Wednesday, October 09, 2013

John Monte Award a Proud Legacy for Fred Astaire Dance Studios

FADS' Impact on Ballroom History

L to R: Martin Chiang, Jack Rothweiler and Wayne Eng, USDC 2013

Jack Rothweiler was taken by surprise at USDC 2013 on Saturday evening, September 7, when USDC CEO and President, Martin Chiang and Executive Vice President, Wayne Eng, called Jack to the stage to receive the John Monte Award. This honor is one of two service awards USDC gives each year to recognize one individual’s contributions to the dance world above all other people in the business.
The John Monte award is a tremendous honor in the field of dance, and its history is tied closely to our company.  Monte himself died in 1990, so our details about him came through the memories of someone in our business who actually worked with him: Richard LaValle.  LaValle was a member of the original Fred Astaire Dance Board, as well as a USBC Open American finalist with two dance partners in the Monte years:  Diana Montez (1972-1974) and Linda (Douglas) Joy (1975-1976).
John Monte’s life is woven into our history, as well as the history of the USDC.  In fact, we can thank Monte for the original United States Ballroom Championships, or USBC, which was eventually re-named the USDC. USDC determines the United States’ national Professional and Pro/Am Ballroom Dance Champions. Under Monte’s leadership, the first USBC took place in 1971 and was held annually at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City through 1974.
That year, 1974, also brought John Monte a monumental honor. The 1974 USDC program features a photo of Princess Margaret presenting him the Carl-Alan Award, 'the only American to receive this honor for his outstanding contribution to the popular entertainment field in Great Britain.' That contribution was bringing ‘Touch Dancing’ back to ballroom at a time when dances like the Twist and the Mashed Potato were keeping partners at arm’s length. *
Monte first set foot in the dance business as a Fred Astaire student when he was about 16. Like Astaire, Monte began as a tap dancer in an age when jazz and tap were king. His FADS company career began in 1954, about 7 years after Fred Astaire’s original dance classes began. 
The Fred Astaire Main Office was located at 487 Park Avenue in New York City at the time. The company's decision-makers gathered here to organize a 1958 ballroom convention at the nearby unfinished Park East Studio. During that 2-week convention, about 150 Fred Astaire people from around the country packed the studio which had no proper floor. LaValle recalls seeing John Monte here for the first time. 'A little guy on a raised platform with a piano,' the future Company leader sat square in the middle of the ballroom. It was his job to provide the dancing music for the convention!
In approximately 1960, John Monte replaced Frank Pagliaro as FADS’ National Dance Director. Monte became President of the National Council of Dance Teachers Organization (NCDTO) in the United States (the NCDTO evolved into today’s NDCA). NCDTO work called for Monte and his assistant, Dagmar Jarvel, to travel to Fred Astaire Dance Studios all over the country to provide teacher competition training and dancing tests.
By 1969, there were too many studio requests for Monte and Jarvel to manage by themselves.  Monte came to a Chicago FADS convention and announced he was putting together a company called “Dance Service Department” to help.  His idea was that Fred Astaire people from the various areas would support FADS dance teachers’ training sessions and promotions. Thus, the FADS Dance Board system was born!  (Monte himself assigned LaValle the Midwest region.)  The new regional format was highly successful in meeting the studios’ needs.
Mary Molaghan was the talented manager of the New England region. She and Monte formed a close partnership, and in 1971, they founded the American Ballroom Company (ABC) whose purpose was to establish U.S. ballroom champions, for there were none in those days.
At that time, the ABC was granted a charter from the NCDTO to run the official United States Ballroom Championships (USBC), now known as the United States Dance Championships (USDC), in all styles and divisions for Amateurs, Professionals, and Pro/Am. The charter, revised in 1975, is the same today.
Monte and Molaghan set about creating the USBC. LaValle remembers it was Molaghan who really 'put the USBC together' when, in early 1971 at a Regional Competition he attended in in New York, she entered a hotel room where Monte was holding a routine Dance Service meeting. Mologhan made the earth-shattering announcement that she and Monte were creating the first-ever U.S. national competition.  FADS had no official U.S. dance representatives in the ballroom world. The format she described would include an International Latin Style competition and an International Ballroom Smooth (then called American Standard). 
To everyone’s further astonishment, Mary announced that this competition would recognize all the top dancers in the United States, regardless of their company affiliation. This meant including Murray and the independents, too!  Furthermore, their competition would include a Pro/Am division to recognize those who were tops in the U.S., as well as one for top Amateur Couple.  Other than the winners of International Style, who would become U.S. Representatives to the World Championships, all would be recognized U.S. Champions.  Donna Smith, a FADS Dance Board Member who was there, said, “Mary, it sounds wonderful, but it could be a conflict of interest for us to promote this independent activity that is not just about Fred Astaire. What’s in it for us?” Mary’s reply became her legacy:  “Don’t worry kids, you’ll all get a piece of the rock.” 
The Area people began promoting this new event, the USBC, in their travels. The first USBC was held on Labor Day weekend, 1971, in the Waldorf-Astoria’s spectacular Grand Ballroom. Richard LaValle was 31 at the time. Still, he can recall the names of every Fred Astaire Dance Studios Champion in each division that weekend (and all the way up to the present day, in fact!)  “FADS,” he proudly recalls, “with the exception of 1983 and 1984, held the American Championships from 1971 to 1990.”
John Monte also served two 6-year terms as President of the NDCA (1975-80 & 1982-88). During that time he was elected Vice President of the International Council of Ballroom Dancers (ICBD). He was the first North American on the Presidium and the Joint Committee (ICBD/ICAD).
We’re proud of John Monte, which is why his name represents the second division of FADS’ SWAR report. But we’re even more proud that independent companies like the USDC recognize the important role he had in the history of ballroom dancing. Very few people have had the impact that John Monte had on the ballroom dance world. Jack Rothweiler, though, is one of those few.   
Martin Chiang credits Jack Rothweiler with 'rescuing FADS from bankruptcy to become one of the largest dance studios organizations and expanding overseas.' And though these accomplishments alone are remarkable enough, we are thankful he has done so much more.
The John Monte Award is reserved only for the greatest dance business leaders in the world. Our heartfelt congratulations go out to you, Jack Rothweiler.  And thank you so much.

