Eugene Louis Faccuito
Eugene Louis Faccuito
Eugene Louis Faccuito
March 20, 1925
Steubenville, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||April 7, 2015 (aged 90)|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Actor, choreographer, dancer, director, teacher|
Eugene Louis Faccuito(known as Luigi) (March 20, 1925 – April 7, 2015) was an American jazz dancer, choreographer, teacher and innovator who is best known for creating a jazz exercise technique. The Luigi Warm Up Technique is an influential training program that promotes body alignment, balance, core strength, and "feeling from the inside." It is also used for rehabilitation. This method became the world's first standard technique for teaching jazz and musical theater dance.
Faccuito developed the technique, which consists of a series of ballet-based exercises, for his own rehabilitation after suffering paralyzing injuries in a car accident at the age of twenty one. He couldn't stop dancing, so he first learned to regain control of his body by what he uses as a cornerstone of his technique – namely, to “lengthen and stretch the body without strain," and “put the good side into the bad side.’’ He then focused on a way “to stabilize himself – as if he were pressing down on an invisible (dance) barre. His efforts paid off because he went on to have a successful dance career, and became a world-renowned jazz teacher.
Early life and career
Born in Steubenville, Ohio, Luigi is the eighth of eleven children of immigrant Italian parents, Nicola and Antoinette (Savoia) Faccuito. After his father died when he was five years old, Luigi's older brother Tony coached him to sing, dance and use his contortionist skills so that he could enter local talent contests to win prize money for the family. He was “a natural” performer and won many events. By the age of ten, Luigi had an agent who got him a job with entertainer Ted Lewis as the “shadow” in Lewis' famous number, "Me and My Shadow". The young boy continued on in talent competitions where he succeeded to even win the prestigious Major Bowes' The Original Amateur Hour in nearby Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Aged 13, he replaced the lead singer in the Bernie Davis Orchestra, a local twelve-man band that performed at weddings, school dances, and special events throughout the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia; the previous singer was Luigi's neighbor, Dean Martin. He stayed with the band for close to five years.
Aged 18, he was drafted into the U.S. Navy during World War II. He served in the Pacific Theater – New Guinea and the Philippines - until the war’s end. After returning home at age twenty-one, he enrolled in college to become a lawyer, but his brother Tony pushed him to study in Hollywood under the G. I. Bill of Rights to pursue a film career.
He moved to California, enrolled in his first ballet classes with Bronislava Nijinska, and studied other theatrical forms at Falcon Studios in Hollywood. Three months later, in 1946, tragedy struck in the form of a horrific car crash that left Luigi paralyzed on the right side of his body and left side of his face, and with crossed eyes and double vision. After awakening months later from a coma, he was told by doctors that he would never walk again. He said to himself, “I don't want to walk; I’m going to dance.”
New life, innovation and Hollywood career
Conventional therapy at that time did not help Luigi much. To regain control of his body, he started to experiment and design his own stretches. After nine months of self therapy, he returned to Falcon Studios where he trained daily. In 1948, Luigi was hired by Horace Heidt, a popular pianist and big band leader, to choreograph for his "Bandwagon" tour. A few months later, back in Los Angeles, the three became housemates. It was then that Luigi, with Frontiere's help, coined “5, 6, 7, 8” as a lead-in for when to start dancing. He started to use the phrase around other dancers.
In 1949, a talent scout discovered Luigi in a benefit show and brought him to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios to audition for On the Town. Gene Kelly was impressed by Luigi’s dancing and gave him the job despite his facial paralysis and crossed eyes. This job led to a long friendship, during which Kelly became Luigi’s mentor and used him in his other films, such as Singin' In The Rain. He warmed up using his own stretches and strengthening exercises, and soon found other performers following him. “Alton encouraged (Luigi) to take up teaching his evolving style”, so he began a late afternoon class at Rainbow Studios in 1951.
Between films, Luigi also performed in professional musicals at the Greek Theatre and with the Moro Landis Dancers, mostly at The Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. While Luigi was working with Nita Bieber in an East Indian dance act promoted by M-G-M, Bieber's agent offered to represent him if he formed his own act, which he did, the Gene Louis Dancers.
