An American Tango – Veloz and Yolanda: An Interview with Director & Choreographer William Soleau

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Leila Drake (Yolanda Veloz) and Jack Stewart (Frank Veloz) in State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara’s “An American Tango - Veloz and Yolanda.”

Leila Drake (Yolanda Veloz) and Jack Stewart (Frank Veloz) in State Street Ballet
of Santa Barbara’s “An American Tango – Veloz and Yolanda.”

By Natasha Lewin

Frank Veloz and Yolanda Casazza Veloz’s rise to ballroom-dance fame is told through William Soleau’s ballet An American Tango. Soleau spoke with The Tolucan Times about its creation.

How was it choreographing a ballet based on ballroom dance?

It’s interesting to teach ballet dancers social dances like the Jitterbug, which 99 percent of the dancers have never done before.

Where did you draw your inspiration?

Definitely the script. The story is clearly delineated with a narrator who moves us through Veloz and Yolanda first meeting to their final dance at the Hollywood Bowl.

How is this story different from ones you’ve worked on in the past?

The script was written like a film, even down to camera shots. I had to translate from shots to dance moves — a challenge for me.

Tell us about the costumes.

Frank knew Yolanda needed the most beautiful dresses, which took months to build and could weigh up to 17 pounds. We had the original dresses reproduced down to the last detail.

How do you begin to choreograph a show?

I have a concept of what’s supposed to happen but don’t move a step until I have the dancers in front of me. The story line has to be a collaboration with the dancers so it fits them like a glove.

The Los Angeles Premiere of An American Tango – Veloz and Yolanda will be presented at The Broad Stage, 1310 11th St.; Santa Monica, CA 90401 on Saturday, Sept. 21, at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 22, at 2:00 p.m. Set to the music of composers, Aaron Copland, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Jimmy McHugh, and others, journey through time with Veloz and Yolanda as they perform The Cake-Walk, The Lindy, Waltzes, Tangos, and more. An exhibit of Yolanda Veloz’s original dancing gowns will be on display in the lobby of the theatre for the first time in 80 years at performances. For tickets, please call The Broad Stage Box Office at (310) 434-3200, or buy online at anamericantango.com or at thebroadstage.com/americantango. There will be a Two-for-One Price Special for the Sunday, Sept. 22, matinee only; please mention the code “2 To Tango” when ordering.

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