Jack Rothweiler’s Contributions to the Fred Astaire Franchised Dance Studios Organization
In 2002, Jack’s first days as President were spent analyzing years of company statistics in order to build our stronger future.  The list of his further accomplishments takes up two full pages, so we have only included some highlights below.
Today, in addition to his duties as President, Jack successfully oversees the largest region in our franchise system, serves as Vice President on the WDC’s Board of Directors (since 2008), and is an active registrant of the NDCA (since 2003). 
Jack’s focus has always been to make Fred Astaire Franchised Dance Studios the biggest and best franchise operation in existence.  The entire company has grown and profited tremendously throughout the years of his leadership. This profit has come in many forms, but it is our financial security, collectively and individually, that Jack still works the hardest to secure. His ultimate aims are to give his employees —studio owners, area people and office staff alike — every financial opportunity that is available to them and to help them enjoy their working lives, as well as their retirements. That explains why Jack’s long-term goal as President has been to change the previous FADS mindset, the one that said,  “I am a dancer who happens to own a studio” to “I am a successful business owner who also excels in dancing.” Jack’s devotion to this proactive new mindset and the results it has brought now offer every Fred Astaire family member unparalleled opportunities in the world of dance.

Partial List of Jack's Achievements
·         Created the FADS Corporate Mission Statement
·         Increased and modernized our focus on education through creating H.O.T, a library of business, motivational and marketing materials, and studio staff training manuals.  
·         Produced an entire system of manuals to help structure our current franchise system and serve multiple training purposes.
·         Added trademarks and copyrights that have strengthened our company and protect our trade name.
·         Created a Business Council to aid in developing studios and enlarged the Board of Directors.
·         Re-designed and created new job positions to improve oversight of key areas of the company.
·         Created the Checkouts database and the Astaire Management Program, and upgraded SWAR’s functionality.
·         Developed data tracking systems to improve studio’s abilities to better their numbers: Not Ups, ATD interviews, and KPIs, for example.
·         Created our .info website to provide studio owners with practically everything they need to run their businesses, from archived TOP Seminar speeches to the newest studio products.
·         Developed the Studio Locator, an interactive map on the national website that provides full contact information for every Fred Astaire Dance Studio in the world.
·         Assisted in developing bigger and better FADS Championships, as well as a greater FADS presence at U.S. National Championships.
·         Created FADS logo products and logo-wear, and produced our own shoe line to further brand our name and secure additional revenue streams.
·         Developed a dress line for our newer competing students to make their competition attire more affordable.
·         Secured advertising in national periodicals (Dance Beat, Blackpool Project, and other regional publications).
·         Increased the number of our studios from 82 to 153 (as of this writing) and expanded Fred Astaire Dance Studios overseas. W now have a presence on 4 continents.

* Other Carl-Alan Award winners include the Beatles, Nancy Sinatra, and Donnie Burns (now President of the WDC) with Gaynor Fairweather (they won the award twice).  Other John Monte Award Winners Include:  Judi Hatton (2012); John Morton (2011); Frank Regan (2010); Rickey Geiger (2009); Rufus Dustin (2008); Jim Donaghey (2007); Pete Taylor (2005); Betty Silvers & Larry Silvers (posthumously, 2004); Brian McDonald (2003); Miranda Tang (2002); Fran Rogers (2001); and Sam Sodano (2000).

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