Eugene Louis “Luigi” Faccuito

(20 March 1925 – 7 April 2015)

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Eugene Louis Faccuito was an American jazz dancer, choreographer, teacher and innovator who is best known for creating a jazz exercise technique. With coaching from his brother Tony, Luigi grew up winning talent shows with his singing, dancing and limber acrobatic tricks. By his teens, he was headlined as “Steubenville’s Own Bobby Breene” (the male Shirley Temple), and became a novelty emcee in vaudeville theatres. He then toured America’s heartland, singing with the Bernie Davis Orchestra, replacing Dean Martin.
After being drafted into the Navy in WWII, Luigi returned home and was urged to move to Hollywood to pursue a movie musical career.Within two months of living in Los Angeles, tragedy struck in a near fatal car accident. Doctors held little hope he would recover from a basal skull fracture and paralysis down one side of his body. He eventually awoke to be told by doctors, “you’ll never walk again.” His determination said, “I’m going to dance.”
On his own, Luigi started creating stretching exercises into a routine that helped him discover what had to be done to control his body. He learned to “always put the body in the right position,” to “feel from the inside out.” After a long year of trial and error, he regained enough strength and equilibrium to start dance classes again at Falcon Studios in Hollywood.

Over a year later, Luigi, seen by a talent scout, was asked to audition for MGM’s On The Town, starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Miraculously, as he was still working out his paralysis, he got the job and started an 8 year dance career in over 40 films, such as: An American in Paris, Annie Get Your Gun, Singin’ in the Rain, The Band Wagon and White Christmas. Choreographers Robert Alton and Gene Kelly became his mentors. They and others such as Hermes Pan, Eugene Loring, Le Roy Prinz, Nick Castle and Michael Kidd, put him to work with Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Doris Day, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Mickey Rooney, Donald O’Connor and Danny Kaye, among others.

During the long waiting periods on film sets, Luigi did his own exercises to make sure his body remained limber and would not ruin “a take.” Soon dancers were following him, 10 or 20 at a time. Robert Alton encouraged Luigi by saying, “You’ve got a great style, you should teach it,” so Luigi started a “jazz class” in L.A. in 1951.

In 1956, Luigi was taken to NYC to perform in the Broadway show Happy Hunting with Ethel Merman and Fernando Lamas. He went on to dance and assist choreographers Alex Romero, Onna White and Lee Scott, on three more Broadway shows before dedicating himself to sharing his dance method. He opened his school, The First World Jazz Centre.

The world has recognized Luigi’s artistry by bestowing upon him many major awards and by inviting him to give master classes throughout North and South America, England, France, Hungary, Italy, Japan and South Africa. He has served on the faculty for the Harkness Ballet School, High School for the Performing Arts, Sarah Lawrence College, NYU, Metropolitan Opera House and the Joffrey Ballet School. His method is taught today by not only himself, but by his students in schools and colleges all over the world.