. The new book gave instructional insight to the American Hustle, the Rope and other popular dances.
For the last few years the couple was non stop running the New York Hustle dance studios, performing on TV, personal appearances and more... but the climate was changing. Disco and the hustle seemed to be running out of gas. "The sound, the dress were changing, it became different, it was classy up till now," Jeff recalls, the tide was shifting. Although dancing remained in his heart, the studio success had plummeted by 1986. It was time for a new chapter. The hustle had fallen out of favor. Jeff and Donna would take their dancing and performance on the road, or should I say the high sea. Recommended by long time friend & dance legend, Francois Szony, the Shelley's were contracted to perform on Cruise lines. The new venture was extremely successful. But their talents were in need elsewhere. Recruited by, Black Pool Dance Champion, Pierre Dulaine, Jeff and Donna were asked to join the American Ballroom Theater. The Shelley's would replace Pierre and his partner Yvonne. From 1989 to 1994 they became an integral part of the theater and made this their new home. Many professionals find that there are fewer options available for dancers as opposed to actors or recording stars but, to join the American Ballroom theater.. surely is a dance pinnacle. When the theater came to an end, Jeff would then roll out his own show, "Four on the Floor." It was made up of three thirty minute shows with a singer and non stop entertainment.
Still dedicated to dancing, Jeff teaches in Staten Island, NY at the Fred Astaire studio. He and Donna continue to perform, judge and teach.
From 1972 till 1986.....14 years they championed the first dance studios dedicated to hustle dancing. They warmed our hearts and taught us some cool moves on their weekly appearances on the ever popular dance television show "Soapfactory."
Admired by amateurs and professional alike, Jeff delivered a sophistication in hustle that is seldom seen. For their years of dance and creativity, they were just honored and inducted into the World Hustle Dance Championships Hall Of Fame.
Jeff says it best, "Hustle dancing will never die, the music is still hot.