*this was originally posted on thehustlelounge.com
Q&A with Lori Brizzi - NY Hustle Congress
In timing with The NY Hustle Congress taking place this Labor Day Weekend, staring Thursday August 28, 2008, The Hustle Lounge is interviewing Ms. Lori Brizzi.
Lori Brizzi has been instrumental in keeping Hustle alive in New York City; Lori’s parties held 3 weekends a month at Club 412 and The 92nd Street Y have been a mainstay in many dancers’ agendas and now with her notoriously fun Millenium Hustle Cruises too. Because of Lori, the Epicenter of the World and the dance community, New York City has a major Hustle event The NY Hustle Congress.
Take a look at Lori in this excerpt from Our Generation (about the Disco Generation on The History Channel).
Asia - Lori, funny enough a lot of people know that you are the heart and soul behind your events, and your Millenium Hustle cruise but many don’t know that you are a professional dancer, tell us, how did you come to be a dancer?
Lori - (Laughs) Yes, I know…Actually I come from a family of dancers. My parents met on the dancefloor; my Dad asked my Mom to dance; turns out he wasn’t her type but they danced together anyway fell in love and had a family, with 2 girls who danced since we were very young. My sister and I used to dance all the time, we created shows, as a matter of fact, there are some reel-to-reel films of us somewhere, we were “The Cha Cha Girls”.
Asia - How did you eventually make dance a career?
Lori - Well I wanted to sing, dance and act, so I decided to make it a career and I went to NYU, I was a Theatre Arts Major and started my life in Dance. I went on to be a Dance teacher, and I competed and won titles in International Latin dancing, Theatre Arts and Cabaret. I was with Pierre Dulaine and Yvonne Marceau of the American Ballroom Theatre Company, I was a member of Swing Dance America and I managed Dancesport (Paul Pellicoro’s Studio) for 6 years. I also conceived and produced a Dance act for Cruises and travelled around the world teaching for several years.
Asia - Okay so let’s fast forward a little bit, tell us how you came about getting into Hustle?
Lori - Well there was a certain point when I started looking for a dance partner, I just wanted a partner to dance with, and someone recommended Bernard Martinez (now an LA based Salsa Dancer) from Ballroom on 5th, so we talked and in the conversation he remembered that I was a Hustle dancer and asked me to do a Hustle party with him and I thought ‘Why would I want to do that?’ and went about my way; I had a broken heart at the time, so to cheer myself up I went with Nancy Thomas to Miami to Billy (Fajardo’s) event, IHSC. I got down there and I saw Rob and Tiffany (Brown) were doing Hustle to contemporary music and I loved it. Bobby (Morales) was playing and he was mixing newer music with Classics, which reminded me of the old days, and it was a great feeling. I decided I wanted to do it.
Asia - How did you get it going?
Lori - Well, after I got back to New York, I called Bernard and I said I would do it but only if I could call it the Millennium Hustle party and I wanted all the dances, WCS, Salsa and Hustle, so we did it.
Asia - And you stayed partners with Bernard?
Lori - No, Bernard at some point wanted to close his studio and move to California so I looked around for spaces and continued on after he left. I found the 92nd Street Y, then Club 412 wanted me to take over a night, which I did and we just kept it up.
Asia - You had 3 venues going, 3 different energies; how does that affect the character of your parties.
Lori - Actually I really liked it that way and I still feel it’s great cause you have one venue that is totally casual, another more dressy, it’s great cause it’s not the same thing, it’s good to have one weekend off too.
Asia - Okay so I remember going to your party before there was a NY Hustle Congress, when did the idea for NY Hustle Congress come about?
Lori - Well, David Melendez, being Mr. New York Salsa Congress at the time really wanted to learn Hustle and started coming to my event to learn and dance. He really like Hustle and we became friends and he started coming to my parties all the time, he would come out and dance Hustle before he would go Salsa dancing. One night I ran into him at Il Campanello and he said ‘Lori, I had an epiphany we should do a Hustle event together!’. If it was anyone else I would have said no, but it was David my friend.
Asia - So you started NY Hustle Congress right then and there?
Lori - No, first off I wanted to call it NY Hustle Congress, which David didn’t like, and we went back and forth, but I got my way; and we were all set to start it in PR (Puerto Rico), but the next thing you know he says the Salsa Congress has room and we wound up just having it at the same time, and we went at again cause I said only if my people can go to both at the same time and he agreed. So that’s how we started. And it’s very sad, I miss him very much, but the he passed away at age 51, died very young, of cancer. I really wish he was still here.
Asia - and now you are going on your 4th year.
Lori - Yes, I can’t believe it!
Asia - And it’s coming up tomorrow…your event NY Hustle Congress, THE marquis event of the Hustle world, in the Epicenter of the globe, the World’s greatest city, New York! How do you do it? I mean WHAT makes you want to do it, to keep the benchmark? And keep your great sense of humor!?!
Lori - (Whew! Laughs!) Well, that is a good question; ya know every year I go, okay this is it, I’ve had enough, I just can’t; and then the event gets going and people love it so much! People tell me months afterward, ‘Oh we had so much fun, we can’t wait til this year’, or they will send me emails that they met their fiance or their boyfriend, and it just turns into another year and I keep going. I do it for the dancers. In spite of myself and how crazy I become, they seem to have a great time…(Laughs alot!)
