Joe Cassini – Chorégraphe légendaire de salsa
The truly best dancers in Los Angeles have worked with Joe Cassini. The everyday person probably recognizes him as the dancer instructor who teaches the advanced-level Salsa class on Friday nights at Sportsmen’s Lodge – the class with all the cool footwork.
The following is what Joe told Edie and me when we interviewed him recently. First I’ll give you some background on Joe’s career and then on to his thoughts on all sorts of subjects. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed putting it together. Thanks a lot, Edie, for the opportunity. And of course, thank you Joe!
JOE’S CAREER. . . SO FAR
Let me start by bringing you up to speed on Joe’s career and achievements over the years SO FAR. In a nutshell, he’s an accomplished dancer, producer, director, and choreographer who has worked with the best dancers and tons of Hollywood celebrities. In 1996, at the 6th Annual Feather Awards (the dancer’s equivalent to the Oscars), Joe received the Feather Award for Best Professional Choreographer Director for his creative contribution to the entertainment industry.
Ann Margret (twice nominated for an Academy Award, winner of five Golden Globe Awards, winner of four Emmies, and twice honored as Box Office Star of the Year – THAT Ann Margret) presented the award. She had the most beautiful things to say about Joe. She described him as « a dancer of such extraordinary grace » and « an artist in every sense of the word » who « never ever lost his enthusiasm for performing. » Then she went on to address Joe personally and say, « You represent to me, my dear friend, all the qualities that I admire in a dancer. But mostly- your complete love of it! »
Working towards that proud moment of receiving such joyful recognition from his peers, Joe has built an incredible career. Ever since he was a young boy, raised in Massachusetts, he wanted to be a dancer. His strict Catholic parents had other professions in mind for him – doctor, lawyer, accountant. They were okay with his involvement in the plays and shows at church and school but they did not want Joe to be a dancer professionally. When he was a little kid, his aunt used to take him to dance classes on the sly. Joe took if from there went on to study dance with the best of the best.
Joe’s Dance Education and Training :
As a young man, Joe trained and worked with the New York Metropolitan Opera, the Boston Ballet Company, the Philadelphia Ballet, the New York Ballet Theater, the Pennsylvania Ballet Company, and the American School where he danced under the guidance of George Balanchine.
He also studied with Martha Graham and Jose Limon. He trained in everything: ballet, jazz, tap, modern – everything.
Joe’s Career on the Big Stage:
Joe picked up and went to New York. Didn’t know anyone. Didn’t have a place to live. Didn’t have a plan – except to get on stage. Joe was a bit naive. But Joe was determined and he had faith. With a Ford Foundation Scholarship, he found himself basically living out of one of the ballet studios in the back of Carnegie Hall. He would help clean to pay for his scholarship. Late at night he’d get together with the other people who were cleaning up after the performance. They’d get up on stage and perform for each other. Then they could say, « I performed at Carnegie Hall last night! »
Joe had faith and it paid off. As an actor, singer, and dancer he worked in such shows as « Westside Story, » « The Boyfriend, » « Fade out, Fade In, » and « Bajour. » But it wasn’t easy. He had an income when he was performing but in between shows, while auditioning and waiting and training, one needs a roof overhead and maybe a little food. During one of those down times, he helped remodel a hotel to make some cash. Then he walked by an Arthur Murray dance school and got the notion to be an instructor in order to pay the bills. And that’s how he got into ballroom dancing. [FYI: Joe wrote a book called « Everybody Dance » with his own ballroom dancing teaching program.
Joe Goes Hollywood:
Producer Alan Carr was looking for someone to perform with Ann Margret in her Los Vegas debut. He saw Joe. He chose Joe. That was the « Big Break » – as they say in the business.
To Make Long Story Short:
Joe has built a long and impressive resume. He went from dancing to choreograph, direct, and produce for stage, screen and television. He has choreographed T.V. specials and T.V. series. His television experience includes shows like « The Dean Martin Show, » « Hollywood Place, » « The Perry Como Show, » and « The Fifth Dimension Special. »
Here’s a list of just some of the stage and screen celebrities that Joe has worked with:
Donnie and Marie Osmond, Greg Lugannis, Connie Stevens, Sonny and Cher, Dennis Cole, Barbara McNair, Cyd Charisse, Kirk Douglas, Tina Turner, Fabian, Lisa Hartman, Ann Margret, Lucille Ball, Raquel Welch, Florence Henderson, Steve Allen, Jayne Meadows, Kenny Rogers, Joey Heatherton, Abbey Lane, Tom Jones, Bobby Darrin, Eric Estrada, Rudolph Nureyev
And don’t let me forget to mention that Joe was the Creative Consultant to the 1989 Academy Awards.
