from DanceScape, June 25,
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
What was your dream as a child? Did you have a
role model while you were working towards accomplishing your
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.
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
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
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
Are there any new trends for Salsa dancing in
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!
By Sarah Beckley
Miami's Most Wanted
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,
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
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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