Veloz and Yolanda

Frank Veloz and Yolanda Casazza appeared on the cover of the 1939 Time magazine as the Greatest Dancing Couple. Both were Christian Scientists at a time when Christian Science was at its height. Yolanda had a natural, humble quietness when she was off-stage. She normally preferred plain day clothes because she said that pretty clothes were for performance. On stage, Yolanda wore delicate and exquisite dresses which were designed by Frank. She carried a knitted bag with her wherever she went. It contained the Bible and Science and Health. In this way, her faith was always close at hand. Yolanda’s strong faith helped her with the normal demands of life and the heavy demands of being constantly in the limelight. The daily reminder of simple, powerful spiritual principles was a protection from the common pitfalls of fame such as, addiction, depression, mental instability, and an ego gone crazy.

Frank and Yolanda’s four children were called the million dollar babies. That was how much money each baby cost their parents in lost revenue when Yolanda was pregnant and then attending to a newborn. It was a lot of money in the 1940’s. However, money is no protection from the difficulties of life and sadness was no stranger to the Veloz family. Two of the children died in tragic circumstances in their twenties. Also, after several decades of an outstanding partnership, Frank and Yolanda’s schools started closing and their marriage ended. Frank married another dancer, twenty years younger than himself. An entity in her own right, she is still young and dancing today at the age of ninety. In spite of the tides of life, things of beauty and substance remain. Death cannot take away the reality of another’s ongoing existence. Divorce cannot annihilate all that is truly good in the forging of a human bond.

When Yolanda and Frank danced, they would prepare themselves for the show by cultivating a genuine sense of love and connection with their audience. “Frank would walk up and down smoking a cigarette while Yolanda would do a couple of bends to each side. But the real warm-up was psychological. About five minutes before the performance, the area would be cleared so they could concentrate. She would think about dancing with each man, he would think about dancing with each woman in the audience and they revved themselves up with love. When they went on stage this love permeated them and the audience,” say Elizabeth Talbot-Martin and William Teaford.

Yolanda was very instinctive as a dancer. Her son, Guy Veloz, says, “Indeed, my mother did most resoundingly not claim the slightest authorship of what she more or less automatically did. She merely gave herself unto an enigmatic power that was infinitely greater in all matters than any individual ego could hope to master, simply letting IT instead master her.” Frank and Yolanda often fought when practising. Nevertheless, when they were performing, all that melted into nothingness. “It was,” says Guy, “total co-operation; not competition. Technique was forgotten under a spell of dreamtime.” Frank told his son that in spite of the frustrations of practice, he always remained in awe of the spontaneous way in which Yolanda danced which complimented his more linear way of thinking. Frank and Yolanda were self-taught dancers as neither of them were able to afford dance lessons when they were younger.

As their show visited different venues, Frank and Yolanda would sometimes have to deal with inadequate orchestras. Yolanda had made an agreement with Frank that they were to see their orchestras as wonderful. Choosing to see only the perfect nature of things, she would smile at them with appreciation. Suddenly, the less-than-fabulous orchestras would have a tendency to become their much better and more fabulous selves. Frank, for his part, saw the audience as one single, breathing entity which it was his mission to unite. He would ask the audience if they wished to help out in his and Yolanda’s next routine. The orchestra would stop. The audience would then sing, hum, or whistle the melody of songs known to just about everyone at the time. The lights would be turned down low and Frank and Yolanda would float majestically to the human-voice orchestra, while the hugely enthusiastic audience would be overcome with a feeling of inclusive love.

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6 Replies to “Veloz and Yolanda”

  1. Dear Donna,

    You are simply TOO sweet and wonderful to post such kindly stuff. At the risk of sounding like a…well like a, well you know, I simply, humbly add, parenthetically, that a far more colorful and comprehensive and hopefully more entertaining, I think…documentary — this one 22 minutes long or something likes that — is to be found at http://www.davidbazemore.com/Pages2013/Tango.html UNLESS I have clumsily gone awry again, because it shows all the glamourous period gowns getting made so lovingly, and all the ballet dancers learning how to cake walk, lindy hop, TANGO, rhumba, waltz…AND last but not least to pirouette and defy gravity with all those wonderful things such skilled dancers are able to do after so many, many years of incredibly demanding discipline, and all of them to a man or women so very humble and delightful for me to have had the privilege of actually working with, as I am certain you shall see. Thanks again, my dear.

