Putting his best foot forward, eleventh-grader Robert Rigano partakes in ballroom dancing at Dynasty Dance Club. He was inspired to get into ballroom dancing by his older brother Anthony Rigano, who was involved in the program of the dance club’s partnership with Face Autism. As Rigano had been around the program for a few years, he decided to practice the art of dancing. Anthony continues to inspire Rigano, as he adds to his dance skills.
“My brother has very limited speaking abilities and has a hard time expressing his emotions. I think ballroom dancing is his way of showing himself. He really enjoys it, and it’s been hard to find things he truly enjoys,” Rigano said.
Starting during October of 2017, Rigano began ballroom dancing. He currently practices four nights a week. On Mondays, he has a private session with his professional partner, Sarah Haworth. Tuesdays and Thursdays he practices in group classes called Juniors, and on Fridays he practices in a high school Latin dance class. During practices, he trains in social dancing, which is meant for participation rather than performance, competition style dancing, and routines.
Currently, Rigano has several dance partners whose levels vary: professionals, who he dances within pro-amateur competitions, and show partners, who are other amateur high school students. According to Rigano, he enjoys practicing with both of his partners because he can learn from those above him, as well as learn to grow with his student peers.
“When I’m dancing, it puts me in a different persona. I feel like I can show parts of my personality that I can’t show in my day to day life and it really is a unique way to express yourself,” Rigano said.
At this point in time, Rigano does showcases and solo competitions but plans on doing heat style competitions in the next month. Showcases are studio run shows to demonstrate to studio members mastery of new skills. Solo competitions consist of performing solo dances and receiving a score, whereas heat style competitions have dancing heats where multiple couples compete in different styles of dance.
In March, Rigano’s hard work paid off when he won the Sarasota Spring Fling Pro-Am Ballroom Dance Competition. For the future, Rigano plans on attending more competitions in the next few months in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, and a national competition before he leaves for college. In college, Rigano also plans on continuing ballroom dancing.
“His team spirit and support of his fellow classmates is evident in every class he does, and when I am working with him one-on-one he always goes for things 100%. His natural talent is a pleasure to develop, but his curiosity in how to improve himself and dedication to learning to do things the right way is what sets him apart as an exemplary student and athlete,” Haworth said.