Spotlight - Marie Izzo
The motion picture, "Saturday Night Fever" resonated her passion for dance. From that day forward, she was inspired right down to her inner core. She had found her calling in life which drove her to conquer the hustle and to share her passion to teach others. Marie Izzo was a natural.
At an early age, she began to explore various dances including the merengue and salsa. Growing up in Franklin Square, Long Island, without any formal dance training, she was anxious to learn all the dances but gravitated towards the new dance craze on the horizon. Once John Travolta hustled his stuff, she was sold. Marie was in a dance frenzy and launched her new career when she signed up in a teachers training program, hosted by Henry Dior's Dale Dance Studio's located on long Island. Her first instructor, Dominick Longo was a popular out going dancer. Dominick brought lots of talent to the table. The chemistry between Marie and Dominick quickly took hold and fermented into an exciting dance partnership. "He was such a fun partner and made friends every where he went. He was constantly booking shows for us," explains Marie. The hustle explosion was captivating and Marie had a front row seat. The excitement of dancing fueled her heart and soul and she hasn't stopped exploring and teaching dance since. She worked with an extraordinary group of teachers at Dales, including: Eddie Paterson, Maria Gomez, Eddie Simon, Diane Nardone, Alfonso Triggiani, Lydia Lee Aiello, and Jimmy Garcia. Coincidentally, her roommates happen to equally be gifted dancers as well: Gail Bloom and Suzanne Lambro. "We were known as ‘the girls’, and we went everywhere together", shares Marie. Her other close dance associates included, Donna Shelley, her sister (Marta Hogan), Carl Charles, David Williams and Jose Solano. Together, this band of dancers, would frequent many nights clubs through out NY including their favorites: Penrods/Zachary’s, Winners’ Circle, Uncle Sam’s, Feathers, Rumors, DeCameron’s, 231, Channel 80 and Attitudes. Their clubbing circuit would also put them in contact with the “The Long Island crew”, which consisted of Bobbi Petri, Lori Brizzi, James Stanford, Keith Merriweather, Chuck Fetta, J.O. (John Ort), Jimmy Garcia, Derrick Allen, Ron Rochester, Robin Amante and Rose Capello.
Dancing with Dominick meant doing shows on the fly. One night when Marie was seconds from heading out for a night of dancing she received a call from Dominick, " we have a show to do at Studio 54, get here now". "The club had all the sound equipment, but we needed to bring someone to emcee for us", explains Marie. "I called my sister, Marta, and we rushed into the city. He was waiting for us at the door and he shoved Marta into the DJ booth, whisked me onto the dance floor, and our song began. Whew! That’s what it was like being partners with Dominic Longo."
The genie was now out of the bottle and moving in the fast lane. While attending, a dance competition she met the popular duo of Jeff & Donna Shelley. They were very taken by her dance skills and instantaneously offered her an opportunity at their New York Hustle Dance Studio in Flushing, Queens. For the next six years, Marie would perfect her ballroom and Latin skills. She would develop many students and compete in the Pro/am divisions. Some of the dancer students she engaged in her training included Armando Berrios, Joe Ramaglia, Wally Montalvo and John Rocchio, all from NY hustle studio which later became NY Dance Center. Marie would continue to compete outside of the studio world and do shows and simultaneously partnered with George "White Lightning" Velazquez and then with Long Island bad boy, Carl Charles. "I am also among the few people who made it to the finals at Zachary’s, dancing with another girl", explains Marie. The annual contest is one of the premier events on the Island. Marie and close friend Lisa Stecket, put together a high energy jazz routine to Janet Jackson's hit song "Control". It received rave reviews. Marie couldn't get enough of dance or the satisfaction it brought her. With an entrepreneurial spirit she formed her own dance company called “All the Right Moves”. "In April, 1990, my sister, Marta, who was the audio mixer on The Phil Donahue Show, got us an audition on the episode entitled “Lambada – The Forbidden Dance”, explains Marie. "Phil Donahue decided at the last minute that he wanted to have a contrast to all the craziness of the Lambada dancers, and hired us to perform a dance retrospective". With less then 24 hours to prepare for their national television debut, she had to choreograph a performance representing each dance era, five in all, select the music along with narration (courtesy of good friend Chuck Fetta) pick costumes, and rehearse for the deadline. "I danced with George Velazquez and Gail Bloom partnered with Chuck Fetta. We worked through the night… sleep was not an option…and very early the next the morning a limo came to pick us up. By that afternoon we were on. We performed a medley of dances from each era: the 40’s (fox trot), 50’s (swing), 60’s (twist), 70’s (hustle), and the 80’s (dirty dancing). Of course, I enjoyed our foursome hustle the most, which turned out perfect. It was awesome; and to date, one of my favorite dance experiences ever" shares Marie.
Then the talented, oh so talented Marie would experience a set back as the exhilaration would come to a screeching halt. Marie suffered a terrible knee injury which forced her to stop dancing for nearly two years. This challenge crystallized her determination. She gallantly returned and began working at "Dance Obsession" with Barnie & Debbie Aquilino, which became her new home until 1998 when it was time to leave. Marie was ready to dance in a new direction, which was in the Carolina's. First North then ultimately South where she opened her own dance studio appropriately named, "All the Right Moves" located in Fort Mill , South Carolina. http://www.rightmovesdancestudio.com "In 2005 Carl Charles came to North Carolina to visit me and we decided to put something together to perform", shares Marie. "Because they have never seen a hustle done on that level before, the audience roared when we took our bow. We were asked to perform our hustle at a master’s show that same weekend along side the legendary theatre arts performers David Howland & Vivienne Ramsey. We were awe-struck" explains Marie. They couldon't believe they were on the same stage as David & Vivienne. "See where hustle can get you", shares Marie. For the past four years she has been a dance Professor at Winthrop University, teaching two ballroom/Latin courses per semester. "It is an extremely popular course and very difficult to get a spot in the class" explains Marie. This is one of her most gratifying jobs that she truly embraces. She makes the class very rewarding supporting the students with encouragement, fine etiquette (both on and off the dance floor), some life lessons, spiritual guidance - all with a twist of fun included. Marie created the curriculum, which consists of the seven major dances with five steps in each dance, including a final exam with a prerequisite of performing a formal dance. "The students have to dress in formal attire, some students wearing tuxedos and top hats" explains a proud Marie. She doesn't miss a beat and demonstrates the responsibilities of the men and how they should approach their partner for a dance, escort them onto the floor, thank them at the end of the dance and then escort them off the floor. "Every semester I’m amazed at how the guys’ chests broaden as they escort the lovely ladies with beautiful smiles on their faces, on and off the dance floor", she shares. She instructs them on how a lady should be treated and encourages the ladies to expect nothing less from a gentleman. Alumni have expressed their gratitude and the impact her course has had on their lives, leaving fond memories of their college days. "They’ll remember it as their own ‘good old days’, and they’ll look back on it the same way I look back on my days dancing the night away on Long Island", shares Marie. "It’s just dance, but we all know it’s so much more". Marie has taken her craft and shares it with young students and adults through out various states. The admiration she receives from her college students and those from her studio depict the love Marie has for her art. She has done for hustle what Rita's had accomplished for the water ice, its simply mouth watering. She continues to enjoy every teaching moment and was able to make her childhood hobby an outreaching career for herself for over 30 years.
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