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from DanceScape, June 25, 2004

The Salsational Life of Isaac Altman

Isaac Altman and his beautiful wife, Laura, continue making great contributions to Salsa and the dance industry all over the world. As President of The World Salsa Federation and National Chairman of the AAU Junior Olympic Games for DanceSport, Salsa and Swing, Isaac shares his passion for dance with Dancescape, revealing his dreams, his speculations and his most sizzling Salsa sensations.  What was your dream as a child? Did you have a role model while you were working towards accomplishing your dreams?
I wanted to dance in a musical on Broadway. I also wanted to be an actor. I had many more dreams as a child. I am a Pisces, so we are dreamers! My biggest role model and mentor was the late Bobby Medeiros. Not only had he taught me Ballroom and Latin dancing but he was a close friend. His ability to relate to      World Champions and a beginning dancer was unique. He loved dancing and spread that love to everyone he contacted. That was a gift I truly admired.  I also admired his style of dancing. 
What is your dance style specialty and what attracted you to that style? Salsa!! The dance has a lot of artistic expression (Sabor) and such a worldwide acceptance. In addition more Salsa music is being produced than any other dance music that involves couple dancing. I love so many types of Music and Musicians. It becomes such an inspiration to dance when the music moves you. Salsa has a lot of freedom of movement.   What are some of your most memorable or rewarding experiences after dancing as a professional for 32 years?  The first time I ever competed at the U.S.B.C., winning the World Salsa Championships and when I got Salsa and Dancesport into the Junior Olympic Games - of course, not in any specific order.  Was there ever a difficult time that you had to deal with personally as a dancer? How did you overcome it?  There were several, but the most difficult time I have had as a dancer was learning to accept defeat in competition. Not just that someone else could beat me, but that I did not measure up. Strangely enough, I would take the disappointment and turn it into motivation. I also get nervous every time before I perform. Overcoming it is not easy, but I do it through humor.   What was one of your most embarrassing experiences as a dancer?
Forgetting my socks and underwear when I was traveling to a major competition and then having to borrow them from my friend, Bobby Medeiros. Needless to say, he did not want them back!
    When was the first time that you and Laura danced together and how would you describe your dance style and _expression as a couple?  We first danced together in 1994 in the Texas Challenge.  I can influence Laura more than the other way around when we dance together, but she has her Latina expression going on all the time.  Her style is sizzling hot and definitely Latin. I love her body movements and her personality - she is very easy going and adaptable.  When I dance Salsa, I have developed a mixed style of Cuban, L.A., and N.Y. style with Sabor.  In terms of my fashion style when I dance, I would describe that style as macho. Our style and expression as a couple though is always changing as new innovations immerge.  What do you think are some of the challenges in maintaining a dance relationship? Do you have any advice for dance partners?
The hardest part for me is being turned on to your partners dancing and the easier part is that you are dancing with a woman. But my advice to other dancers would be get personally involved, it's more fun that way!  What do you think are the benefits that come with dancing? Do you consider it as an art or a sport?
The benefits: improved health, freedom from worries and social contacts. I personally like the physical fatigue I often get from dancing all of the time and if I ever get mentally fatigued, then I just relax by watching a movie. Dance is both an art and a sport, it can be artistic as well as athletic. When we put athleticism at its finest, it truly is a work of art.  What advice would you like to give to up and coming dancers?  Take care of your body and it will take care of you. Too many dancers smoke today. Give it up if you want to dance for many years to come. My best advice is not to get discouraged or quit. Your goal may be obtained if you keep trying. Also, for dancers of a particular style, don't get hung up on which style is better, just enjoy whatever style you do.  What is your view of dance and its popularity in the world?
The dance world sometimes gets fragmented. This makes it hard to promote it to the rest of the world. A support of each other would give us much more clout and influence. 
What are some of your goals right now as a dancer?  At 55, I feel there is still some competing left in me. I am dancing in videos and have coached world champions, but still feel that my calling is to give the youth of the World an Olympic Games in dancing.  What would you like most to be remembered for in your life and/or career?  Bringing dancing to the youth of the World. 
Are there any new trends for Salsa dancing in 2004?  Many more rhythmic movements that incorporate a little hip hop and drops and lifts from theatre art modalities are being added to the Salsa style. For new fashion trends, I have noticed that woman's dresses are looking more feminine and sexy this year. I have also taken a liking to Velcro shoes. But when it comes to fashion designers, my favorites are Cuban Grandmothers - they all can design and sew!    

