John Lucchese (1918–2013)

March 27, 2014

John A. Lucchese (right).

John A. Lucchese, one of the world’s foremost authorities on American ballroom dance, died on October 24, 2013 of natural causes at the age of 95, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Born in 1918 in East Harlem, New York, he was a world-renowned dancer, lecturer and published author of three books on ballroom dancing.

After spending most of his youth in New York’s famous Savoy Ballroom as a member of the “400”—a then celebrated group of avid lindy hop dancers—Lucchese began his professional performance career in 1938, appearing on stage, screen and television. He toured the United States with such celebrities as Carmen Miranda, Lionel Hampton, Sammy Kay, Tony Martin, Billy Eckstein, Pat Cooper, and many others. He appeared on television, in venues such as “The Today Show,” “The David Susskind Show,” “Kraft Music Hall,” NBC Interviews and “The Arthur Murray Show,” where he was often featured in special performances with notable celebrities of the time.

In 1967, more than 4,000 dance enthusiasts paid tribute to Lucchese at New York’s Roseland Dance City as he took the stage again after he had been injured in a life-threatening automobile accident and had been told he would never dance again. The New York Times carried an account of his amazing rehabilitation through the use of dance as a most effective therapy, one which resulted in his complete recovery.

Over the years, juggling his ballroom career with his “avocation” as a practicing attorney, Mr. Lucchese received numerous awards and presentations for his contributions to ballroom dance. He taught professional seminars for dance teacher organizations throughout the United States, including the Arthur Murray and Fred Astaire Dance Studios. He was a five-term president of the Dance Educators of America, and also served as that organization’s treasurer and ballroom dance director. He was the national ballroom dance director for the National Council of Dance Teacher Organizations (NCDTO), and was a member of the World Dance Council.

Lucchese is survived by his beloved wife, Rose Garzia Lucchese, and cousins Joan, Andrew, Marjorie and Gail Basile.

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