So now you know a little bit about Joe. The following is what Joe had to say in our interview – in his own words ’cause Joe says it best.
JOE’S THOUGHTS ON THE BURNING ISSUES OF OUR DAY
Joe’s Thoughts on the Los Angeles Salsa Scene:
Something should be done about those kids who are so good – if they have the ambition to take other steps to bring Salsa and Latin Dancing to another level. Which some are doing with the contests. They’re going out to get trained to do adagio, lifts, and aerials for the competitions.But that’s not really salsa! It’s about the costumes, who can lift the girl, who does more tricks. . . . What they’re really doing is cabaret dancing, adagio dancing. They’re putting some jazz into it. . . . So now it’s becoming another form of dance. It’s not Salsa. Salsa is not adagio.
With the contests, the kids have taken it out of the realm of Salsa. Some don’t even do the basic move of Salsa. The kids are going to coaches to learn lifts and tricks. They’re creating a totally different thing.
They’ve taken it out of the element of what people call Salsa. Now WHAT is Salsa? Well, when you talk to Tito Puente he says, « Salsa is what? A sauce that you eat! » Now what the kids call Salsa: they took the old Mambo step, the basic forward and back step, and they incorporated disco, hustle, jazz . . . . Now it’s more about what’s going on up top, all the turning, the bending- and not what goes on from the waist down.
George Balanchine, artistic director of NYC ballet, created ballets. A genius: a great choreographer, a conductor, and concert pianist. . . . A lot of what kids are doing today, he did much of that stuff – the girl does a develope and the guy goes over her leg, the arm changes, the hustle turns. . . It’s the same intertwining he created in his ballets.
I’m not saying it’s right or wrong – I think it’s fabulous. I think it’s great what I see the people doing today. It means they really want to learn more about dancing and they really realize that it’s not only about 1,2,3. . . 5,6,7 and that if you’re going to lift a girl off of her feet, then what is her line like?
But also, what I find with a lot of the dancers now is that they dance to steps. There are some that dance to music: they can hear the music, they know when they’re on 1,2,3, or 4 and they can syncopate and use the music. That’s what it used to be back at the Palladium [New York City] when we did the Mambo and we danced on 2.
Some people can HEAR the music but then some people just dance what they feel- which is not WRONG. In other words, they don’t know whether they’re on 1,2,3,or 4. They start on 1, then they’re on 3, then they’re on 2, then they’re on 4. Sometimes they’re not even on. That doesn’t mean they’re not good dancers. . . that they don’t have a right to dance. . . .
I sit and I watch some of them and say, « Boy if that guy really knew how much potential he really has. . . . » I say to Francisco, who I think is a really talented boy, there’s a lot of them, not only him, but I say to him, if you really love dancing and want to pursue it, why don’t you go and take the time to really train yourself?!
Because what happens if Salsa goes out?! The kids today would like to make a lifetime career of dancing Salsa if they could, but first you have to make it your « craft. » Why do they do it? Why do they enter these competitions? Because these kids LOOOVE to dance. And that’s the reason why I started to dance.
Joe’s Thoughts on His Career in Dance:
Dancing isn’t about getting rich. You’re not going to make lots of money dancing. HOWEVER, a miracle might happen and you might get the opportunity, which happened to me, to be chosen because of your talent and ability.
I used to go to auditions where there were three hundred guys trying out for six jobs. What were the chances?! I was fortunate because somebody SAW me. Thirty-two years ago, Ann Margret was going to Los Vegas for her big Los Vegas debut. And there was a major producer, Alan Carr, who produced Saturday Night Fever, Grease, and La Cage a Folles on Broadway. He saw me and chose me to partner Ann Margret. That’s how my whole career started. And she and I have been dear friends ever since.
But I already had the track record. I had the training. I had danced with the Metropolitan Opera. I had all the ballet and classical training. I studied modern with Martha Graham, Jose Limon, Bruce Cunningham, and all those famous modern companies. I studied jazz and tap. So when that opportunity came, I was prepared.
