Paul Pellicoro (born 1956) is a professional ballroom dancer, instructor, and choreographer. He has owned and operated New York City's largest ballroom dance studio, Paul Pellicoro's DanceSport, since 1985, which is currently located in its home next to the Empire State Building in Manhattan, in New York City. Renowned for his work in films, Pellicoro has extensive film experience both as a performer and as a choreographer.
Pellicoro first came to national attention as the dance choreographer for the film "Scent of a Woman" (1992), for which he trained Academy Award winner Al Pacino for the notable (and arguably, most memorable) scene of the film, wherein Pacino dances the Argentine Tango with actress Gabrielle Anwar.
Pellicoro both manages DanceSport and instructs there full-time, teaching Salsa/Mambo, the Hustle, and Argentine Tango. Formerly a ten-dance competitor, Paul also teaches International Latin American and Standard, along with all of the American Style dances. He is one of the few living experts in both "authentic style" dancing as well as the competitive styles. Among his notable students is Marilyn Cole.
In 1995, he co-founded the Partner Dance Educational Fund, a not-for-profit organization with a stated mission to bring partner dancing to a wider public. Currently, the Fund sponsors free dance workshops in New York City public schools and private spaces.
"... Seeking enlightenment, I telephoned Paul Pellicoro, the 42-year-old owner of the dance studio Dancesport, who taught Al Pacino to tango for the movie ''Scent of a Woman.'' The unfortunate thing about dance schools is that people end up thinking about their feet, Mr. Pellicoro said. You have to take your brains out of your legs, he told me, and let them respond.
To get my brains out of my legs, I made an appointment with Mr. Pellicoro. (He had also assured me I could not write about learning to tango without taking a lesson from him.) I delivered myself to Dancesport at the appointed hour. Ride the elevator to the third floor, a receptionist told me, and look for the only good-looking man.
The doors glided open into a mirrored studio with a honey-colored floor. Off in the distance was the good-looking man. He was plastered up against the body of a statuesque amazon in a silk chiffon, leopard-print dress slit up the side, its neckline and spaghetti straps only partially containing a most voluminous chest.
Jacked up on high heels, she had her head thrown back, long, straight hair streaming down her back. Her eyes were shut tight in apparent ecstasy. Mr. Pellicoro, dark haired and lithe, was maneuvering her effortlessly around the floor, their legs entangling and disentangling, to the mournful strains of tango music, which has been called the Latin blues.
His student was, she would tell me later, Marilyn Cole Lownes. Now 48, she introduced herself as ''the only British Playmate of the Year.'' She had seen Mr. Pellicoro perform the tango at a Manhattan restaurant, Il Campanello, and had become his disciple. ''It gets into your blood,'' she said. ''It gets into your bones.''
Then I was up.
We began by walking, of course. Then, almost imperceptibly, we were dancing. Or, he was dancing and I was along for the ride, being guided lightly around the floor, given small physical clues to change direction, speed up, slow down, pause. Mr. Pellicoro likes to describe the tango as ''elegant, organized stumbling to music.''
Lean into me, he said. Press with your -- he paused -- your sternum. I found myself tilted slightly forward, sternum pressing, weight on the balls of my feet. Bring your ear toward me, as if I'm going to tell you something, he said. My cheek was on his shoulder, then on his chest. Don't think about your feet, he reminded me. As though I was thinking about my feet.
''The best dancers really very rarely learn it through schools,'' said Mr. Pellicoro, who said his mother, a lindy hop dancer from Levittown, L.I., was forever scooping him up and dancing with him as a child. ''They learn an outline, but the best dancers are sometimes the worst students. They don't listen to the teacher. They let things happen intuitively and naturally.''
''You can write volumes on what happens in the body before the foot even takes a step,'' he had told me. ''Experience is something that can't be replaced. I can go and say to you everything about this step. But until you feel it -- 'Oh, that's what I have to feel!' It's like describing what an orange tastes like. You've got to eat an orange.''
That was some kind of orange."
Flirting With the Tango By JANNY SCOTTJUNE 11, 1999