Asia - (Laughing) Yes, we do love it! I mean I know people make major plans way in advance to make this trip to your event. It’s an important Hustle pilgrimage for a lot of dancers around the country, probably because Hustle is so inherently New York. As much as some people love to hate Hustle and it’s relationship to New York, it is still the dance of the People of New York. Of course after all the years, it belongs to everyone, but naturally, New York owns the Hustle culture regardless of what anyone says. The attitude, the character of the dancers, the style, no place is Hustle done with as much flair and feeling as New York and at your event dancers from all over get to experience the whole culture together and that feeling cannot be felt elsewhere. Lori, how is this year going to raise the bar? What do you have planned for the people?
Lori - Well, first off, this year is gonna be like nothing else so far. It is really gonna be spectacular, an unbelievable event. I really feel like I created a party as if money were no object. I mean people have asked me ‘Why did you get the Trammps Lori, you didn’t have to do that’, which I did cause I wanted to make it an amazing event, like nothing before. There is gonna be something for everyone, all under one roof, it’s really gonna be non-stop social dancing. And you know people really come out cause they wanna dance. It’s gonna be non-stop Fri, Sat, Sun, WCS, Salsa and Hustle.
Asia - Okay so tell us about the line up, you have a Heavy Duty Marquis, all the names are bold faced..
Lori - Well this is a Superstar line up, these are the Superstars of Hustle under one roof, anybody that is important in Hustle is gonna be here and it’s gonna be amazing. The best teachers are teaching the workshops, I mean I have Maria Torres, Billy Fajardo, Diane Nardone, Arte Phillips, Loriann & Kelvin, you name it we have it, I mean like ALL the top up and coming Pros, people from So You Think You Can Dance. It’s unheard of, I mean for like the social dancer it’s like a dance orgy (Laughs) !!!
Asia - Tell me about how your Dinner Show
Lori - Well it’s gonna be a fabulous Dinner Show. First off, the ballroom is gorgeous, it’s very fancy, it’s twinkly, Chandeliers, gold leaf walls, opera seating…it’s very beautiful. It’s not the kind of place you’ll feel comfortable wearing jeans to dinner, you’ll be very uncomfortable, it’s going to be fancy. Cicely Thompson & Olisa Bradley (So You Think You Can Dance) are choreographing the Dinner Show and Eddie Simon (a former dance partner) will have a number in it. It’s gonna be really fabulous, and if you don’t have a Dinner ticket, this is not like other shows, you won’t be able to see it unless you are at the Dinner.
Asia - Eddie Simon is your former partner right?
Lori - He’s an old partner of mine. [Editor's note; Edward Simon is also a former Ballroom Champion and choreographer for So You Think You Can Dance.]
Asia - Okay Lori, how do you raise the bar? How do you keep pushing to outdo the year previous?
Lori - Well, I guess everyone has different ways of doing things, but I am a Crab, I’m a Cancer…so I’m instinctual
Asia - Oh, good I was gonna ask your sign, I always do. I find you funny, great sense of humor, irreverent, creative, interesting to know you are Cancer, the Mother of the Astrology.
Lori - Yes, and I guess I do things instinctively, and I strive to grow. I mean everyone does things differently but I strive to be better and I really work toward making this a better experience than the year before. Of course, every year, I learn, I make mistakes and I learn from them. There is no school or course you can take to run a dance event, you learn by making mistakes. Risks too, there are financial risks, big ones, even decisions you make they are all choices and risks. Take a leap of faith, that is what I do, so I guess I am instinctual.
Asia - Lori, all this creating that you do, it can’t be all you have, what else are you promoting?
Lori - I added the Dance Cruise, The Millenium Hustle Cruise. It’s one of the most fun things I have ever done, I love to cruise and people have such a good time. I can’t wait to produce another cruise.
Asia - So, all of the events, the cruise, the 92nd Street Y, what is your motivator? You were voted Person of the Year by the poll of Ron Bess’ Dance Talk readers, and at World Hustle Dance Championships you were presented the Christopher M. Nardone award (For Outstanding Spirit of Giving) by Diane Nardone the event director; you are recognized by your peers, but what makes you do this?
Lori - Well, I run dance parties as if I were creating something for others, and creating an amazing party to dance at, even though I don’t get to dance myself (laughter). People tell me they got divorced and they had to come out dancing, ‘my husband died, I was so depressed I walked into your party and it’s better than an antidepressant or a psychologist’; I create places to dance, it’s not a bar or pick up joint, you meet people in a wholesome environment. People tell me met and married at my parties, I haven’t met anyone yet (more laughs), but they are. Something about looking out on the floor watching people having so much fun and under one roof. I kinda get off on that, that’s a high looking out at everyone having a great time, bringing people together, that feel is my reward; and it’s a great reward
Asia - Well Lori, it’s an amazing thing what you do, keep on doing it. Obviously, your peers and contemporaries have recognized you, which is a beautiful thing. New York City and Hustle would not be the same without you. Thanks for all that you do and see you at the party.
For more information on Lori Brizzi’s NY Hustle Congress go here. For Lori Brizzi’s Bio, go here.