Say somebody called one of these people [one of our top L.A. salseros] to choreograph a movie and demanded that they know about all the different forms of dance?! Now if it was a movie that just had some Salsa dancing then they certainly are equipped to choreograph it. But otherwise. . . . Now some of them might not have that motivation in life or that goal. They’re just dancing as a hobby because they love to do it or they’re going to teach and they work in a bank or somewhere else all day. That’s fine. But this dance might go out. Like Mambo – no one ever thought Mambo would go out. They came from all over the world to the Palladium. The biggest stars in the world came to the Palladium to see everybody dance. It was the WILDEST thing you ever experienced and some of the greatest natural dancers who had never had training, who could just do – like some of the kids do hip hop – they could do drops and tricks and splits and spins on the head. No one taught them how to do it. It’s just a gift. And they never thought it would go out. And look – now the hottest thing in the world today is Salsa, not Mambo.
Joe’s Thoughts on Mambo:
It’s been a long time in between the Mambo craze and the Salsa craze. But really, Mambo never went out. There are still people who do Mambo, what we call Mambo-nicks, and dance on 2.
Mambo is not about turns. It’s about what you do from the waist down: the fast foot work, the spot turns, and once in a while you give the girl an underarm turn or turn the girl twice.
Is there Mambo music? Yes, there IS Mambo music but now the bands are giving it more of a Salsa sound. And there’s different types of music. For example, there’s a charanga sound, a charanga band. . . . Mambo is a specific kind of sound. But I can do Mambo to what the bands are playing today and I can do Salsa to Mambo – whatever Salsa is. Salsa is 1. Mambo is 2. But it’s really about knowing the music, hearing it and knowing it. That’s the way it WAS. . . and you know what, if you talk to Tito, if you talk to Celia Cruz, all the great musicians, what do they dance on? The 2. Why? Because that’s the way the music is. That’s the way that they feel the music is. It depends upon the instrumentation. Now there are some that accent 1. And they’re doing that more today with some of the new recordings. I have recordings from fifty years ago, sixty year ago, that are UNBELIEVABLE. They sound so different from today, totally different.
But Mambo was a dance craze. You danced on 2 because it was the second beat of the measure. If you didn’t dance on 2 back then, forget it, some of the girls would never dance with you. And today it’s much freer and open. They can dance on 1. No one’s going to criticize someone because they start on 1, then they’re on 3, then they’re on 4. It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter. But back then it was like a religion. What matters today is how many turns you can do, how many fabulous tricks you can do with the girl: the drops, the bends, the switching, over-the-back-around-under-the-legs. . . . THAT matters more than the music now. This trend, this shift, is more prevalent here in Los Angeles than New York or Florida. That’s because dancers in L.A. are attracted to this. In other words, they really want to be more than Salsa dancers. What I’m saying is, the reason why they’re attracted to all these other elements of dance is because they really want to do them. Salsa is just a way to do that.
And with the performing and the contests – that’s the element of showbiz entertainment that’s going to bring Salsa to the next level.
Joe’s Thoughts on the 1997 Competition at the Mayan:
That the Mayan did a competition is fabulous. That they give the kids an opportunity to show themselves is fabulous. And what it did was motivate the kids to go out and become better dancers. Which I loved. So when I saw the competition, I said « Wow » – I saw a lot of improvement. It’s great that they give the kids an opportunity to compete. It’s always great to win. But the mere fact that you’re IN the contest is great too.
But I believe that there should be categories for these competitions: Salsa, Cabaret. . . . Because it’s not fair to put someone who has had the training and coaching on how to lift the girl and put her down in just the right way, to put that person next to someone who simply dances from his soul.
But the kids have seen the lifts and the intricate moves and they want to do it. They want to be dance teams. And truly it all comes from jazz and ballet. The problem there, with the competition, is that they should’ve had categories. Kids who do straight Salsa competing with each other. Once you lift the girl off the ground, now it’s something else.
But you have to go according the rules of the person who’s setting up the contest. I judged according to what they told me to judge: Appearance, Dance Interpretation, Rhythm, Timing, Partnering, Styling. . . .
What is partnering? It means the way the guy handles the girl. If he’s going to lift her off of the ground, does he put her down properly?
Now regarding styling, I look at someone and if they attempt to do a trick, or what we call adagio, I see all the things that need to be right. Because I have had the training, I watch if the girl’s feet are pointed, if her feet are sickled, if her extension is right, if the knee is straight. I see the line she is doing.