New York City and career
In 1956, choreographer Alex Romero brought Luigi to New York City to perform on Broadway with Ethel Merman and Fernando Lamas in Happy Hunting. The show brought Luigi to the attention of east coast dancers, and choreographer June Taylor, who invited him to teach at her school. A few months later, to better suit his schedule, he began teaching his own classes. In 1961, Luigi was one of the first teachers hired for Dance Caravan, a yearly summer dance convention troupe. This job brought his teachings and his new technique book - with his philosophy and recorded music for class - to dancers in major cities across America. He remained with the organization and became one of the long-standing teachers until its closing in 2009. In addition to his classes in New York City, dance conventions helped turn Luigi’s work into the foundation for jazz dance classes in academic institutions and studios across the United States. He found himself in demand for a wide range of projects, including teaching, choreographing, staging, and touring. He accepted an invitation from Germany to teach at an international workshop which boosted his reputation across Europe. He was invited to work in many more European countries including, England, Italy and France; began teaching master classes at the Radio City Music Hall for the performers; and joined the faculty of the Harkness Ballet School.
Some of the many highlights
- In 1967, Luigi choreographed a short film, Exorcism, which won the Cine-Golden Eagle Award in the United States and the Irish Film Festival Award.
- In 1972, Luigi taught in Cape Town, South Africa, where he was the first dance teacher to allow both whites and blacks to participate together in classes and then, during a public lecture at the Nico Malan Opera House, to perform together onstage to demonstrate his work.
- In 1974, he formed Luigi’s Jazz Dance Company, which toured internationally for two years. The company folded because he could not get government funding for the art form of jazz dance. Yet, his pieces from that era are performed in venues around the world.
- After returning from teaching in Tokyo, Japan, in 1978, Luigi started to teach a second method that he devised in collaboration with Michio Ito. This work concentrates on a set of arm positions which go beyond ballet’s basic five arm positions. These twenty four additional arm placements give jazz dance more patterns, with a unified appearance. He named these arms positions Lurythmics.
- In 1981, Gene Kelly asked Luigi to assist him on a Broadway show that he was to direct and choreograph. The show, called Satchmo, was based on the life of Louis Armstrong. The project never went into production because of financial difficulties, yet Luigi was happy to be asked.
- In 1982, Donald Saddler brought Valentina Koslova to Luigi to be coached for her Broadway debut in the revival of On Your Toes. The show featured George Balanchine’s Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, which Luigi worked with Koslova on.
- In 1982, Luigi’s technique book was translated into Japanese. Also, the biggest Japanese dance supply company, Chacott, started to market Luigi endorsed jazz shoes then a complete line of apparel called Luigi Brand Dancewear to the public.
- In 1987, Luigi’s warm up book was translated into Italian.
- In 1992, Luigi intensively trained the Hungarian Sports and Rhythmic Gymnastics Team in Budapest, Hungary, for two weeks. Many of the team members went on to compete in the Olympics.
In addition to teaching at Dance Masters of America and Dance Educators of America’s conventions, Luigi has served as guest faculty for the High School of Performing Arts, City University of New York, Sarah Lawrence College, Renato Greco’s Stages in Rome and Amalfi, Italy, New York University, The Metropolitan Opera, Joffrey Ballet Summer School, Dennis Wayne’s Dancers Workshop in Italy, Broadway Theater Project, Studio Maestro Summer Workshop, Jacob’s Pillow, Youth Dance Festival and Dance Teacher Summit in NYC.
2000 and beyond
Since 2000, Luigi has choreographed and staged numbers for many benefit events including Michael Zaslow’s benefits for A.L.S. (Lou Gehrig’s disease) on Broadway, the Dance Library of Israel, the New York Jazz Choreography Project, Dancers Over 40 benefits for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the TranscenDance Group dance company, and the Ailey/Fordham Bachelor of Fine Arts Senior Solo Concert.
