Rodney Harris - Hustle / Disco WCS + Salsa

Rodney Harris -
by Ron Bess

He grew up in Queens but hustled the nights away in Manhattan. He was part of the mix when Floyd Chishom, Scott Nurse and James Stanford ruled the dance floor. While still in high school, Rodney Harris was drawn to the hustle, "It was all about the Girls," he remembers. After graduating from school and spending one year in the airforce, Rodney began to make his mark on the hustle. Along with dance buddies James and Scott, they became a crew frequenting some of the hottest clubs in NY: The Casa Blanca, Star Wars, The Ice Palace, Poor Peters Parlor and of course Roseland. "I think the best couple I ever saw was Floyd and Nellie. They had a style that no one could match and some of the moves that you see today, they started." Rodney first set out to tackled the club competitions along with partner Pam Roberts. At the time, this is where all the action was but as the club scene and competitions diminished, he teamed up with Maria Torres. Together they placed third in the United States Ballroom Championships.

By the 80's, his dance vision and direction started to change. "I took what I had learned dancing hustle and applied it to ballroom dancing," recalls Rodney. He started at PJ's Dance Charisma, in Queens. Having danced with so many different types of partners it made it easy for him to understand the other dances and how to lead them. Influenced and inspired by dance champion Rufus Dustin, "he was the only other person of color I saw at the competitions," Rodney checked his dance compass and where he should take his talent. He quickly elevated himself in the ballroom competitions. In the mid 80's he partnered with Anna Manthos, who had an extensive background in jazz and tap. Together they shared a partnership for 9years winning numerous competitions including: the Northeast Arthur Murray 9 Dance Championship (Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango, V.Waltz, Cha -Cha, Swing, Mambo, Rumba & Bolero), the Virginia State Professional Exhibition Champions and the New England Rising Star American Style Ballroom Champions. Rodney has the distinct honor of being the first Afro American to win a Ballroom title. As they advanced up the dance ladder, Rodney felt his sense of calling, "teaching is what I love the most." Rosemary Parker, gave me my first teaching job and made me believe that I could do it. Thru the achievements and competitions, Rodney saw his star rise. Many opportunities came his way on television and motion pictures. He appeared on "One Life to Live" (the soap opera) and more recently the motion picture "Let It Be Me." He competed on the syndicated TV show Dance Fever performing a swing and performed at the Apollo for the "Little Miss Black American Contest." But the competitions and performing stand second to the satisfaction he gets from teaching. "Its not the dancing as much as it is the teaching. To be able to change peoples lives is great. To help others with dancing to me is like being a doctor, I have empowered peoples lives, I've helped married people stay together and that feels good." Rodney continues to teach and compete in the pro-am divisions. His students have excelled in competitions all over the US.

Married for almost 22 years, Rodney recognizes his wife Stephanie as, his "soul mate." Earlier this year he completed his studies as he will take another turn pursuing a career in Hotel Management.

Rodney has given so much to the dance community and to his students - dancing will always be his first love.

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