Luigi was the innovator of the world’s first jazz dance technique.
Born Eugene Louis Faccuito in Steubenville, Ohio, Luigi was the eighth of eleven children of Italian immigrant parents Nicholas and Antonette (Savoia). With coaching from his brother Tony, Luigi grew up winning talent shows with his singing, dancing and limber acrobatic tricks. By his teens, he 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 serving in the U.S. Navy during WWII, Luigi returned home and was urged to move to Hollywood to pursue a movie musical career. After only two months 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. From within a deep coma, an inner voice told Luigi, "Never stop moving kid, if you stop you're dead." He eventually awoke to be told by doctors, "you'll never walk again." With determination he proclaimed, "I'm going to dance."
On his own, Luigi started developing 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 on overcoming his paralysis—he booked the job, which began an eight-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.
During the long waiting periods on film sets, Luigi did his own exercises to make sure his body remained limber, and he would not ruin a take. Soon dancers were following him—ten or twenty at a time. Robert Alton encouraged Luigi saying, "You've got a great style, you should teach it." So in 1951, Luigi started his first jazz classes in L.A. He taught while working on films, live theatre, and TV variety shows such as, The Colgate Comedy Hour, and The Red Skelton Show. He never stopped moving!
Luigi was taken to NYC to perform in the Broadway show Happy Hunting with Ethel Merman and Fernando Lama, and it was there that he later opened his school, The First World Jazz Centre. "A good teacher knows how to prevent injuries," Luigi said. He stressed the importance of using the body properly, telling students to "take your time - feel what you're doing." He also said, "If you keep doing things right long enough, they'll get better right. But, if you keep doing things wrong long enough, they'll feel right -- wrong." Read less