#ExtensionRockStars: Dancing Through Life

Posted August 2, 2016


hen the Ailey Extension says ‘Real Classes For Real People,’ they mean it,” exclaimed Joe Laino, 49, who is a partner in life and dance with George Junco, 55. “There are people from all walks of life, all body types, ages, and all levels of experience. It is an amazing and judgment-free space.”

The couple has been taking class at the Ailey Extens­ion since July 2014. They have demanding careers in psychotherapy and found dancing to be the perfect means to self-care. “Dancing nourishes both our minds and bodies,” Joe explained. “Emotionally, it provides a vehicle for self-expression and, physically, it strengthens us and helps to reduce feelings of stress and tension.”

They found their way to the Extension by happenstance. Joe’s endocrinologist had been nagging him to start exercising, and while Joe was diabetic and knew that he should, he was a hesitant patient. While attending a performance at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, the couple noticed an advertisement for a Zumba class at the Extension. Both of them had taken dance classes when they were younger… but that was over 25 years ago.

Joe considered trying Zumba but was uncertain. “I wasn’t sure if I could do it at this stage of my life with all the weight I had gained over the years,” he shared. However, George thought dancing at Ailey was completely out of the question. “That’s for professional dancers. We’ll look ridiculous,” George challenged. Joe defended his interest: “But the flyer says, ‘Real Classes For Real People,’ that’s us.” So Joe took his first Zumba class alone, but George was by his side the following week. Now they take up to six classes a week.

The Extension has been life-changing for them over the past two years. Their dancing lifestyle has helped them strengthen their self-confidence, expand their friendship network, and improve their health. Joe has lost over 40 pounds (and regulated his glucose levels) and George has lost over 100 pounds. George says,

“Dance has always been a passion for me and I lost touch with it. Ailey Extension has given it back to me. What a wonderful gift.”

Joe and George love dance so much that it’s difficult for them to choose favorite techniques or instructors. However, they are fans of Jose Ozuna (who teaches Danzatone and Zumba), hip-hop instructors Robin Dunn and Tweetboogie, and Kim Holmes from House dance class.  Joe explained these instructors “bring their staggering talents, incredible energy, and patience to each and every class. I’m not sure if they even know how much wisdom, history, and culture they impart in each class. They truly bring Mr. Ailey’s mission alive – bringing dance back to the people.”

The couple has encouraging words for anyone who wants to take class but is too nervous to try, especially men: “We were afraid once, too! Challenge yourself. Don’t let fear stop you. Once we walked in the door, we never left.”


Interviews conducted and article written by PennyMaria Jackson.


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