Best known as Cha-Cha in the movie Grease, Annette Cardona (as I knew her; Annette Charles was her credit in Grease) died this week. I was lucky enough to know her as my dance teacher. Not just my favorite dance teacher of all time, but also one of my favorite people.
Annette carried herself just the way you'd imagine. She was regal, she was a lady, and she had a warm heart. She pushed, but in the best way possible. The best dancing I ever did was thanks to what she taught me.
To be clear, I was never a dancer. I loved to dance, but I was most definitely a singer/actor who danced. Or moved well.
Thanks to Annette, I was actually a dance captain in my first Equity show, and the female lead dancer.
She was firm, but she never yelled. She would get quiet so we would have to listen with intensity. She taught us how dancing with emotion actually improved the technique. I remember the warm-ups in particular. We would plie and breathe, and if we weren't breathing with every fiber of our being, we would do it over and over until the class was breathing in unison.
She taught us how to express who we are through movement. She didn't care who had the best extension, she wanted us to reach our own best.
Every so often, in lieu of choreographing a routine, she had us improv based on the music. Our dance was to match how the music made us feel. And one class in particular - ironically, one of my last classes with her - I was a dancer. A real dancer.
I loved watching her. I loved watching her on film, I loved when she laughed, I loved the way she carried herself. She had that 40s film star way about her. She was a true lady. Whenever I think of Annette, I automatically straighten my back.
We crossed paths at various times starting with my sophomore year in high school. We'd just connected again, thanks to FB. Even though it's been years since I stepped foot in her class, I remember it with more clarity than I remember last week. She's the type of person that's engraved in your soul.
I'm so grateful that she was a part of my life. And I love that, thanks to film, she was a part of all of our lives.
Thank you, Annette.