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Dudley Flores—who you may remember as Racked SF's Hottest Trainer of 2013—thought he was finally wrapping up a grueling dance rehearsal when about 50 friends walked in the studio. Then his boyfriend, Tony Barbuto walked in, and the music started. Little did Dudley know that for two months, Tony had been secretly rehearsing with four professional dancers for a performance that would culminate with him down on one knee and presenting Dudley with a ring.
Tony, a Utah native, hairstylist at Vierra and Friends in Cole valley and former yoga instructor, is now engaged to marry Dudley, an SF native, professional dancer with Garrett+Moulton Productions and the Printz Dance Project, and a Rhythm & Motion instructor at ODC and the the company's artistic director and master trainer. The happy couple lives in the Portola neighborhood. We're so thrilled for them, congratulations, guys! And read on to hear all about how the proposal came together.
Tony, how long have you known you wanted to propose to Dudley?
"I don't know that there would be a specific date. I think on some level I had made the choice when Dudley was having medical issues a year and a half ago. Many people mentioned to me afterward that they were surprised that even though we hadn't been together for that long I stayed around through all that. I honestly didn't even think about it, being there for him was the only option for me. In retrospect, I knew I wanted to get married to Dudley, but I wasn't thinking about it in such a formal way at the time. I started thinking about plans or potential plans in September or so of last year."
How long did you rehearse?
"We started the first rehearsal on the 28th of February. We rehearsed one to two times a week for one to two hours between February 28 and April 24. As a funny side note, our rehearsals were directly after Garrett+Moulton company rehearsals so everyone would go straight from rehearsing with Dudley to rehearsing with me. To keep everything a surprise we rehearsed in the ODC Theater building across the street from the ODC Dance Commons. We had to be very sneaky getting in and out of there. When we were leaving we would all leave one at a time so that if Dudley happened to walk by he wouldn't wonder why the company was all together in the theater."
Who are the other wonderful dancers, and how did you recruit them?
"Janice (Garrett) asked Tegan, Nol, Tanya, and Carolina to participate in the dancing. They are all professional dancers and friends of ours, they dance with Dudley for Garrett+Moulton Productions."
How did you come up with the choreography?
"Janice Garrett came up with the choreography in collaboration with the other dancers."
Is the song meaningful to your relationship with Dudley?
"It is now, but wasn't at the time. I searched around on iTunes. I wanted a song where all, and not just some, of the lyrics were feelings of mine. I also wanted a song that people might not know so that it wouldn't already have a feeling attached to it."
Were you nervous?
"TOTES!! I am not a professional dancer and performing in front of all those people, a lot of whom are or were professional dancers, was nerve-wracking."
On a scale of 1 to 10, how sure were you he would say yes?
"If 10 is absolutely sure then I would say 10. We had already talked about getting married so I knew he would say yes."
Dudley, did you have any idea Tony was planning to propose?
"Not really. We had both talked about proposing to each other a number of times—I said I had a great plan…he said he had one too. In February, while on vacation in Hawaii, I had a suspicion that he was going to propose to me, but my suspicion was wrong. Then, in April, my work load had picked up quite a bit and with my mind distracted with some big upcoming work events, I didn't see the proposal coming."
Were you suspicious of all the time he was spending rehearsing?
"I actually had no idea he was rehearsing. On the days he rehearsed he usually did yoga. So, I thought he was at yoga."
What did you think was going on when all those people filed into the room?
"I was told that someone was coming into the studio to film our rehearsal for the company's website and social media. So, I didn't suspect anything when the camera showed up. Just prior to all the people walking in, the choreographer had made a number of changes to a duet that we were working on. In my head, I'm thinking, 'Assimilate all of the changes we just made, don't make any mistakes because it's being filmed.' When everyone walked in, I was thinking so hard about the choreography that I couldn't wrap my brain around why people were walking in. At first I thought that rehearsal was open for observation—it's not an unusual thing for dance companies. Then, I realized that I knew everyone who walked in—fellow dancers, friends, students, co-workers. But the moment I saw Tony's brother (followed by his uncle, aunt and his mom) I knew this was 'the moment.'
Did you suspect that at the end of the dance Tony would present you
with a ring?
"Totally! I didn't know how, but I knew that one was coming."
On a scale of 1 to 10, how surprised were you?
"With 10 being 100% surprised, I would say a 10. I had no idea it was coming and even though we had talked about marriage and proposing, I had no idea in what way, shape, or form it would take place. Seeing him dance like that for the first time, and for him to propose to me in a language that I use in my daily life meant so much to me. For me, dance is a means for telling stories and conveying messages and emotions—sometimes movement can convey thoughts more than words ever can. Tony's proposal did exactly that.
A few questions for both of you: How did you meet?
"The first time we met was at ODC. At the time, Tony was dating someone else who dances with Dudley in another company. He went to watch rehearsal and that's when we officially met. We were friends for 3 years and during that time we were seeing other people. When we were both single and available, we started hanging out a lot. We clicked as good friends and we very quickly clicked romantically."
How long have you been together?
"Two and a half years."
Have you made any plans yet for the wedding? Can you share any details?
"We have only had preliminary discussions. We know we want a non-traditional event in the San Francisco are and we have a loving community, friends and family that we'd love to be a part of the celebration. As far as details, we don't have a date set, but we know that there will be a lot of dancing and we know that we don't want to wear tuxedos."
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