I can only judge based on what MY training is. I don’t know what kind of training the other judges have. I did see some of the people who were judging that I KNOW had nowhere near the dance experience I have. But MY eyes see EVERYTHING. Somebody else might just see the turn or the drop. They don’t know that her feet were all wrong at the end of it. So it’s very hard. Unless you have people that are all qualified the same in judging, you’re going to have a very varied opinion. And truly, who can judge dancing – it’s from the soul! But Maryam Faresh and Alex DeSilva, that particular night, when they danced, they did everything right. Whatever they tried to execute, they finished with good line, and they FINISHED it.
And that competition you have to judge the dancers as a COUPLE. You can’t judge them individually. One of them might do fabulous but the other one slips – they get marked down. When you’re competing as a couple, you’re judged that way. As an honest judge, you have to do that. I have always tried to be as honest as possible. And I know some people, who don’t know who I am or what I’ve done in my life, would say, « What does he know about Salsa? » But if they had seen me in my day, when I was dancing at the Palladium, they would know that I know a lot about it!
Joe’s Thoughts on Career Choices:
I was brought up a Catholic. I came from a strict family. And ever since I was a little boy, as long as I can remember, I was so fascinated with dancing and watching the people move. It was incredible to me. My parents couldn’t understand it. They wanted to send me to college to become a doctor or a lawyer. They were of course concerned about me and my security and my life.
But why did I have this beyond-you-can-believe desire to dance that smothered out everything else in life? I can’t even answer you if you asked me why. The only thing I can say to you is that’s when I’m happy. It makes me happy.
You know how many people are unhappy in life because they did what their family wanted them to do and not what made them happy? I have a friend whose mother wanted him to become a dentist like his father. He became a dentist and he hates it and he resents them for it now. Which is sad. And he says to me, « Hey, I don’t care whether you made millions or not, you did what you WANTED to do with your life. I hate what I do. I’m forty four years old and I’m a dentist and I hate it. I don’t want to go to work. I don’t want to look in people’s mouths anymore! »
So I say to people, « Go after your dreams. » If you don’t have dreams, you have nothing. I mean, what is there to look forward to if you don’t have dreams? I don’t care what it is: if it’s the dream of winning the contest at the Mayan – it’s a dream. It gives you motivation to do something. And for everything you do, for every dream you accomplish, a hundred doors open. You meet people. . . . It’s amazing what happens in your life. It happened to me the same way. Each job, I met different people and doors opened. And I love dancing. It’s so powerful that it smothers all else. I went through poverty and suffering, living in small little one-rooms and not having any money, and I just always had that dream. The dream is what kept me going. A lot of years were hard – even after success. Because there’s so much competition. Unfortunately, dance is one of the greatest art forms in the world but has never been really recognized and honored as such. A singer has one hit song and becomes a millionaire and famous. A dancer spends 20 years of his life becoming a ballet dancer and dances the greatest ballet in the world, Swan Lake, and after that it’s over. . .But the competition keeps you going. If you really want something, you keep going and going and going. And there’s always somebody better than you. I realized that in MY life. There’s always someone better – that’s how you learn. Once you think you know it all, it’s over. And there are so many talented kids. More talented than I can ever DREAM of being but who never had the opportunities I had. Of the people who competed for the same jobs as I did, some were more talented but I just happened, for whatever reason, to get the opportunity. Three people audition, all great, only one gets it and becomes a star. Why? Why me? I’ve asked myself that question so many times. I’ve had kids audition for me who are so brilliantly talented beyond belief but will never get the opportunity to do anything with it. I always used to say, and this may sound really rude, but if all the people who didn’t really have talent would stay home, there’d be enough room for all the people who really did have talent. I mean, that’s really rude and I don’t mean it in that way but what I’m saying is that there are some people who THINK they’re talented because they’re ignorant as to what it’s really supposed to be about. . . . But that happens in every field- the corporate world, banking, in stock markets – everywhere. And then there are people who EXCEL. They excel at what they do. There are doctors who are good, but then there are doctors who really are special, who are geniuses, who have a gift. That doesn’t mean that I’m the only one who has the gift. There might be five of us in this room today that all have the same gift but by some reason or other, whether it’s a stroke of fate or luck, but I don’t believe in luck, but some people say luck, but whatever it is, for whatever the reason, I got the opportunity. It’s tough. But the rewards in comparison – it all has to do with the soul. What makes you happy inside. Money is not the answer. I know too many people that have money that are not happy. And money is only important when you don’t have it. When it comes time to go, honey, you can’t take it with you. But when it comes time for you to go, and you’ve done what you really wanted in life, you’ve experienced more happiness than money can ever buy.