CELEBRITY PROFILE
Dancing USA
February/March 2001
By Sarah Beckley
Miami's Most Wanted Salseros

Last November, Miami played host to the International Dance Organization's World Championships. Among the couples representing over 30 different countries were the standout dancers Isaac Altman and his wife, Laura Castro Altman. The pair was literally impossible to miss in the crowd by the striking combination of his white gold mane and her over-the-top, radiant red-wigged visage. This unique couple won the day by achieving a goal they never thought to reach: IDO World Salsa Champions 2000.  From two very different worlds, the Altman's have joined forces to develop the future of DanceSport in America. The Altman's are growing America's home team with an eye to the eventual inclusion of DanceSport as a medal event in the Olympic games. In an interview with Isaac Altman, Dancing USA was able to glean a little history into the interesting journey that brought these two to the top of the class.  The story of this amazing couple begins five years ago, when Laura Castro came to the US from Colombia, South America where she had taught ballet and jazz since she was a teen. She answered an advertisement by a local studio for dance instructors, which turned out to be Isaac Altman's International Dance Studio, Inc. She spoke no English, he spoke no Spanish; she had only taught children, he'd only taught adults. It did not appear to be an auspicious beginning. Despite the obstacles, Isaac found that Laura's natural talent and years of training were an asset to the studio and took her on board.  Altman had already retired from professional dancing back in 1983, but Castro asked that he train her to dance professionally. He agreed, with the understanding that they would find her a partner. No acceptable partners turned up, and the Texas Challenge of 1995 loomed large. Castro requested, just this once, that Altman partner her at the competition. He agreed, but after the first dance had second thoughts. He couldn't breathe.  "I told her I would tell the judges I broke something, " he remembers. Laura's calm demeanor saved the moment and she cajoled Altman into staying on the floor. To his amazement, he finished the competition standing upright. Most people, according to Altman, would have been angry or disappointed by their showing at that competition. But Laura was so elated just to be competing that Altman resolved to become fit enough to compete regularly as her partner. He went back to the studio, and in a storm of training comparable to the monumental Rocky, he lost 30 pounds and got back in shape. They have been competing together ever since.  Altman is still conscious of his age, however, and he checks out the other men after each dance. "I'm the oldest pro competitor in the US, maybe the world. I always watch who else is out of breath besides me at the end of a dance," he tells us. Altman's guide to fitness seems to be working, as he is not just keeping up with the youngsters, but beating them regularly.  Altman had not planned on teaching children, but when Castro joined the studio, he decided to start a pilot children's program to take advantage of her previous experience. He created a syllabus and offered the neighborhood children a free class that he watched Laura teach. It went so well that they eventually made the transition to teach almost exclusively children, and did so successfully without advertising. Now almost 90% of their classes are for children and they still don't advertise.  Altman didn't expect to fall in love, either, and was not amenable to the idea of being romantically attached to a dance partner. He had a strict rule against it, but had broken it once to marry his first wife (former partner Susan Altman). He thought he had learned his lesson. "I wasn't interested in having a relationship. I know better than to mix the two," says Altman. But once again, Castro's natural charm won him over. One year into their professional partnership their relationship changed, but they didn't marry until April of 1998. It appears that he made a wise decision as they, the studio, and the students are all thriving.  When asked about how he keeps the marriage and the studio running smoothly, Altman tells us that compatibility is the key. Castro had attended a Jewish school growing up in Colombia so she is very familiar with the Jewish faith and its rituals, although still Catholic. To Altman, a son of Nazi concentration camp survivors, this was very important. Also important is the ability to compensate for each other's likes and dislikes. Neither of them cooks, and it is gratifying that they can eat out without anyone's toes getting stepped on. Plus, he says, "Marrying a younger woman will keep you in the best shape of your life," and it definitely requires a substantial amount of energy to work as hard as they work, as well as they do. Once they started teaching children, there was no turning back. The Altman's consider their students family and if a parent has to pull a child from class because they can't afford it, the Altman's won't hear of it. If the child loves dancing, they can continue their lessons and the Altman's will accept payment when the parents can contribute. They have also donated $15,000 of their own money to student scholarships. "It isn't business, it's a blessing. It's a blessing to be able to do that for the children," is how they feel about taking on the costs themselves. Altman originally took on the task of teaching the 4 to 6 year olds the fundamentals of dance, but the trouble began early. As Altman puts it, "they were too cute. I would play with them more than dance. Now I can't even go in the room with them, they run across the floor and stop the class if they see me," he recalls. Altman is now putting the teen-aged students through their paces instead. Between the competitions, appearances, teaching, and managing a studio, it would appear that Altman's plate was completely full, but he somehow squeezes in time to write for Dance Beat and Dance Week, Miami and Washington D.C. based dance publications. He writes a column about junior DanceSport and champions the youthful dancers' causes in the press, and recently questioned apparent inconsistencies in the U .S. Junior Championship residency requirements. When the Altman's aren't competing, running the studio, or teaching classes, they are appearing on television. At the end of last year, they made 25 television appearances within a 90 day period. "We are on Latin TV more than any couple in the United States," declares Altman. The show Caliente! named them Salseros Mas Calliente 2000, which means the hottest Salsa dancers of 2000. Even more exciting was their moment in the sun at 1998's Superbowl where they were not only principal dancers at the halftime show, but choreographed Gloria Estefan's routine for the event as well.  These appearances have made them famous in their community as they are recognized when they travel, and sometimes stopped on the street. Altman attributes his success in Latin dancing to his ability to "dance" Latin. "They've never seen a gringo that can dance that good," he says. "It is the inflection, he continues. Altman feels that the look of his dancing is comparable to the sound of a native speaker, which is a rare talent. But the Altman's never forget the children, even in the heady world of entertainment, they are still thinking about the kids and putting them first. They take different students with them to perform at every television appearance, so the children get the thrill and joy of performing on television a once in a lifetime experience for most, if not all, of them.  Despite getting calls and requests from all over the world, this busy pair manages to balance their time between the studio and the events. The Altman's maintain their busy competing schedule, but make sure that they are available for their students. The family atmosphere at the studio is cultivated by their devotion to the kids. According to Altman, children need to see the same faces, week in and week out, and they make sure to compete on the weekends, when it won't interfere with teaching.  In the world of DanceSport, it is refreshing to see such a pair of professionals dedicated to the promotion of the industry, literally from the bottom up. They truly feel that the best way to support dance is to encourage children and provide them with a safe, happy, and productive outlet to learn and grow, Their students are never far from the Altman's, whether they are touring, teaching, or appearing at special events they include the children in everything they can to broaden their horizons and develop their talent, The choice to teach children, in Altman's mind, was an easy one. With the Olympics looming large as an opportunity for DanceSport to become a mainstream activity, Altman knows that there needs to a solid base of talent for the future US Olympic DanceSport Team to choose from, and he intends to be at the forefront of the charge to the Olympics.  He plans on building that home team with his partner in life and in dance for a long time to come.  If you are interested in classes or contributing to classes for children, contact the Altman's at: International Dance Studio, Inc, 8080 S.W. 81st Drive, Miami FL 33143. (305) 271-0606,
ialtman@msn.com.

