Ilegal Cha-cha Lessons Land Texas Man in Jail

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Judge sentences dance teacher to 30 days in jail after he violates court order against teaching cha-cha within 25 miles of his former employer Arthur Murray dance studios.

Dallas News reports

Instead of dancing with the stars, Eric Rush is dancing behind bars.

Teaching the cha-cha sent him to the slammer.

Last week, a Collin County district judge ordered Mr. Rush to serve 30 days in the county jail for contempt of court after violating an order prohibiting him from teaching dance lessons within 25 miles of a Plano dance studio.

The jail sentence is the latest step in a 10-month legal tango featuring a studio that says it's protecting its business and a former instructor who says he can't imagine life away from the dance floor.

Mr. Rush's former bosses at Arthur Murray Dance Studios said the dancer violated terms of a non-compete employment agreement. By teaching near the studio, they said, Mr. Rush could undermine their "competitive advantage."

Mr. Rush acknowledged he tap-danced around the law and violated the court order, but he said the 25-mile order is too restrictive.

"I love to dance; it's my soul," the 37-year-old said from jail this week. "It's been one of the callings of my life. I still want to teach. I want to eat. This is what I've been doing for years. I just want to make a living."

Attorney Anne Terwilliger said that her client, the dance studio, tried hard to avoid going to court but that Mr. Rush wasn't willing to comply with the non-compete clause.

"Mr. Rush certainly reaped the benefits of having extensive training by world-renowned experts," Ms. Terwilliger said. "He violated the agreement and did not fulfill his end of the bargain. ...

"All the company has tried to do in this situation is simply protect its rights and to enforce legal obligations."

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Court documents show that Mr. Rush, whose dancing name is Eric Romero, worked at Arthur Murray in Plano until December. He said he was fired, but Ms. Terwilliger said he made his own decision to resign.

Weeks after Mr. Rush left, the studio went to court, saying that Mr. Rush had violated the employment agreement by creating a Web site advertising his work, posting Craigslist notices offering his services and contacting Arthur Murray students.

The studio's co-owners, Claudia and Zack Knoche, could not be reached for comment Friday.

District court Judge John Roach Jr. ordered Mr. Rush to discontinue any Web sites, quit soliciting Arthur Murray customers and refrain from working with area dance studios until the end of 2009.

But Mr. Rush tripped up in September.

In a court affidavit, a customer says Mr. Rush taught her the cha-cha and other moves at Tango & Cha Cha's dance studio in Dallas - in defiance of the court order.

The customer says Mr. Rush talked with her about posture, eye contact and "connecting with other people on the dance floor." They danced to "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," the affidavit states.

Mr. Rush said he kept teaching because he has a passion for dancing.

"It's part of who I am," he said. "If it means confronting me and imposing fear in me, bring it on. I'm in jail now. What more can you do?"

Doug Magary, Mr. Rush's lawyer, said the Knoches are treating Mr. Rush as if he's stolen Coca-Cola's secret formula.

"They're killing a fly with a bazooka," Mr. Magary said. "They've gone to such extreme lengths ... to put one person who's a lowly dance instructor out of work."

Ms. Terwilliger said the dance studio pursued the matter in court because of Mr. Rush's "continued violations, his refusal to comply with the terms of the agreement he had entered into and the court's orders."

'Rhythm of life'

Mr. Rush is as graceful off the floor as he is on it, waxing philosophical about his craft. Dancing is spiritual, and dancers create magic, he said.

"It's about two people, kind of meeting in a common place and finding the same rhythm of life," he said. "It means healing. It means grace, serenity, elegance, sex appeal. It means ambition and drive and achievement and confidence."

Mr. Rush acknowledged he could teach in cities such as Arlington and Fort Worth and still obey the court order. But the Plano resident said that's too far away, considering the cost of gas and the shaky economy.

Mr. Rush shrugged off the idea of not cutting a rug. After he gets out of jail, he hopes to keep dancing and teaching.

For now, though, his dance uniform is a bright red jail jumpsuit.

Even a jail sentence hasn't stopped Mr. Rush from groovin'. He taught another inmate the bachata, a Latin-inspired club dance move.

Thanks to Jonathan turley

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This page contains a single entry by Phil Leggiere published on October 20, 2008 5:20 PM.

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