Honors and awards
Luigi has been honored by dance organizations around the globe. For over fifty years, he has been featured in dance and health articles in many languages. He has been commended for his life's work by three U.S. Presidents – Reagan, Bush and Clinton. He received the “Fred Astaire Award’’ from Broadway’s Theatre Development Fund, a proclamation for Luigi Day in New York City from Mayor Ed Koch, was the grand marshal of the Dance Parade down Broadway in 2008, and an Ohio governor awarded him the “Man of the Year Award”, in his hometown. In 2013 he was honored by Antonio Fini with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the inaugural Italian International Dance Festival.
Luigi was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in Dance at the 2013 Bessie awards.
- Yes Sir, That's My Baby (1948)
- On the Town (1948)
- Toast of New Orleans (1948)
- Jerry Gray and the Band of Today (1948)
- Let's Dance (1949)
- Annie Get Your Gun (1949)
- An American in Paris (1950)
- Singin' In The Rain (1950)
- Rainbow Round My Shoulder (1951)
- Five Thousand Fingers of Dr. T (1951)
- Call Me Madame (1952)
- The Band Wagon (1952)
- All Ashore (1953)
- Calamity Jane (1953)
- White Christmas (1955)
- Cha-Cha-Cha-Boom (1956)
- Invitation to the Dance (1956)
- Bela Lugosi Meets the Brooklyn Gorilla (1956)
- Ten Commandments (1956)
- Exorcism (1967)
- Anything Goes, 1948, performer, the Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, CA.
- New Moon, 1949, performer, the Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, CA.
- Girl Crazy, 1949, performer, the Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, CA.
- Annie Get Your Gun, 1951, performer, the Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, CA.
- Look, That’s Life, 1952, assistant choreographer to Nick Castle, Las Palmas Theater, Los Angeles, CA.
- Happy Hunting, 1956, performer, Broadway, New York, NY
- Whoop-Up, 1958, assistant choreographer, performer, Broadway, New York, N.Y.
- The Happy Time, 1959, assistant choreographer, performer, Broadway, New York, NY
- Carousel, 1960, performer, choreographer, Equity Library Theater, New York, N.Y.
- Can-Can, 1960, choreographer, Charlotte Summer Theater, Charlotte, North Carolina
- Brigadoon, 1960, choreographer, performer, Charlotte Summer Theater, Charlotte, North Carolina
- Let it Ride, 1961, assistant choreographer, performer, Broadway, New York, N.Y.
- Luigi's Jazz Warm Up and Introduction to Jazz Style & Technique, a Dance Horizons Book, Princeton Book Company, Publishers, by Luigi, Lorraine Person Kriegel and Francis J. Roach, 1997, page 6
- Dance Spirit, December 2009, Luigi’s Legacy by Lauren Kay, page 60
- Profile Archived 2013-02-18 at the Wayback Machine., swingapore.com; accessed April 18, 2015.
- Straus, Rachel (August 2007). "Teacher's Wisdom: Luigi". Dance Magazine. Archived from the original on April 17, 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
- Francis J. Roach and Donna Gianell. Dance Pages, Volume 4, Number 1, Summer '86, Luigi – His Life and His Movies, p. 26
- Masters of Movement – Portraits of America's Great Choreographers, Smithsonian Books, Washington, Publisher, Photographs and text by Rose Eichenbaum, 2004, pp. 113-115.
- Fusco, Mary Ann Castronovo (April 15, 2001). "IN PERSON; 'Never Stop Moving'". New York Times. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
- Dance Teacher, January 2011, Robert Alton by Rachel Straus, p. 38
- Harriet R. Lihs. Appreciating Dance – Fourth Edition – A Guide to the World's Liveliest Art, a Dance Horizons Book, Princeton Book Co. (2009), page 94
- 1971 Harkness House brochure lists Luigi as a guest teacher
- "Michio Ito". Dance Teacher.
- The Luigi Jazz Dance Technique, Shufunotomo Co. Ltd., Tokyo, 1982,
- Eugene Louis Facciuto, Danza Jazz: la tecnica di Luigi, Di Giacomo Editore, Roma, 1987
- Angela Barbuti. "A Life of Dance", West Side Spirit, Manhattan Media LLC, March 17, 2011, p. 8
- "Luigi Receives 2013 Bessie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance Today". Dance World.