Janis Merluzzo has been into physical fitness for years, working out with weights, speed walking, and practicing yoga in addition to ballet lessons that she began at age five. As a physical education and health major at URI, Merluzzo studied ballet with Herci and Myles Marsden of the Rhode Island State Ballet.
Merluzzo continued ballet classes in New York City and in New Jersey where she taught health education and psychology at Bergen County’s Mahwah High School for 24 years and physical education in grades 3–5 for five years. She was also an adjunct professor in the Department of Health Professions at Montclair State University.
Her current dance athleticism builds on the strength and grace gained in those years of training. Today, she and her dance partner, Daniel Fugazzotto, are national champion ballroom dancers. They routinely practice two to three hours a day—upping that to four to six hours a day before a competition—and take lessons three times a week with their head coach plus occasional lessons with specialty dance coaches.
After early retirement and a move to Florida nine years ago, Merluzzo attended weekly open ballroom dances at a local studio; that’s where she met her dance partner. Fugazzotto and Merluzzo soon decided to share private lessons “to share expenses and have someone to practice with.” Their teacher felt the pair also shared ability, determination, and work ethic and encouraged them to start competing after just six months of lessons.
Now the pair hold several national titles in the DanceSport division of USADance and are members of Sarasota’s White Sands Chapter, where Merluzzo is events and publicity chair and incoming president. They compete in four Divisions: American Smooth, American Rhythm, International Standard, and International Latin in two senior age groups.
—Sally Adams ’66, M.A. ’68