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  • An Interview with Kelly Vuyovich
  • Joan Brady (bio)

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Kelly Vuyovich, 2011. Frey Photography.

Image courtesy of K. Vuyovich.

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Born and raised in D'Iberville, Kelly Vuyovich has won national acclaim as a dancer, choreographer, teacher, and accredited judge for dance competitions. For over forty years, he has trained students in Mississippi, New Orleans, New Jersey, Las Vegas, and New York and is certified in the dance syllabi of various schools including Fred Astaire, Arthur Murray, DVIDA, and the National Dance Council of America. Throughout his long and successful career, he has won numerous awards and championships both as a competitor and a teacher. One of his studios, Illuminations in Hattiesburg ranked seventh in the nation in 2003 and second in the nation in 2005.

In the following interview, he talks about his Mississippi Gulf Coast roots, his move to New York, the distinguished teachers he worked with and the studios he opened, his return to his native Mississippi in 2002, and how he transformed the dance scene there. All in all, Vuyovich is a Renaissance man of the arts. Not only has he taught dance and performed worldwide but he is a masterful choreographer, visionary artist, studio owner and manager, as well as a consummate host, all topics discussed in this interview. This interview was conducted in person over several weeks in January and February of 2017. [End Page 105]


How did you get interested in dancing?


I grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the eighth of nine children with three sisters and five brothers. Growing up in D'Iberville was a happy time. I remember big Christmas celebrations where my mom would cook for days in preparation for the many relatives that would come to visit on Christmas Day. Early memories include my mother teaching me how to dance the box, which I learned was the waltz basic step, as well as the foxtrot and jitterbug. When I was in first grade, I reigned as King of St. Theresa Catholic School Spring Festival (see Figure 1 below). My Queen and I danced a waltz. I have no doubt, dancing with my mother at home prepared me for this shaping event in my young life. I recall, too, we danced to the radio and played records by Eddie Arnold, Fats Domino, and Louis Armstrong. My sisters would perform like the Andrew Sisters.


What about the rest of your family? Are they dancers?

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Figure 1.

Kelly Vuyovich (left) as King of St. Theresa Catholic School Spring Festival, 1968. Mack Williams Studio.

Image courtesy of K. Vuyovich.

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My entire family is dance oriented and musically inclined. One time, I remember my sister Sheila and I were dancing and she wanted me to flip her, so I did, right onto the coffee table! When I was young, I spent a lot of time with my older sisters. We would go different places, and I remember going to the Rock N Roll Graveyard, a small cemetery located in Ocean Springs. Legend has it that it was haunted by a lady ghost dressed in white, sitting in a rocking chair. Much to my sisters' amusement, this spooky setting was perfect for them to play practical jokes on the younger children! Looking back, I had a happy childhood. We always had fun, and dancing was a part of that.


How did you get interested in ballroom dancing?


When I was in high school, I participated in a trade program where students went to school for a half day and worked the other half. One corporate sponsor of this program was the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Biloxi, and I fondly remember my first dance teacher there, Nelda Camp. The program was designed to train high school students to teach ballroom dance lessons. I was only sixteen years old and upon completion of the training, I was hired by them to teach private and group ballroom dance at their studio. My mother loved it, but my father hated it! He insisted that I needed a real job in order to...


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