Fourth Grade was the year Mario and I caught the Boogie Fever.
We had been having a wonderful time learning and playing together as the years flew by. This dance routine marked really big changes for all of us. Mario’s career was just about to take off. Elvia Lopez had found an agent for Mario and roles were starting to come in. Hispanic television viewers were hungry for representation on TV and Mario was perfect to fill that need. His multitalented skills were already sharp and entertaining. In this photo Mario was almost ready to fly off to stardom.
We had the privilege of including DiDi McGlinchey, another excellent child dancer in our routine that year. One challenge of this dance was doing “The Bump”. We had to jump and spin and then do the bump without looking down to make hip contact. Mario had not one but two dancers to make sure he stayed in synchronization with.
In this photo Mario and I had just bumped hips and he is about to shift his body position to bump with DiDi. Note the Jazz Hands in this number. Believe it or not, it isn’t so easy to make sure your fingers are full of jazz while you are trying to do the bump bump bump!
After our dance was over the audience energy went wild and it was clear that we gave them all a case of The Boogie Fever with our infectious smiles and smooth dance moves!
When we were nine years old Mario and I had already put a good four years of dancing under our belts. Our best dance that year was to a song from the movie Urban Cowboy called Hello Texas. Once again Mario took on the dancing persona of John Travolta as we learned how to two step and line dance together for this challenging dance routine.
Mario really started to develop that spark in his personality that so many people respond to today. In this dance photo I can see the emergence of Mario’s own Blue Steel look. Zoolander’s got nothing on my boy Mario!
This winning look captures the sense of confidence and pride that Mario’s family were helping to cultivate in him. I am lucky to have been the recipient of this determined smile many times as we faced each other on stage. When Mario flashed me that look, I always felt there was no way we wouldn’t win the prize or steal the show!
With this photo I am proud to introduce you to the birth of Mario’s “Blue Steel”. What a wonderful surprise it was when I stumbled upon this YouTube clip of Mario Lopez as he begins his Mambo Routine on Dancing With The Stars. As he takes the Dancing With The Stars stage its plain to see that the look on Mario’s face in this precious photo hasn’t really changed since those early days. It’s hard to believe it was taken nearly 30 years ago!
When i was just five years old I was on stage, dressed up and dancing for a crowd. Other dance kids talked about the butterflies we would get in our stomachs before going onstage, but I could have sworn they felt more like those bats that always chased after The Count on Sesame street. I could feel five or seven of those bats flipping and flopping inside my stomach under my shiny, yellow sequined duck costume with the little yellow feathers that would flutter off as we were escorted in a little row to the side of the stage. Standing there in line with all the stage moms, teachers and dancers swirling around each other in a rush of colors and sound it was easy to get swept up in the chaos. The pressure to make everything picture perfect was so strong I could feel the tension and excitement building as it came time to shine. Stagefright was simply not an option.
There by my side keeping everything cool was little Mario Lopez. He may have just been five years old but he was at the center of the dance line, a shiny, black sequined little boy duck among all the sparkling yellow girl ducks. Up to the last moment when we put on our little dance shoes and Donald Duck hats we were just little kindergarten kids standing in a line. Once we waddled and quacked our way across that stage and shook our tail feathers we were all transformed into glamorous Disco Ducks. I stuck to Mario like glue and just followed his lead. I was able to remember more steps by following Mario closely. We stuck together on stage and the other kids always looked down the line towards us to make sure that they were dancing just right.
Maybe that’s why I was picked out of the class to learn semi solo dance routines together with Mario. We knew how to take cues from each other. We looked pretty cute dancing together too! One thing was for certain, when we got on the stage together the crowds all cried out with laughter and cheers.
That rewarding applause after all our hard work in learning the routine helped to transform our stage fright into stage fuel. In the seconds before we would take the stage, Mario’s eyes would always sparkle with a look of confident determination. The looks and expressions we exchanged when we danced on stage got nearly as much approval from the audience and judges as did our dancing. We certainly worked on our smiles as much as our steps!
This sparkling sequine world of dancing was just a small part of Mario’s young life. His parents, Elvia and Mario Lopez Sr brilliantly incorporated the lessons we learned from dancing into the multifaceted foundation they were giving Mario to build his life on.
As we began practicing for our first semi solo routine I didn’t realize how much of our lives would start to go together. I am so lucky to have had Elvia as my stage mother. She worked hard to include our family in the lives of hers. She also showed me her pride and dignity in being a young, Hispanic American individual. This pride is something the Lopez children have modeled so admirably into adulthood.
I will be writing my stories about our performances, dance routines and a little about how our families worked together to make Mario and me a winning dance duo. I got to play alongside Mario at our homes and with our friends and family. We even had our first date together when we were ten years old! Of course Mario’s mom Elvia prepared us, guiding us step by step. Our moms always went the extra mile to make sure we knew how we were supposed to behave.
I would love for my memories to give some insight into how Mario became the man he is today. Perhaps the hard work Mario’s mom and dad dedicated to him made the difference a kid needs to beat those odds that child stars face against reaching a healthy and successful adult life. I am proud of the boundless energy for achievement and community outreach that Mario exhibits. I see a reflection of Elvia and Mario Sr. in Mario that simply cannot be denied.
With that in mind I hope you love reading about my memories as much as I loved making them!