Denise, where did you grow up?
I grew up between two islands in the Caribbean: Puerto Rico
and the Dominican Republic.
How long have you been in L.A.?
I've been Living in Los Angeles for seventeen years, and counting.
When did you first realize that you enjoyed dancing?
At the tender age of three. Who wouldn't dance, listening to the
afro beats the islands have to offer?
What dances do you know, other than Swing?
Salsa and merengue, the ones I grew up with.
Balboa, Collegiate Shag, Charleston, Boogie Woogie
(not the European version), Lindy Hop (it's all swing to me!),
the Big Apple, the list goes on...
You've become an expert in Balboa or Bal-swing, what appeals
to you about this particular style?
It's close, it's romantic, fast and fancy!
Can you describe how dancing makes you feel?
If I'm with the right dance partner, it makes me feel like I'm on cloud 9.
How and when did you discover swing?
I discovered swing at nine years old, when I first saw "All the cats join in" in the theater along with other Disney shorts being shown. Also, all the B movies from the fifties (the lingo sounds so funny in Spanish; ) ).
Who were your most influential dance teachers or mentors?
My first Teacher: Lee Atkinson, who taught me how to swing dance to all tempos.
Natalie Esparza: First lady dancer I saw holding her own on the dance floor, with such style and grace, and the legs (how could she dance in those high heels?)
Ann Mills: First lady dancer to come to our rescue, when the older men had no styling points to offer to the girls.
Chester Whitmore: Is there a dance he doesn't know?
Sylvia Sykes: the Queen of Balboa, I bow to you!
Melinda Comeau: She helped break down the finer counts of leading a balboa turn, and has been supportive of my dancing for a long time.
Erin Stevens: Who exposed me to a different, not so different style of swing.
Maxie Dorf, Harry Berlin, Willie Desatoff, Hal Takier and Bart Bartolo: Need I say more?
Like many people, you were in a relationship with your last dance partner. How did you go about looking for a new partner when that relationship ended?
I wanted to make sure the next partner was easy to work with, somebody I trusted, and somebody I did not have to train from scratch (the last partner took four years to bring up to par...), and most important, someone I would not even think of getting involved with: We, girls, loose more partners that way!
What are the advantages of not being romantically involved with your new partner?
MANY: Less emotionally rung arguments, all business issues remain objective. Don't have to worry about them leaving you for another partner at the drop of a hat...
Word of Advice: NEVER GET ROMANTICALLY INVOLVED WITH YOUR DANCE PARTNER!
What are you passionate about (other activities or hobbies) when you're not dancing?
Movies, all genres except horror, art and drawing, clothing design and confection, window shopping for ideas, reading history, flying, hanging out with friends on a quiet non dancing evening...
What's the most surprising thing about you that most dance friends still don't know?
Hmm, I can't think of anything.
You now teach dance classes on a regular basis, tell me about some other jobs you've had.
I used to work in a costume house after graduating from college, then I accidentally stumbled into the toy industry for the next ten years. My last job involved designing Disney collector dolls at Mattel before I was laid off. I have been dancing full time ever since and never been happier.
What do you think is the number one quality in a great lead and a great follow?
Not having an ego!
Always be humble!!!
Just because you think you're a great dancer or someone doesn't have the balls to say "um, hello, why are you dancing by yourself?", doesn't mean you're a great lead or follow. Also, having the best dance partner does not make you a better dancer, it just makes you look better. It takes two, baby!
I know you've won numerous contests, can you name your most memorable (or meaningful) three?
The Cal-Bal Championships last year and the year before - A lot of hard work went into that.
The National Jitterbug Championships last year - That was a keeper, Here's to Maxie Dorf!
The NJC Jack and Jill this year - Placing in the top three, can you say "the Comeback Kid"?
You've had the opportunity to dance in various cities.... what would you say is unique and special about dancing here in L.A.?
Hands down, LA dancers are still the best in the country, though that reputation is slowly slipping away with the modern groove.
What's your dream vacation?
Flying or sailing away on a trip around the world! All expenses paid. Robin Leach, where are you?
This depends on the genre:
Independent films - it's a toss up between Chocolat and Amelie, for
SciFi - The Matrix
Western - Tombstone
War - Stalag 17
Comedy Classics - Too many to mention, but one that sticks with me is "It Happened one Night"
Comedy - Goldmember, takes the cake this year!
Horror - None, don't like this particular genre.
Action - Anything that has Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis and Nicholas Cage attached to it (well, most anything).
Drama - Anything that fulfills a love story, excellent script and/or amazing costume requirements. Titanic is NOT a good example!
Film Noir - Double Indemnity
Musicals - It's a toss up between Victor/Victoria and Moulin Rouge
The list goes on and on...
Favorite TV show?
I don't watch much TV, but I'm new to this one show and I wish I had HBO: Sex and the City.