Veloz and Yolanda: Legendary Latin Ballroom Dancers

Veloz and Yolanda were a husband wife ballroom dance team who specialized in Latin numbers. Frank Veloz was born today in 1906; Yolanda Casazza, March 21, 1908.  The sleek and chic couple started out in the mid 1920s playing in vaudeville, nightclubs and Broadway shows like Hot-cha! (1932). And from 1934 through 1946 their skills are showcased in several Hollywood films, such as Under the Pampas Moon (1935) and Rose of Washington Square (1939).

The couple divorced in the early 1960s. Veloz married his second dance partner, Jean Phelps. 

Some of Veloz and Yolanda’s kids followed them into show business. Daughter Yolanda Veloz was a television and stage actress in the 1970s, and became the wife of Bernie Kopell. TV Guide profiled her:

Veloz passed away in 1981; Yolanda in 1995. Their son Guy Veloz created this ballet about his famous parents.

Here they are prevailed upon to do the “Cobra Tango” in Under the Pampas Moon (1935)

To find out more about  the history of vaudeville including dance teams like Veloz and Yolandaconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,

25 comments

  1. Even as a small child, my father infected me with an undying frenzy and determination AND A WILDLY MAGESTIC DREAM. He DID compile many, many fond memories, some of them really quite remarkable, of his career together with my mom, and he did call this purported autobiography — I say purported because he foolishly left out all the blood-and-gutts sex, the lurid gangster world that spawned and sustained him, etc. — he did call this lamentably doomed, candy coated thing that a world of publishers hammered and trashed and rejected so VICIOUSLY — I STILL have the horrid rejection slips, which must have crushed him abominably — anyhow he called it, and I adored this name AND the concept behind it, “No Applause, Please” and only I have access to the single LAST copy on planet earth of this manuscript, which I have hidden away like the Queen’s Jewels. What’s the “no applause” deal? Well this overwhelmingly haunting concept is of his decades long quest for something he called the No Applause Waltz, something he first dreamed of whilst madly delirious after having been shot viciously in his left leg over a bookie’s debt dispute on the mean streets of the Old West Side of Manhattan, and it was a very close thing that his leg was spared, penicillin yet in the future.

    See, he beheld in these mad visions “Dancing Angels” and never STOPPED seeing them till the day he died. Only i see them now, hoping the world will also see them some magnificent day, perhaps long after I too perish in mad pursuit of my ole man’s fabulous “vision”. Dancing angels, you see, and kindly forgive my less than candy coated wording, “Angels, man, angels. Don’t yah seem ’em, pop? Pop, you sonofabitch, where in the hell ARE you anyway? You and that rotten, stinking slut down in Venezuela!!!! Angels, man! So fucking good they’re paralyzed — so fucking good THEY CAN’T APPLAUD!” He was a dancing fool, alright, my father was, a hopeless dancing fool, and he would answer, Yes I am. “AND THE CLASSIEST WHO EVER LIVED” Yes, we SEE fantastically, we the future audience shall SEE, I madly predict, the night at the Hollywiood Bowl, June 1948, when a stunned, record breaking audience held their breath so very, very long after the final bars of the so-called “No Applause Waltz”, just a cello and harp, and you could hear a deer stirring up in this hills behind the amphitheater for the shockingly prolonged hush. And this just a few days after my mom, carrying me, tried to jump from the top floor of the Saint Francis Hotel in San Francisco, caught miraculously by my fathers panther like instincts and sheer animal power, CAUGHT GOING DOWN! Which was, in reality, the final end of veloz and yolanda save for their final commitment days later at the Hollywood Bowl. They danced this dance, as I see it, for I was a witness, after all, a witness of sorts. I saw or perhaps rather felt this magic as it happened. iN THE MIGHTY FILM TO BE SOME FOND DAY, we shall glimpse our protagonists, Veloz and Yolanda, dancing still in the minds of the paralyzed audience, long after the music fades insensibly into profound and black silence. Mute nothingess that goes on everlastingly. The no applause waltz REALIZED. Over the endless silent blackness that follows. RUN CREDITS! And thus, the mightiest finale in all of movie history, I dare say. Seeing this ONCE shall never do, all you business minded filmmakers, just as with TITANIC , in a sort of way, viewers shall be compelled to return again and again and again to witness this sui generis magic. Know what I’m sayin? Just sayin’.

    Let me back fill just a bit. Frank’s ole man, one awful soul of a man, abandoned him to a life of poverty on the old west side, deserting his whole brood for a so-called second family down in south america. The sonofabitch was rich, he had gained the title of “Baron” via marrying my poor, dear Dutch “baroness” grandmother, whom together attended Kaiser wilhelm 2’s immense wedding many years before. He was rich, I say again, he could speak 12 languages. He was brilliant. He got to rub shoulders with Queen Victoria and all the now fallen eagles of her age. But he was also just, at bottom, a no good damned sonofabitch and all my family everywhere shall always hate him for his dreadful abandonment. But he was also a sort of dreadful yet critical influence upon the soul of my dear father.

