Interview: That's Amore (That's Love)
At 63, Vincent W. - a lifelong independent dance and theater contractor who works seven days a week - is in better shape than most 20-year-olds and is showing no signs of slowing down. From performing jazz sets at the finest hotels in Venice, Italy, to sharing the stage with the likes of Destiny's Child, Kid Capri, Martin Lawrence, and Debbie Allen, Vincent can hold his own with the best of them and is a veritable study in living your passion and loving the work that you do. In this interview, Vincent - the man who ignited my love affair with dance a decade ago - one-part reminisces about life, love, and performing in Italy and one-part gets real about trying out marriage, changing with the times, and loving or leaving what you do.
I married a military woman, and we were relocated, for three years, to Italy - where I made the connections that I have to this day, recorded an album, and started touring in song and dance since 1998.
Getting married was the biggest risk of my life. I was her third husband; she’s now married a fifth time.
Some people just want to be married; I tried it out. Her intentions were not my intentions. It’s all good. It took me out of Washington, DC, and I got to live in another country and develop a relationship with another culture. It benefited both of us. I can get off a plane, and Italy is home for me. I feel for everybody there with what's going on now. It’s insane.
I don’t regret anything in life. Life is going to be life, and you’re going to learn life lessons.
I wish I would have started dance a lot earlier, perhaps in high school, but I didn’t know. I wasn't introduced to it until later. I wasn't exposed to it growing up because my parents were in the military and didn't know much about the arts. Dance in the theater, that was hard to access.
My parents separated when I was in middle school, and my mom, sister, and I settled in the Washington, DC, area. It was hard.
As a single mom, my mom had to work every day, while my dad was away with the Navy. Integration was really hard here, too. People assumed I had it easy and that I had access to everything. No, I had to work hard for everything. Other kids' parents had money, but I went home after school and then worked in a band and had other little jobs. I have always worked, kept a job, and hustled, even as a little boy. I still mow lawns to this day.
Back in the day, artists were artists.
I grew up on The Jackson Five and The Temptations, and then you had the likes of Marc Nelson - whom I worked with and who started Boyz to Men. Now, it's all watered down with hip hop and computers. I teach at an arts school, and you see kids walking around with and playing real instruments. That needs to come back...someone who's reading sheet music, who's studying acting. To be an artist, you have to study and develop the talent and mindset. The more information you know, the better off you are.
My calling in life is to share information, motivation, and inspiration with both kids and adults.
That’s all I’m doing. I love what I do. I love when I see someone smile because of, and benefit from, what I'm teaching and doing.
My parents have always backed me in pursuing the arts. I was always performing and studying; I wasn’t locked up in jail.
I played in a band and was always on stage. I was in college and, as a theater major, was always on stage. They were used to me being in the arts.
I’m an artist; who knows what life is going to hand to me? You better be ready for the next gig, and you need to be in shape.
When I played in a rock band, I thought we were always going to be in a band. When I was in a dance company, I never thought it was going to dissolve, but it did. So being an artist, you have to change with the times; you better keep your voice, your body, and your instrument in check.
The only literature I read is dance magazines - such as Pointe Magazine, Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher, and Dance Spirit - to inspire and give information, particularly the history of black people's contributions to dance.
Right now, Debbie Allen is on the cover of the April issue of Dance Magazine, and Lizzo’s dancers are on the cover of Dance Spirit. Pointe Magazine was founded by a black woman, Virginia Johnson, the artistic director and a founding member of Dance Theater of Harlem.
As a dance teacher and artist, you’re a therapist, a friend, and a father-figure to a lot of kids.
At the all-girls charter school in an impoverished area of southeast Washington, DC, where I previously taught dance, how many fathers do you think those girls saw? We had 720 girls in that school. They looked at me like a positive male role model in their life. I have to motivate them. I now have current and former students on television, Broadway, and magazine covers.
Whatever you do, you better love it. It better motivate you, or else do something else.
Is your heart in it? Do you love what you do? Are you healthy, mentally and physically? If you don’t put your all in it, then you don’t get anything out of it. You gotta love it.
I met this charming woman about 20 years ago at a fitness expo in Italy, where I was living, at the time, for three years.
She was with her boyfriend, and I was with my then-wife. I was performing on stage, and, afterwards, she asked me to teach a couple of classes at her studio - she's a dancer, too. I said, "of course." We built a friendship from there; and, on Friday nights, we’d meet at the club and dance for hours and then go our separate ways. We did this for about a year or two because I needed to work on movement. Since then, we stayed in contact, and we've been the best of friends, after all these years. But it wasn't until I was touring Italy for Christmas in 2017 and 2018, playing in hotels in Venice near where she lived at the time, that we reconnected in-person. Last year, she relocated from Italy to New York, and we’ve been communicating all day, every day, and trying to see each other as much as possible. She’s a sweetheart. She’s the apple of my eye.
Interested in trying out a free online dance and fitness class with Vincent? Check him out on Facebook Live every day at 10:10AM EST.
Photo Courtesy of Vincent W.