Before the mega hit, "I Will Survive" hit the airwaves, this young
dancer had already begun drafting plans for her own dance
studio. A hit single wasn't needed to inspire her, she had
been dreaming this her entire life. Destine to have her own dance
studio and teach Philadelphia how to hustle, Lisa Sands was on a
At the tender age of 8, Lisa began her indoctrination in to the world of dance studying classical Ballet, toe, tap and jazz, while growing up in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Enriched by parents that embraced dance helped direct Lisa on her path. Her parents loved the big band sounds and Lisa cherished doing the Jitterbug with her dad. She was inspired by the likes of Ann Margaret and Mitzi Gaynor, two of her favorite female dancers on TV.
Lisa now had the drive and skill sets to learn a new dance that was on her radar. In 1975, Lisa began to frequent the night clubs in near by New Jersey where the legal age was only 18 as opposed to 21 in her home state of Pennsylvania. "People were doing a dance called the rope back then and the hustle," explains Lisa. "We just followed along". Lisa along with her close dance friends, from her area would head for the clubs to learn and build on this exciting new dance. Stephanie & Richie, Keith Baker, Danny Rosanova, Tom Cicilo, Kenny Carter, Sheila Ciociola, Tom & Brenda Pataccio, Dawn, John and Ron Campli were just some of the dance buddies that banded together. The club atmosphere opened opportunities to develop new relationships which included befriending the irreplaceable DJs, like Michael Gormely and Bob Pantano. "We went to clubs like, Marrakech, LeGare, Someplace Else, The Branch, Emerald City, Valentino's, Scintillation's and of course The Library," shares Lisa. Attending the discotheques in New Jersey developed new friendships like, Tony Ciliberto, Stevie Mitchell, Bob Peters, Jeannie, Andre Phelps, Donna Boyle, Ron Bess, Tony Thompson and Teddy Dormoi. By 1977, the explosion of the disco era was in full force as more clubs popped up with literally lines forming for admission. Lisa had honed an impeccable reputation in the dance scene. She excelled and developed a strong understanding of the dance, able to break it down for teaching purposes. She was now sought after by club owners, country clubs and schools to teach. This would include instructing at some of the most popular night clubs like The Library, Scintillation's and the Marrakech.
Like Snow White...with birds chirping around her head, "teaching professionally, making money at something I loved to do," set Lisa ablaze. She was everywhere, dancing on "The Jerry Blavat TV Show" which was broadcast weekly in the tri state area, and the famous "Steel Pier" televised show, filmed right on the famous pier in Atlantic City.
In 1979, Lisa would take a big dance step. With the craze and ever present demand from people to learn the hustle, Lisa was aware that her dream would come true. "After many hours talking with my dad , he gave the thumbs up," explains Lisa. " He had faith in me and so we did it." This young dancer would now put her arms around her dream. "Dance Expressions" became a reality. Along with her partner Tom Petaccio, they hired fellow professional instructors to help in the child arena as they rode the wave of the disco era. They had the first studio in the market teaching the hustle and to top things off, they even hung a disco mirror ball. All along, Lisa would continue to do exhibitions and compete with her various partners, " Tom Petaccio was my business/dance instructor partner and Tom Cicilo, Keith Baker and Danny were among the few I performed and taught with," explained Lisa. A savvy entrepreneur, Lisa and her dance staff would out reach. They would go to local chapters of the YMCA, schools and night clubs to teach and perform to help drive the success of the studio business. Lisa would continue to compete, winning many contests but concentrated on teaching, event planning, fashion shows, dance shows and even doing exhibitions in Florida, North Carolina and Atlantic City with her partners. Then the winds of change took place. "Disco as we knew it in the late 70's, with its glittery clothing, intricate dance moves, sound and light shows, started to decrease in the interest of taking dance lessons. Although we also taught classical dance such as tap, ballet jazz and aerobics at the studio, it wasn't enough to" STAY ALIVE, " shares Lisa. In 1983, with her antenna up high, Lisa decided to turn the chapter and once again take a big dance step by relocating to South Florida. For her, this was home away from home. "To me South Florida was paradise, sunshine and beaches". What became Philadelphia's lost was Florida's gain. She now set her eyes on a career in the Fine Jewelry Industry. To expand on her new vocation, Lisa was on the move again. She attended the GIA ( Gemology Institute of America) in southern California. She would return to South Florida in 1991 where she resides today, along with her husband Brian, and two children Amanda 15 and Michael 11. "My daughter is also a dancer and has been blessed with a beautiful voice," shares Lisa. "She has performed in many musicals such as "Beauty and the Beast," Grease (as Rizzo) and High School Musical as Gabriella to name a few," shares a proud mother. Lisa has spend the last 17 years in the Fine Jewelry Industry but still has a fondness for her first love, dance. Although she doesn't teach anymore she still loves to dance and continues to grow her dance family. One of the brilliance's of dance is the quality of the friendships she has nurtured. "What is wonderful is that I am still friends with so many of these people today," shares Lisa. "Our relationships have grown over the years from dancing together at 17-18 years old, to being involved in each others daily lives, experiencing marriages, children, life's daily wonders along with the challenges and hardships. We always kept in touch. Donna Boyle kept me informed on what was going on as well as through the DanceTalk newsletters. With this insight, about 10 years ago, she began to dance again when she learned about the Palladium. She is appreciative of all that Florida has to offer including attending the International Hustle & Salsa event in Miami. Lisa attends each year where she gets to dance with new friends and see some familiar faces from days gone by. But know one ever forgets their roots, as Lisa attended the 2008 Discoamerica Dance Championships this past year in Pennsylvania "My God given talent has always been to teach, encourage and help others," shares Lisa. "Back then it was dance, thru the years it has been in the jewelry industry and also the childhood education field." Today, Lisa still sparkles. Her years of teaching and the friendships she has developed will always be remembered and appreciated by all those she has touched.
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