Texas man tap dances his way into jail

October 18, 2008 2:43:31 PM PDT
A dance instructor's insistence on teaching the cha cha has landed him in the Collin County Jail after a Texas judge found him in contempt of court. Eric Rush, 37, is serving a 30-day sentence that began last week after violating a court order prohibiting him from teaching dance lessons within 25 miles of a studio from which he said he was fired. Rush's former bosses at the Plano dance studio said the instructor violated his noncompete employment agreement.

Rush acknowledged in a jailhouse interview that he advertised his services and provided forbidden dance lessons to students in the area.

But in his defense, Rush said, he couldn't help himself. "I love to dance," Rush told The Dallas Morning News. "It's my soul."

Doug Magary, Rush's lawyer, said the owners of the Arthur Murray Dance Studios in Plano are treating their former instructor as if he were revealing nuclear secrets instead of the box step.

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

But an attorney for the dance studio said Rush has repeatedly violated his noncompete agreement by teaching lessons and advertising his services on the Internet. Attorney Anne Terwilliger said the studio owners were forced to pursue the case in court because of Rush's "continued violations, his refusal to comply with the terms of the agreement he had entered into and the court's orders."

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

Rush, who dances under the name Eric Romero, worked at the dance studio until December, according to court documents. He said he was fired, but Terwilliger said he resigned.

A few weeks after Rush left, the studio took him to court, saying he violated the employment agreement by advertising on the Internet and contacting the studio's students. A district court judge ordered Rush to take down the advertising, cease poaching students and refrain from working with other area dance studios until 2009.

Rush apparently complied, until a misstep in September. According to a court affidavit, a customer said Rush discussed posture and eye contact while teaching her the cha cha at a Dallas dance studio. They danced to "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."

Rush said he continued teaching dance because "it's part of who I am."

"If it means confronting me and imposing fear in me, bring it on," