Lynn Hayden - Hustle / Disco WCS + Salsa Lynn Hayden -
by Ron Bess

Lynn Hayden

She studied under some of the greatest dance minds of the century, she adored ballroom

Her love and tenacity to dance has spanned since she was 11 years old, growing up in Jersey City, NJ where she began learning ballet and Jazz. Her world was full of the arts as both her parents embraced the fine arts of music and design. When Lynn turned 19 she began to study ballroom dance under Cathy Niccolini, the owner of Progressive Dance Studio, located in Nutley NJ. ( now the Starlight Ballroom). Cathy taught Lynn the technical end of the primary four dances. Lynn connected with her best friend in high school, Danny Horst (RIP). They would practice and competed in a dance contest held at their high school which they gallantly won first place. Lynn was loving dance but had bigger aspirations. She now set her eyes on the junior ballroom field of competitions when she responded to an ad for a partner posted by Robert "Bobby"  Carmean. "Robert was an amazing dancer who had competed in Junior ballroom and was way ahead of me when I started", explains Lynn. "Not only that but he was brilliant at slapstick and musical comedy. He would always make you laugh. A very talented and special person," shares Lynn. They would practice at various studios including  Phillips Dance Studio (the setting for the motion picture 'Saturday Night Fever'). Bobby and Lynn won their first dance contest doing the American Tango at the famous Roseland Ballroom in New York City. As a young teen growing up, Lynn was enriched by all the MGM TV musicals. She was inspired by the likes of Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, and Eleanor Powell. It became her ambition to learn from these greats by studying their every move as they helped guide her on the dance floor.  As she expanded her own dance horizons she gained inspiration from the current circle of dance talents including, Tony & Susan Marolda, Charlie & Jeanie Penatello, Derrick Allen, Lisa Nunziella and Eddie Vega. There was another unique dancer that made an enormous impact on her life. "Arte Phillips inspired me more than he could know and even though.  I never had a formal private lesson with him, yet he still taught me things I'm still learning from", recalls Lynn.

As Bobby & Lynn's dance success grew, heads were turned in their direction. One set of eyes that caught this young couple was producer/instructor Ralph Lew. "Ralph saw us dancing in the studios and asked us to be part of his troupe", explains Lynn. "Ralph was such an innovative dancer, choreographer, record producer and he along with Lucille taught us the importance of stage craft, how to enter and exit and what makes a show work". Dancing with the "Ralph Lew Carnival" gave them the opportunity to travel as they opened shows for some of the biggest acts entertaining on the east coast. Performing thru out the tri state area, including the popular Catskill Mountains, where the troupe would open for comedian/actor Billy Crystal, singing sensation Tony Bennett, Lainie Kazan and funny man Jackie Mason...among others. Members of the dance troupe included George Velazquez,  Kenny Gonzales, Ron Bess, Lisa Zimmerman, Derrick Allen, Lilia, Roberto Pagan, Debbie Ferro, Louie & Angela?.

These were Lynn's college days, although she didn't attend a formal university, at the time, these were the dance days of hard knocks.  As her friends packed their bags and set off for school, Lynn studied dancing and performing. "And I will value them forever" .  Her hard work and diligence would ring the bell of success as she would win one of the most prestigious dance competitions of the day. After excelling in the preliminary rounds and moving on to the finals, Bobby and Lynn would capture the Harvest Moon Ball held in the Madison Square Garden, in NYC.  Considered the most coveted crown of the time, this was confirmation that their skills were appreciated, as all the top dance studios sent representatives to compete.

During the 1980s, the entire country was in a dance craze and "Dance Fever" was the highest rated television show.  In 1983 Lynn and Bobby attended an audition to represent their home town on the syndicated television show. They struck gold with their Samba routine as they dazzled the judges with their colorful costumes and creative dancing. With an all expense paid trip in hand, they were whisked away to California to perform on "Dance Fever" . "I decided that no matter what happened it was going to be a great experience. Meeting Denny Terrio was of course a blast. Seeing how the show was taped and meeting other celebrities on the show was so much fun," shares Lynn.  Dancing with panache, Bobby and Lynn would win the first round of competitions on TV and moved on to compete in the semi finals on the show.

With national exposure, this high profiled dancing duo would return to New Jersey and would go on to perform  with Ralph Lew for nine years. As an agent, Mr. Lew would keep the ever popular dance team busy as principal dancers in his company as well as performing at other events as a solo team. We were asked to do a number for a benefit dance for Sloan Kettering at the Waldorf Astoria with an appearance by Frank Sinatra. We danced behind him while he sang. It was another rewarding experience of course?, shares Lynn.

Along the way, Lynn would continue to study dance and had the privilege of learning adagio from two of the worlds finest,  Pierre Dulaine and Franzsois Szony. Each introducing them to the world of lifts. The creativity began to pour out as they would combine original new ideas with their love and passion for the classic work of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The couple would choreograph numerous routines including the classic Dancing in the Dark. The most rewarding dance they developed was a re-creation of the dance performed by Astaire to "Limehouse Blues" in the Movie Ziegfeld Follies?. With stunning detail, the couple danced the amazing routine, literally step by step as the original. Opening and closing the fans on the beat of the music? they added some of their own material but stayed true to the original, performing it on stage at various hotels in the Catskill Mountains. There is (sadly) no video of it and so it only exists in our memories? reminisces Lynn. But along with the Sloan Kettering dance, it is one of my favorite memories.?

Performing on a weekly schedule had the dancers interacting with other dance professionals. Known as the ballroom couple? Lynn received admiration from many of the popular hustle dancers while she secretly was anxious to learn and perfect their dance.  During the 90s, Lynn lost her father and shortly after her mother passed away in 2001. Lynn took a dance hiatus during these trying times. I was determined to get back into Ballroom?, but mainly she wanted to Hustle. One of her more recent partners was world dance champion Anthony Lee. I am grateful to him for working with me and giving me the chance to dance at the US Open Swingdance Championships?, explains Lynn .? Working with Robert Royston and Tony was a wonderful experience.? Who knew after meeting Tony back at the Harvest Moon Ball years prior, she would be  "swinging" with him many years later. Now putting the hustle to the test, Lynn is active with Roberto Pagan and the New York Express dance troop. 

I knew at a very early age that I was a dancer. But since lessons were not affordable to me until I was in Junior high, I worked on it by myself. It has been something that has always been a part of my life. While I have other creative interests, none of them has been as rewarding as dancing. Nothing else affords you such expression of yourself while meeting many wonderful people?, shares Lynn. Although she doesn't make the dramatic entrances she once did dancing on stage, Lynn continues to light up the dance floor, enjoying the craft that has given her so many heartfelt memories. 

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