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    • Thank you so much for sending this INCREDIBLE reminiscence! And the well balanced portrait. The fan world has an unhealthy tendency to hagiography. The truth is always more interesting and valuable, I think. You’re so generous to share this — its also a great piece of writing. Passion will do that.

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  2. Yes, also keep me advised of a show in NYC. I write for the United States Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. I would definitely write about your parents and your show in our magazine. The sooner you can let me know the better to get the word out.

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    • Hi Guy, Still hoping your ballet about your parents will come to NYC. I will visiting near your area in Ca. Would it be possible to visit briefly with you? I would like to write and article for the Imperial Society of Dancing’s Top Line Magazine. Much has been written about your parents dancing and accomplishments, but not much about their studios and teaching methods. And of course, anything you would people to know about your parents that you would want them to know. Since the Imperial Society is a premier dance organization around the world, I would like to introduce them to a new generation of dancers ( many from Eastern European countries) that may never heard of your parents. Its important that those who came before us and laid the foundations of what we do today, doesn’t get lost in time.

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  3. Thank you so much, Travsd. I might have been tempted to pursue what you suggest, but, alas, my father’s English language memoirs have suffered, imo, from his stubborn reluctance to generously include a lot of very colorful details, IMHO, such as extra marital intrigues with female celebrities and, most especially, his unavoidable connections to notorious gangsters of the era, including Dutch Schultz and Waxie Gordon, plus his proclivities to pursue many deleterious “hobbies” to excess, such as drinking, gambling, owning of race horses, and just living the fast life in an immensely fast and colorful era, the era of the BIG dance teams which extended from the days of the Castles, pre WW1 to the advent of the Korean War.

    As you probably know, Veloz and Yolanda were on the cover of LIFE magazine in October of 1939 with subtitles “Greatest Dancing Couple” but they were hardly without many fierce and mighty competitors most of whose names have now fallen into a sad oblivion, but which my father, to his credit, covers in his memoirs with loving detail, possibly the only record of its kind extant of a huge missing or lost chunk of American show biz history. So there ARE merits to his writings that very much deserve praise,

    I myself have tried to COMBINE all the colorful things both included and excluded from his own written memories, augmented from word of mouth details I’ve heard my whole life since early youth from BOTH my father and my mother, who were separated shortly after I was born, so that the juicy details do not always line up harmoniously, which makes the story even more intriguing IMHO. My version exists in the form of a play/ballet called “An American Tango” which has already had much success at three separate venues including the Broad Stage in Los Angeles and the majestic Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara last fall and was poised to appear for a three week tour on Times Square this coming winter, but which has been delayed for various reasons.

    I suppose I could try writing a “version” of his memoirs, but I am not at all certain there would be much of a market for the story of Veloz and Yolanda in such a format since their is precious little memory of even the most then famous of their intimate acquaintances such as Gypsy Rose Lee (Waxie Gordon’s girlfriend whose new set of “teeth” was a gift to her by the famous mobster/ Broadway impresario/bootlegger), Mayor Jimmy Walker, Walter Winchell , J. Edgar Hoover, Texas Guinan et al. from the wild old days of Jazz Age prohibition, etc. etc. etc.

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    • at any rate it all sounds wonderful! please alert me when the show comes to New York. It’ll be my pleasure to help spread the word

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      • THAT would be much appreciated! Thanks so much for your kind interest. And I will certainly take you upon your offer.

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  4. The name “Silent Applause” is, or would have been, a terrific title for the memoirs of my Father, Frank Veloz. But, alas, it was not the title, although uncannily close to the real title, and, moreover, these memoirs were never published. To my knowledge only one copy remains in existence to this day, my own copy, which I of course take very close care of.

    Another, less formal, journal without title and written completely in Spanish, was kept by my father as a young teenager, mostly waxing poetic about his love for the even younger Yolanda. This piece has never been seen by anyone aside from myself. I myself find it fascinating, especially the charmingly naive sounding unschooled Spanish in which it is written, betraying many charming lapses in proper Spanish grammar and vocabulary, due, I am quite certain, to the fact that his father, with whom he must have conversed in Spanish at a VERY early age, thereafter abandoned him, his mom, sister and older brother for a so-called “second family” down in South America, leaving many bitter memories, etc. and precious little money. None in Frank’s family remember the elder gentleman with anything akin to fond recollections.

