Rosendo Fumero

Interviews with Dancing Stars!

December 2011

Natalka interviews Rosendo Fumero at Dancesport Academy of Michigan. Rosendo is a visiting coach available for lessons.

  • Former undefeated Rising Star and Open American Style Champion
  • Nationally recognized coach in all styles
  • Competition Organizer
  • Judge

Rosendo, how did you start ballroom dancing?

Ah! When the disco days came out, the Saturday Night Fever thing! I learned how to disco and then from there I wanted to learn more. I made my way into the ballroom field from there. You know, you become addicted to it. Back then everyone wanted to learn disco and it was partnership disco. I thought, “what would make my disco better?”, well, if I learn ballroom it would make my dancing better.

What kind of studio did you start taking lessons at first?

It was a combination of Lansing Community College (in Michigan) and also at that time, Fred Astaire studio in Lansing was looking for teachers. So, I figured, they have training for free and I’d learn for free. Then I got hooked on it. That’s where I met Terry Worral.

Was Terry your first ballroom dance partner?

Yes. After that it was Peggy Heeney. Those were my only two partners. Terry and I danced from 1984-1990. We started in 1984 and were Rising Star Smooth Champions by 1985. Then we were Open Smooth Champions from 1988-1990.

Did you ever compete as an Amateur?


What was the most interesting or fun thing about competing Professionally?

Winning! Everything was geared towards winning. You couldn’t take second. Second was not good. The one thing I regret was not having fun or enjoying the journey there. To me everything was so geared to, “you gotta be the best”, “you gotta win”.

So, did you have coaching all the time?

All the time, but not enough, but whenever we’d have coaching, it was like, let’s take advantage of it. When we had a coach at the school, they couldn’t walk across the floor without me stopping them and asking them questions. I had to learn everything about everything.

So, who coached you?

We had Vernon Brock, Linda Dean, Dustin. Those were our choreographer type of coaches. Then we had Kerry Wilson, Jo and Jan, Alan Cleary. Then we went to England and worked with Kenny & Marion Welsch, The Hiltons…This was back when it was kind of unheard of for an American couple to go to England to get coaching. But that’s where we got a lot of our influence, working with those Standard and Latin people. Bobby Medieros. Shirley Ballas, Enrique Ramon.

What was the most challenging thing about competing professionally?

First, I would say probably the most challenging thing when I competed was that now we have so much more access to good coaching and good training anytime we want now, more than we had in those days. The level of dancing is so much better now that you can get good coaching practically anywhere, because the coaches have gotten better over the years. We had to go to England, you don’t have to go to England anymore to get the same quality coaches. Second, as far as the dancing goes, for me, it was the discipline. Having the discipline was hard because I wanted to “dance”, and “this is what I feel”, to dance “what I felt”. That’s what I wanted to do, but you can’t. You’ve got to do it within these guidelines, and do the right footwork, and have the right position, etc… But that was also the fun part, trying to learn and apply those things.

When did you start coaching and judging?

Well, coaching I did all the way throughout. When you’re the champion, you go to schools and coach others. But, I didn’t really want to leave the studio I was at yet because I was working for Vernon Brock, who was basically the god of dance. Even as two years running champions, I wanted to learn more from him. The last year when he was sick, that’s when I started to venture out more and started traveling and doing more coaching. And back then, I was only coaching, not judging yet, because I was still dancing professionally, so I couldn’t judge. You could judge small showcases competitions that weren’t sanctioned.

Did you dance Pro-Am with students?

Out of all the things I enjoyed most it was doing pro-am. In a professional partnership, you’re expected to dance well, you’re expected to win, that’s your job. But with pro-am, it was more of a joy. It made you feel very accomplished to bring joy to other people. It was a fun thing and a challenge. And nowadays, what is lacking is that alot of pros don’t appreciate the pro-am students like they should.

Students at every level always want to know, what are the different learning needs for a Bronze, Silver and Gold student? What do you focus on?

Structure. That’s one thing that lacks a lot in everybody, not just students, but in professionals as well. To them it’s too much today where choreography is the number one thing. Choreography without structure is just a bunch of stuff on the floor, nothing makes sense. With structure, anything you do will look good. The level, Bronze, Silver or Gold is just the level of choreography that’s taught, but structure is most important. Good dancers will always have that. Posture, then movement.

What advice do you have for students to improve their dancing?

To learn what the structure is and apply it. For a social dancer or competitive dancer, the more you know, the easier it is to do whatever it is you need to do. If you want to read a novel, before you can read the novel, you need to learn how to read the alphabet. The nouns, the verbs, the exclamation marks and the periods. So, it’s not one massive bunch of letters that make no sense. The more the student learns, amateur or pro, the easier it is to do what they want to do. Knowledge.

What are the benefits of working with a coach?

No matter how good you are, you always need a third pair of eyes. World Champions all have coaches. Coaches can see things that you can’t see while dancing full out. They can see if some movements are not matching, or if someone has a foot fault, wrong timing… Anyone who doesn’t use a coach, they will hit a wall. If you want to keep progressing and keep learning, you’ve got to use a coach. And not just one. You may have a main coach, but every coach has something good to say and when it comes down to it, they’re all pretty much saying the same thing, but in a different way. What might not click with one, might click with the other.

When you’re judging, what do you look for on the floor?

Every judge has different things that they look for, but there are a few things that ALL judges look for. One is posture/position/poise. It doesn’t matter who you’re talking to. Second is “how” you move that poise/posture across the floor. The aggressive dancers that maintain that posture are going to be pretty much successful. If they move and they lose that posture, you need to go back and work on posture. After posture and movement, there are a lot of things that factor into it as well. Performance comes into play. How independent the girl moves. With so little time to judge so many people, it’s what takes your attention in a  good way that will make a difference.

What do you look for in the four main styles?

For all the styles, I look for poise and posture. The understanding of dance poise and posture to the extreme. With that, I also look at foot action and using the ankles. If they have that poise and posture, I look at how aggressive they move from point A to point B without distorting it. And finally, how they take all the other techniques and apply it to maintain poise, posture and movement. In Rhythm dances, I look for a lot of hip action and knee action. In Standard, I want to see a good closed position. In Smooth, I am looking for connection through the movement and the fluidity of the movement. In Latin, feet and hips. But the reality is, those things like foot action and knee action or dance position or connections, those are to be expected. Overall I look for a the fundamentals, poise, posture and movement and how they move it across the floor without losing it.

Do you have any opinion in American Rhythm regarding style or how it should be displayed on the floor?

I’ve seen some highly ranked couples use a more traditional bent leg action, but they do it so well and maintain other fundamentals so well that I look at it and say “yeah, number one”. Whatever you do, if you do it well enough or with solid fundamentals behind it, it’s just a “style”. If someone can take their “style” and sell it with conviction and quality with good fundamentals behind it, then it has to be marked.

Last question…Since I sell dresses on my website, many of my customers always ask me, “Do judges like black dresses?” Ladies like them because they are slimming and flattering, but they always worry that a black dress won’t get noticed. What do you think?

If it looks good on the lady and makes her feel good… hello! Black is a beautiful color. I love black and white dresses on the dance floor. When you wear other colors then you have to start thinking, what’s the coloring and lights in the ballroom like? But black and white go with any ballroom. But, the cut and the style of the dress is what makes it or breaks it. Most important is that it should be flattering to the ladies shape and size.

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