A Luigi Dancer’s Tribute, by Linda Willows


On April 12, 2015 I shared with many, the loss of our Dearest Luigi, Wikipedia:Luigi! who passed away at 90 years old at his home in New York City. We love you, Luigi. You will always be the epitome of a Legend. But I think that the secret things are the best part of the legend. First, you were a phenomenal dancer. When you danced, we held our breath and knew that we were witness to something rare and unique. Second, we were all in love with you! Though you had a lifetime partner, I cannot think of one person that came to the studio that did not fall “under your luscious” spell and Love Luigi!! You were also a great innovator, creator, maestro, choreographer and inspirational teacher! And the infamous Luigi Technique! So accomplished. So many credits. Why aren’t you in Wikipedia? I checked. Is it too soon?

Your generous heart changed many lives but no one knows about it because each story is private, unless it is a celebrity story and there are plenty of them. You are one of my life’s angels. You gave so many scholarships to the studio that sometimes, it seemed like everyone was on scholarship. People flocked to you. Sometimes they just wanted to talk to you! Sometimes it was a need for a good snug. A Snug is is sitting as close as possible on the couch to you and leaning in, talking into your ear, because of your poor hearing, then the answer is whispered back into my ear, like cotton tickling me because of the noise of the studio. These are small little beautiful jewels that are in the treasure box of your riches. And you lived giving treasures happily.

Your benevolence in working with the injured towards total healing includes the great kindness extended to me, when I came back to the studio, later in life needing physical rehabilitation. You put your arm around me after twenty years and just said. “Come back to class”. You are one of my life’s angels. I only wish that I could hug you one more time.

If you are a dancer or know about Luigi, then you may be familiar with mention of the “Luigi Walk”. This was Luigi at his best. Envision the showmanship and stylized power and grace of his elegant step forward, legs tight in a strut, chest open, head held high, shoulders broad, low and curving into the powerful embrace of the audience with palms holding the motion down, out extended to the balcony. Applause. Stillness. Better than the strut is “the Stand” and wait, holding the potential of all motion like a tiger ready to leap but poised and still. That is Luigi. He can hold a room by standing still, or just by walking forward. Oh it was glorious when he would show that! 5-6-7-8 !!

May I write about your life, my dear sweet Luigi. I am one of so many that loved you. I was one of those fortunate 12 dancers that were in your first Company in…was it 1972? Your story belongs in Wikipedia. Why? Because it is about championing life and going beyond what you see and what people say.

Born Eugene Luis Faccuito, in Stuebenville, Ohio. Luigi was the eighth of 11 children of immigrants from Italy. When Luigi was five years old, his father, a steelworker was killed in a car accident.

Eugene began singing and dancing for pennies on street corners to help support the family. Soon his talent became recognized and by 13 he was a lead singer with the Bernie Davis Orchestra and then toured as a dancer-singer before arriving in Hollywood where he became very successful in films as a dancer.

Luigi served in the Navy in World War 2 in The Philippines and when he returned he chose between going to law school on a GI bill or continuing Dance on a GI Bill as well. He chose to return to Hollywood and enroll in a Professional Ballet Program. Luigi had a bright future.

But a few moments in time and a car out of control altered his life forever. This was not the first trauma of his fathers death by a car accident. That death altered his life, his heart and the course that his life took.

This time, twenty one years later, it was Luigi that would receive the blow of death by a car. It would be no less pivotal. He could have died but surely his Spirit had a passionate and inspirational dream to live.

In 1946, he was in the passenger seat of a car that skidded in a rain sliced street an then slammed into a telephone pole. Luigi was thrown from the car and hit the curb head first. He was not expected to live.

After several months in a coma, he woke to find the right side of his body and his face paralyzed. Doctors told him he would never walk.
Luigi felt something different in his heart. “Never stop moving”, as he tells it. “I knew that I could not accept that fate. I knew that I was going to walk again. More than that. I was going to dance! I knew that I had to keep moving but that I had to learn how all over again”. Imagine yourself being in a bed, half paralyzed, recently out of a coma…and defying the doctors, defying medicine, listening to your heart instead and having enough faith to keep that voice strong despite all you see around you, or can’t see….

In the months that followed, Luigi intuitively created a series of of stretching, breathing and movement, isolating the muscles needed to move each part of his body. He has described, “I would move one small muscle from the inside out at a time. I learned how to isolate muscles. Using my breath, I would inhale…this was for strengthening and isolation- I used the exhalation as impulse for motion and balance”.

Eventually he was able to use the Ballet barre to hold himself erect and give boundaries to his balance. When he learned to let go and move his was using breathing, isolation and keeping the “invisible barre”. His unique understanding of balance includes an extraordinary awareness of polarity which he teaches with simplicity and few words, mostly descriptive and experiential. One learns to feel the subtle energetic pull and cross-pulls that flow through movement. Learning this helps a dancer lengthen movement and enhance balance. Sometimes he would just say, “Breathe, Breathe…stretch it out, out and Breathe…”

The other key to Luigi’s brilliance which comes both from his hospital recuperation and from further experimentation with balance and the “inner barre” in terms of Presentation, which he is famous for. His dancers have a real presence on stage. This is really because of Épaulement.

Épaulement (ballet term which means Rotation of the shoulders and head relative to the hips in a pose or a step) which he optionally developed uniquely for his own balance at the barre to adjust for his paralysis and develop the ability to stand at the barre, hold himself erect, to lift his limbs and eventually to let go of the barre and move freely but with the learned inner support of the Epaulement. For Luigi this carriage and posture is essential. One sees shoulders slightly down and back, the neck back and relaxed, chest forward and full, stomach in and with total control, contracted ready to move in any direction, the arms lifted by the air under the elbows and palms of the hands, air breathing through the hands, Chest waiting for direction, Head chin level up, slight arch to upper back- can you see it Luigi? Are you watching in the Mirror??
I am mindful to this day of the impact that Luigi had in my life. I know that he gave me treasure. I write about it so that it is noted in history, before I pass away too. At 63, it doesn’t feel the same when I stretch or reach but true to my teacher, I will never stop moving. I was a Luigi Dan cer, one of the devoted many.

I was healed in my heart, freed in my spirit and given much joy and love. I am so grateful. I would not know the true joy of dance without him. He breathed from the air that Muses Breathe and then he whispered it into our ears. I hear the music now. There was that one dance that almost made my soul burst. He choreographed it knowing that I would love dancing it, opening my heart, walking forward with my hands outstretched. Dear Luigi. It never stops. It never ends.

© 2015 Linda Willows

The Luigi Photos of Milton Oleaga, thank you Milton for all that you captured through the years, for your devotion, your own passion and your vision

4 thoughts on “A Luigi Dancer’s Tribute, by Linda Willows

  1. Thank you for writing what so very many of us were blessed to experience. An injured dancer is a frightened being and he unfailingly cared for and supported every one in his scope. Then, boy, could we dance!


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