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    • How wonderful to hear from you! He sounds like an absolutely magical performer — I wish I’d gotten to see him. Nowadays there are small publishers who may be interested in your dad’s memoirs. If you’d like me to get you some recommendations, please let me know. Thanks so much for checking in here. You made my morning

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      • Dear Travsd,

        More and more as i turn it over in my mind I am increasingly inclined to try and find a publisher for a book based primerily on my father’s main journal plus his mini journal in Spanglish which no one has EVER read except for me — he never studied Spanish proper, but rather learnt it haphazardly from his earliest years — plus all manner of perhaps bizarre and interesting intel about Veloz and Yolanda told directly to me as a child from my mother’s unique angle which often clashes with my father’s POV. For instance how V&Y were absolutely the ONLY great dance team of the era that actually rose off the very mean streets of Manhattan in the 1920’s, a sort of proto-West Side Story AND were bred up in an environment where countless teams would adopt phoney and sometimes risible Spanish sounding names (e.g. Francess and Donaldo) while Veloz and Yolanda was a unique team that needed no fakery or tomfoolery because they simply used their REAL names. Plus the darksome reality of a gangster ruled prohibition era that confronted every new performer with some very violent choices. I trust I am being obscure. Good. I want to stay obscure until the facts of dancers and bootleggers is made manifest by my own hand.

        Sincerely,

        Guy Veloz

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      • This sounds better and better and better all the time! First a book, then a movie or tv series. For a publisher I highly recommend Bear Manor media, the folks who published my second book “Chain of Fools”. They publish books like the one you describe all the time, and I know your birth connection to these great artists will seal the deal.

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    • Do you happen to keep any materials your parents used in the operation of their studios? Such as step lists,dance manuals etc. I collect ballroom dance material in an effort to document American dance development. The English have done an excellent job of documenting Ballroom dancing in Europe. But it is still unclear how and who contributed to the development of American Style Ballroom. Your parents clearly one of the best couples to inspire people to dance. My ballet teacher Ina Benson was a Rockette during the time your mother and father stared at Radio City.

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      • I think I’ve seen something like that during somer major upgrades I’ve been making to my home, having to move EVERYTHING from inside the house into sheds in my back yard — yes, I think I’ve seen something very much like that. But to FIND these again, Yikes! But I’ll try. Lord how Ill try.

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  5. system. I would like to find more about their system and schools.
    I think this information should be preserved as permanent record of American history of those that have given so much to American and world dance.

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    • I JUST uncovered a box within which such things appear to be lying up high inside the garage at my stepmom, Jean Veloz’s home five minutes from my own home, but meanwhile my sister, Yolanda Jr., just died suddenly last week, and I have been rather overwhelmed and unfocused because of this, but I pretty certainly have manuels or whatever they are in my car unless I unloaded them and moved them elsewhere subsequently, some of these manuels you evidently seek — I just haven’t looked into them — they are in evidently cherry condition, apparently never having been opened at all, even a single time NEVER ONCE, certainly not by me,from the look of them, but just from a superficial glance, you must understand, and then some other stuff came on and suddenly overwhelmed my time and i forgot all about the thingamajigs — so maybe they are still where I set the box in the back of my SUV. Non is sa mai.

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  6. I was told by Laure Haile before she passed that the Veloz’s had published a book called “Silent Applause”. But I have never been able to find a copy. Does anyone know of this book. Also, the Veloz’s developed in their school, the Ruby, Emerald, Diamond

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  7. I worked for Veloz & Yolanda Dance studio in Broadway LA & then they closed the studio – BUT I enjoyed the Dance Studio they had. I still have the all dance studio dance info covering all lessons used. I now am 90 years old. Ed Bartolini

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  8. My name is Guy Veloz. I am the youngest child of the dance team known as Veloz and Yolanda. My mother, Yolanda, never appeared by herself in any medium, though my father did in his own television show in the late forties and early fifties.

    In point of fact, no less a personage than Lewie B. Mayer attempted to gain the sole services of Yolanda and sign her to a five year contract with MGM, but all this achieved was the fury of my father, Frank, who knew only too well of Mayer’s amorous reputation. For this and other reasons the deal never came off. Paramount Studios offered a similar exclusive five year contract for my father’s services, which he for his part turned down.

    It is likely that my older sister, Yolanda Jr., is the Yolanda Veloz recorded as having appeared in the Anthony Newly film mentioned above.

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    • Nice to hear from you! And thanks for the correction. The erroneous data comes from IMDB, by the way — you should shoot a correction their way. I have not yet seen the notorious film, but it’s on my list!

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    • Hello Guy,
      When I was 15 your brother Tony and I were good friends and both had motorcycles for a short time. I remember the house on Alta Loma where your Mom, you, Nick, Tony and Yolanda lived. I always wondered what happened to you and your sister. I now live in Eureka Ca. Write me back and fill me in…So many years ago.
      Thanks,
      Andy Gordon

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