Spotlight - Jonathan Laub
It was a year of firsts. He was the youngest dancer to ever win the "All Around" division in the New York Harvest Moonball and, the first, brother/sister team, to accomplish that task. Still teenagers, they were then whisked off to Hollywood to appear on national television. The year was 1968 and Jonathan Laub was on top of the world.
A native New Yorker, Jonathan grew up in Bayside, Queens. He was introduced to ballroom dancing when he was a mere 12 years old. His ambitious mother was preparing him for his special dance with her at his up coming Bar Mitzvah. Initially, he began to study ballroom then the various Latin dances. His younger sister, Doreen, was already studying jazz and ballet when the studio owners recommended for the siblings to team up in preparation for the prestigious Harvest Moonball competition. The youngsters were excited and energized to compete. Everyone was familiar with the Moonball, which had a rich history dating back to 1930. It was the premier annual competition held each fall in New York City, where the amateur finalists would compete at the Madison Square Garden. That in itself was huge....the home of the New York Knicks, where Muhammad Ali dominated boxing, and Marilyn Monroe sang happy birthday to a young president named John F. Kennedy. All directions pointed to Camille Barbera as the most knowledgeable coach to prepare the Laubs for the competition. Greatly in demand, Camile would audition dancers to be considered as her pupils. She was the most accomplished teacher with many previous HMB champions under her tutelage. She was quite impressed by this young duo but there was one major obstacle. Jonathan was 16 years old but his sister Doreen was only 14. All competitors for the Moonball were required to be a minimum of 16 years old. Not anticipating this impasse, Camille agreed to train the young Laub's for the next 2 years in preparation for the Moonball. Over the course of the next 2 years they would learn all the fundamentals of the Fox-Trot, Tango, Rumba and Waltz. During this two year window of training the young couple would compete and win various contests in their pursuit of the HMB. Jonathan was like a sponge absorbing all the dance professionals in efforts to learn. He was inspired by many of the greats including, Johnny Lucassi, Mickey Knight, Walter Darien, Don Denatale, Freddie Rios and Eddie Torres.
The preliminaries for the HMB were held at the Roseland Ballroom and the semi finalists would move on to the finals held in the Madison Square Garden. The competition was a house hold name that was revered by all dancers. After the long training process, in September of 1968, their dream came to fruition. The young team would win the Fox-Trot division and then would compete in the "All Around" Dance Championship. In front of a sold out audience, Jonathan and Doreen undeniably were the best, and won the All Around Dance crown. In only two years they had come so far. They had focused their eyes and dilated their minds on this day, going beyond their own goals that year. It was an unbelievable accomplishment. With such a great achievement, they garnered media attention. With all the publicity, they were offered numerous television appearances on the highest rated shows. It kicked off with a live appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show along with guests like Red Skelton, the Jefferson Airplane, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Steve Lawrence and Eddie Gorme. At only 18 years of age Jonathan and Doreen required an agent to manage their affairs. They turned professional and began performing on television and making appearances at the most popular ballrooms and studios of the day. They performed at Walter Darians, Roseland, on the Mike Douglas show and Jerry Blavats Discophonic Scene - TV show. During the summer they would be booked at the Catskill Hotels by well established agent Fayola: The Concord, Nevele, Fallsview ....opening for many of the biggest acts across the country. The Laub's also performed with fellow Harvest Moon ball champions Tony and Susan Marolda. "While dancing out in NYC clubs, for years I used to see Lisa Nunziella, Maria Torres, Diane Nardone and of course Ralph and Lucille Lew, dancing the hustle," recalls Jonathan. "Eventually I wanted to really learn as much as I could about the hustle, " he shares. His first lesson was with dance champion Maria Torres. While dancing in the NY clubs, he caught the eye of Ralph Lew. Ralph had one of the most established dance troops and studio's in the area. Ralph asked the young couple to perform and do shows with his Dance factory. Hustle was exploding and the troop was in great demand. This took place around the same time the Laub's father had passed away. Ralph and Lucille took the young Laub's under their wings and mentored them during this crucial time in their lives. For the next two years they would perform with the dance company, week in and week out. Then in 1979, riding the wave of success, the young couple was asked to do a dance instructional video series. This was ground breaking. With the growing popularity of video recorders, "Watch Your Step" video became the first of its kind. It included eight different dances that the Laub's demonstrated for the viewers. The entire process took six months to complete in the studio. With this great achievement also came the news that Doreen would stop performing. She was now married and was relocating to San Francisco, where she set up shop and developed the largest dance studio in SF. She started her own dance company with over 100 people. This would be a major shift for Jonathan as Doreen was his only dance partner. He had never performed with anyone else. An energetic Jonathan would move with the times and developed, Jonathan Laub Disc Jockey and Dance Production dance company. He moved to Philly as he was working in the men's & womens apparel business as an independent sales rep covering the mid Atlantic states. He would be contracted for conferences, shows and various events. He would bring in dance teams to perform including: Donna Boyle & Tony Ciliberto, Jose & Marci Gonzales and Ron Bess & Lisa Zimmerman. Jonathan would keep dancing and expand his horizons to Latin, Mambo on 2, Cha Cha and merengue. He danced at the Copa in NYC, Broadway Two and Broadway one at mambo Magic Sundays with Eddie & Maria Torres. "I danced for my own pleasure at the Latin Quarter and when Hustle exploded in Philly, we went to clubs like, C.C.Charlies, The Classroom, The Library when Lisa Sands was there", shares Jonathan. Other clubs on his agenda included: Egypt, Rock Lobster, Second Story and Elan's.
This past year marked the 40 year anniversary when Jonathan won the HMB. Still very active, he attends socials in NY at Mirelles, Club 412, Jimmy Antons Sunday Salsa and IL Campanello. He continues to push the envelope exploring other dances like Argentine Tango. "I think the Hustle crowd continues to miss out on an entire world of enjoying and experiencing other great music and movement in dances," shares Jonathan. "I can only tell you having danced for so long, it has given me great energy, good health and a great inner spirit" he explains. " For dance is about the love of it, expression and inner passion." Not quite 60 years old, Jonathan is ageless on the dance floor.
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