Excerpts from Ballroom Icons © Brigitt Mayer-Karakis
England, beset with etiquette tenets and rules of conduct, and the U.S., the land of freedom of expression, each developed completely different Latin dance styles between the late 1950s and 1960s.
In the 1970s three American men and their dance partners redefined the International Style Latin division as it had come to be known. Bob Medeiros, Vernon Brock and Sam Sodano; together with Sheryn Hawkins, Beverly Donahue, Linda Dean and Pat Hogan, had raised the bar with a style that looked diametrically opposed to the British Latin dancers.
The first Latin pioneers in England, Monsieur Pierre and Doris Lavelle, Dimitri Petrides and Wally Laird and Lorraine; meticulously wrote steps down to define a technique. Socio-cultural requisites always played a part in the development of dance in the early Latin days. Hip movement in England was restricted and more attention was paid to form rather than authenticity. Sounds prudish, but from the late 1950s to the early 1970s conformity to an austere moral and ethical conduct as defined by the country, steered ballroom dancing forward.
By contrast in the U.S., Latin dances took their queues from the immigrants bringing those rhythms and dances to the New World from their countries of origin. Also, the impact of America’s expressive Broadway theatre-style dancing affected all the other dance styles. When those two dance worlds, England and the U.S., moved closer together through couples from the U.S. competing in the British Open in Blackpool, for example, they marvelled at each other’s interpretation of Latin but to a certain extent could not understand it.
Bobby Medeiros, of Portuguese descent, and Sheryn Hawkins, were about 20 years ahead of their time with an authentic rhythmical approach to the Latin dances. They were the first U.S. couple to really impact the International Latin scene. Bobby and Sheryn became the first U.S. finalists in the British Open Professional Latin Championship and were the first couple ever to be invited to perform at the Imperial Championship dinner in London, which was up to then open to British subjects only!
July 23, 1938 – May 12, 1993
Birthplace – Cambridge, Massachusetts
- 1969 – first competition in International Style Latin, Atlantic City
- 1970 – North American champion
- 1971 – U.S. National Professional Latin champion
- 1971 – seventh in the World Championship
- 1971 – finalist (seventh) in the British Open with Sheryn Hawkins
- 1975 – finalist (ninth) in the British Open with Linda Dean
- 1980 – TV commentator with Rita Moreno (see picture above)for the USBC in New York