    Love,

    Guy

  2. Donna, how I love your unpretentious, truthful, simple, clear, yet very deep writing style – it is a perfect reflection of you and the values you stand for. And it shows not only in writing, but consistently in all other aspects of your life. I feel privileged to know you and, as Susan said, to be eaves dropping on your conversations 🙂 .
    Love, C.
    P.S.: Lovely letter from Guy!

  3. I’m not sure whose email I enjoyed more–Guy’s or Donna’s. It was a delight to be invited to eaves drop on your dialogue. Please advise Guy of your book: “The Love of Being Loving.” He will surely appreciate it and “dance” to its spiritual ideas.

  4. Dear Donna,

    I am Guy Veloz, youngest child of Frank and Yolanda Veloz, AKA Veloz and Yolanda. Please receive my heartfelt gratitude for your precious, loving words concerning my world famous yet — you were spot on — humble parents. I was stunned when I read your allusion to my mom, actually Iolanda Casazza by birth in Little Italy on the old west side of Manhattan, a tad south of Hell’s Kitchen way back in the the first decade of the 20th Century.

    How eerily sorcerous it seemed to me to to read your magnificently penetrating and accurate portrayal of my mom. How do KNOW such subtle nuances? Half a world away, generations removed from the hay day of, yes, at one time world famous dancers, yet, I dare say, scarcely one in a thousand Americans of the, shall we say, less than erudite”now” generation know the first thing. Here, memory extends to what you ate for lunch. Oh, and Here, meaning dear old Hollywood, nostalgia, alas, is essentially what you ate for breakfast.

    I haven’t a clue what you know about Mary Baker Eddy, whose so warm ambiance I was reared upon from the cradle to a private Christian Scientist school in Beverley Hills, 12 straight wonderful years, that is, from junior nursery to the ninth grade, which in America is the last semester before one enters what we call “High School” That school was called Berkeley Hall and teemed with the offspring of celebrity and wealth. Or, dare we way, the offspring of perdition. Throw a random stick around here and you’ll be sure hit six ego-bloated, soul impoverished celebrities. I grew up here in the immensely over rated midst of stage and screen legends and, of course, their children, a huge per cent of which dabbled gratuitously in show business themselves as they “matured.” Hollywood and Beverly Hills are perhaps, I somehow assume you already know, the saddest, most drug-addicted, most dysfunctional, most me-first, most morbidly competitive, most LONLY venues on God’s green earth. A prodigious bubble of the air, all shockingly glamorous, blindingly gaudy and noisy and garish on the surface, yet dreadfully empty within. I myself? Well, I dare say, I’ve managed, sort of or to some shaky degree, perhaps, hopefully… to have somewhat escaped the blinding glare of all of the above….but frankly, my dear, not entirely, but almost…almost… by the skin of my teeth fled from the trumped up, circumambient, voluptuous and diabolical “glamory” which I’m sure you know is an ancient Celtic word for, shall we say, fairy gold or, if you prefer, fools’ gold. You, my dear, most assuredly know your stuff.

    Sincerely,

    Guy Veloz

    Dear Guy,
    I am so thrilled to receive this letter from you. Last year, I was looking on the internet for a ballroom dancing picture and I came across the famous photo of your mother and father on the cover of the 1939 Time magazine. I had never seen it before, nor heard of Veloz and Yolanda, but loved it and them. In particular, I was instantly drawn to the beautiful, sweet face of your mother. In fact, I was so fascinated with the photo that I had it as my author facebook cover photo for quite some time. I think that some of my international supporters thought that it was me which, I have to confess, I did nothing to dissuade. 🙂
    About being “eerily sorcerous” – human nature, being what it is, is very readable and predictable regardless of country and regardless of era.
    I was so pleased to hear that your years at Berkeley Hall were a wonderful experience for you. Earlier on, Christian Science was a different organization than it is today. In the beginning decades, it was the height of cutting-edge spirituality. It attracted the brave, successful, intelligent, and accomplished.
    I wish you the very best of everything good and please stay in touch. Donna
    P.S. I didn’t know “glamory” was an ancient Celtic word meaning fairy gold. How appropriate. Perhaps, we could have a little more beauty and class and a little less glamory. I am sure you endeavour to do that in the midst of a sparkly Hollywood.

I would love your thoughts.