|SouthernStar amateur dancers with coach Alan Tuggey, Atlanta Open 1994|
Alan Tuggey: A Dancer and a Gentleman
We are saddened by the loss of Alan Tuggey, but blessed to have known him as a dear friend, a truly gentle man, and a devoted dance coach. When Richard and I first met Alan in 1990, he immediately came to our rescue. We were practicing and he was teaching a group class at the USF Dance Department, and when we stupidly locked ourselves out of the studio where we were rehearsing, he took the time to help us get back in using his key.
We were so taken with his kindly demeanor, courteous attitude, and charming British manners – not to mention his expertise in International Standard – that we asked him to coach us. He became not only our coach, but a close friend who encouraged us and gave us moral support. He prepared us for our first International Standard competition at Ohio Star Ball, which was quite a challenge because his studio had a small floor, making the floor at Ohio seem like a football field by comparison!
When we were asked to be the only amateur couple performing with the U.S. Professional American Style Tour and Team Match in Russia in 1992, Alan rose to the occasion to help us improve our theatrical dance to “Rhapsody in Blue.” What he lacked in specific adagio training he made up for in knowledge of dance fundamentals and in overall enthusiasm.
One day we were trying to do an overhead bird, and Alan advised me to run at Richard with great speed to gain momentum. In the heat of the moment, I unfortunately forgot that all lifts must go up, translating horizontal momentum into vertical thrust, and I plowed into Richard and Alan (who was standing behind him to spot) with all the power and grace of a football tackle, knocking both men to the ground! Thankfully, no one was hurt, and we all shared a good laugh over that mishap for many weeks to come!
Despite the many long hours Alan spent coaching us the last 2 weeks before we left for Russia, he refused to accept payment for those hours, saying with a gracious smile that he was doing his part to improve international relations!
On the day that we closed on the purchase of the building at 12101 N. 56th Street in Temple Terrace, FL, that would become Rhapsody Ballroom, Alan agreed to teach us there even though the long, tedious process of renovations had not yet begun. So Richard tore out a 6-foot square of worn-out carpet, and Alan coached us on Latin Rumba on the bare cement, much to the detriment of everyone’s shoes and feet! And we all worked up a sweat since the air conditioning wasn’t working and it was a hot summer day in Florida!
Once the Rhapsody Ballroom was up and running, it seemed to attract many dedicated and enthusiastic amateur competitors, due in large part to Alan’s coaching and encouragement of dancers at all levels. He would often travel at his own expense to competitions that his students had entered so that he could cheer us on and give us a blow-by-blow description of our strengths and weaknesses in the heat of battle.
Although he taught less in later years due to failing health, he staunchly supported amateur competitions, not only with his attendance, but by donating scholarship money and by judging and scrutineering in the days when all the tabulation was done by hand. I used to feel so sorry for Alan stuck at the scrutineer’s table all day, poring over the judges’ sheets without even being able to look up at the dancing he loved so much!
Alan was a true gentleman, friend, and encourager who always had a kind word and often a helpful bit of advice for amateur dancers, whether or not they were his students. He touched the lives of many dancers who are better for having known him, and he will be sorely missed.
Photo, left to right: Mike Johnston, Peg Johnston, Greg Burns, Sarah Coates, Alan Tuggey, Laurie Collett, Richard Collett