 

Miami, FL--(HISPANIC PR WIRE)--May 25, 2006--“Dimelo Bailando”, Mega TV’s inspiring televised dance competition, which aired Monday through Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. on Channel 22, completed its first season [yesterday] with an electrifying two-hour season finale. Hosted by Nadia Rowinsky, the entire first season of “Dimelo Bailando” delighted Mega TV viewers with 11 weeks of excitement, passion, originality, competition and entertainment.  After two hours of intense competition in yesterday’s exciting finale, Laura and Isaac Altman were announced as the winners after wowing the audience and judges with their artistic dance rendition of the “Grease mix” song. Colombian-born Laura Altman, 35, and her American husband, Isaac, 56, have a dance academy in Miami where they spend a significant amount of time teaching the art of dance. Laura and Isaac not only received a cash prize of $5,000, but also earned the respect and approval of the dance-infused audience.  During the season finale all competitors danced at a Mega TV stage located at the Dolphin Mall and were judged by a jury comprised of: Panamanian singer and dancer, Erika Ender; professional Cuban dancer, Rudi Sanchez; and the multi-talented comedian and dancer, Juan Alba, from Spain. Dance fans also helped judges with their “dedito pa riba” (2 thumbs up) and their “dedito pa bajo” (2 thumbs down), to choose the best dancers.  Also, in attendance for the “Dimelo Bailando” finale was the famous singing Salsa group, N’Klabe. The group’s guest appearance at the finale caused a hearty uproar from the audience as the group performed its best known hits.

Don’t miss “Dimelo Bailando” next season, coming soon only on Mega TV Channel 22.

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