Joe Thoughts on Careers Choices for our L.A. Salseros:
What I’ve seen in the Salsa world is there are people who go out dancing for their own pleasure but there are people that really want to be SEEN, that want to be « show people » and I think it’s wonderful. And some of them have a TREMENDOUS amount of ability. If they DID study dancing they probably would be great great dancers. I say to these talented kids, « Go take classes, take a jazz class, take a tap class or ballet, learn it. By doing that it’s going to help your dancing get better. » And some of the kids realize it now – that they have to go to other people to learn about the lifts, to be coached, to learn about line. They want to go to that next level. Because that’s what the competition at the Mayan required. Because people like Josie entered the competition, the rest had to compete with her. . . . It’s like being a big fish in a little pond or being a big fish in a big pond. And there are some people who SHOULD be big fishes in a big pond who will never get the opportunity, for whatever reason. I’ve racked my brain, I’ve lost sleep over it, saying why isn’t THAT kid a star?! And then I see other people who are not as talented succeed. I try to talk to these talented kids as much as possible. I find that some of them listen and then some of them think they’re so good and they don’t know where I’m coming from and they think I’m an old man who’s trying to hold on to something or whatever, who knows. But I TRY. And the people who absorb what I have to say are the people who are going to have a better life and are going to be open more to what can happen for them.
Joe’s Thoughts on his Bum Knee:
I’ve had one surgery and I’m going to have the other one done. All the years of dancing – the jumping, the landing, the ballet, the twisting of the knees, the turning out of the knees. A lot of dancers have hip replacements and knee replacements. But at the time you don’t realize because you’re getting so much enjoyment from dancing. One night, when my knees were good, Francisco and I dance for three and a half hours – with each other as well with as everybody. And he said, « Wow man! you’ve got lot of energy! » And if my knees were still good, I could dance more!!!
Joe’s Thoughts for the Future:
One can only dance for so long. So I’m taking that next step. I went from dancer to choreographer/director and now I’m producing. I’m producing a musical game show called « Everybody Sings » with my partner Jimmy Chapel. I’m working on another game show and I’m thinking about developing a children’s show. And I’m involved in 2 movies. One of which will be a musical and it’ll be written by one of my friends, a Tony Award winner. The setting is Havana, Cuba but we’ll film here and in Mexico. Of course, I’m working with the L.A. Salsa Kids. We’re taking the next step. Thomas brought me in to see what potential those kids have. I’m trying to find out what they can do other than dancing, to find out who sings, who can act, who plays musical instruments. We want to put a whole show together with those kids. And there are several other projects in the works. [I’ll keep you all posted!] I’m teaching Salsa because dance is my first love. I love dance and I love to teach it. I really care. I feel I have a lot of knowledge to share. And it’s not about teaching steps – it’s all the other things that make the step look great in the end. I want to pass on my knowledge to the young people, help them, create opportunities for them, and leave something for them. If I had my choice, and my knees were good. . . but I will never stop dancing!!!
PEOPLE’S THOUGHTS ON JOE
« Joe Cassini is one of the best dance instructors and the best dancers. I mean, when I started dancing the first person that I focused on, to learn, was him. Because he’s fast. . . he’s fabulous. He’s got so much technique. . . . I think he’s one of the best in the whole world because there’s nobody like him. Nobody compares to him. . . . For me he’s like my father, like my brother, like my friend, I love this guy. He’s really nice, really nice. And Joe, keep going like that and teaching a lot of guys, like the way you show me a lot of stuff, because I follow your example.
Josie Neglia, Dancexcitement:
« Joe Cassini is a man I admire for his soul and his modesty – even though he is an incredible dancer. I have witnessed first hand how he can teach technique, teach Latin style, and instill ideas of `clean lines’ to non-trained dancers. The music and dance is always with him – even when he had an injured knee, he was still dancing with his cane. A great dancer with exquisite rhythm and a kind heart. »
Michael Kuka, L.A. Dance Experience:
« Joe has such an extensive dance background. Whenever you work with Joe, from a choreography standpoint, he brings so much experience to the table. And he brings energy and love.
I’ve worked with him- he’s our choreographer [with wife Jackie Kuka]. He choreographs all our material. Most of the stuff that’s choreographed by coaches or dancers is basically limited to what’s in « their world »- if it’s Latin, it’s all Latin. But when you bring Joe into the picture, he brings with him all forms of dance. So, from a choreography standpoint, he broadens everything. All our routines are extremely distinctive, very musical, and very interesting. If we do an Argentine Tango, our Argentine Tango will look totally different than anybody else’s. For us it’s having
a choreographer that gives us something special every single time. People always come up to us and say, `Wow what an excellent routine – I’ve never seen anything like it before.’ And that’s because it’s a Joe Cassini signature.
And when Joe comes in to the picture, I have to say, that musically, it’s just right to the music. And the feeling and the passion. It’s never just steps. It’s always about a story, a character, and the beauty of dance – the line, the technique, the turns, the footwork.
Joe has everything. He can go with the big picture and then he can go extremely detailed. He can break anything down and teach it. Oh, and he’s always on time. And if you’re late it pisses him off. And yes, he can be a prima donna. He’s worked with the best people. He can be real intense. He can be all over you. He can make you do it over and over until you’re just ready to kill him. He’s got all those elements.
And another thing about Joe – he’s a loving person and he loves people. He has a love of dance, a love of people, great talent, and great energy.
Laura Canellias, Beverly Hills Studio of the Performing Arts:
« There’s so many things to say about Joe Cassini. Besides being a wonderful human being, he gives to everyone not only his friendship but his wonderful knowledge of dance. He’s done so much in the industry. He’s danced with megastars, yet he’s a wonderful, down-to-earth human being. He’s taught me a lot about choreography and visualizing things that look good on stage. I only hope that I can follow in his footsteps and someday perhaps choreograph something for him, in honor of him, something he’d be proud of. . . I love you, Joe!
Albert Torres, Albert Torres Productions:
« Joe is a force on the West Coast motivating the younger generation by means of taking the Mambo steps and showing us that we can use syncopated steps and have fun in the process. So we all don’t have to look alike on the dance floor. He adds the flair of his past jazz and ballet experience to the modern Mambo and passionate Salsa steps that are used today. For me dancing is a story that’s being told. The way that Joe dances, through one dance, he gives you not just one chapter, but a whole book. »
« Joe is an inspiration to anyone involved in dance. He knows the business better than most and he has worked with the best in the entertainment arena. He gives his time, energy and knowledge to the L.A. Salsa Kids and me, often. His tips and attention to detail, coupled with his offering of his wealth of knowledge are immeasurable. He and I are on the same page where the future of the L.A. Salsa Kids are concerned. He is as much inspired by these kids as they are inspired by him.
Though he can no longer spin, jump or split like he used to, he still has the style, and smoothness of a well-trained dancer. His moves are still contemporary and innovative. He is one of the best instructors and choreographers, not only in the Southern California area, but also in the United States. »
Enio Cordoba, Let’s Dance:
« Joe is the best all-around dancer on the club scene. I met him one night when he walked into a club and I thought he was just some old guy when he came up to me and basically said, `Not bad, kid, but watch this. . . .’ And then I saw him dance and I thought, `this guy is fabulous!’ Joe has been my mentor for the last four years. I treasure every opportunity to learn everything I can from him. »
Edie Lewis, The Salsa FREAK:
« Joe Cassini is one of the finest instructors in the country. In his classes, he helps men realize that Salsa is not just about fancy tricks, moves, patterns, spins and under-arm turns. He teaches `style, grace, and attitude’ – THAT is what dancing is all about. I wish every man could take a lesson from Joe. Joe brings a wonderful finesse and flair to Salsa that is truly beautiful. When I dance with Joe, I don’t get dizzy doing `all the turns’ that other men put me through. When I dance with Joe, I feel like I am in the middle of a Performance. »
Telegramed Joe after the 1996 Feather Awards to say, « Joe Cassini truly deserves this award. I had the privilege of working with him many times over the years. His talent, patience, sense of humor, endurance, and generosity always amazed me. Joe, I think you are a genius. You even made me look like a dancer. God bless you. Love, Florence Henderson. »
by Eva Luchini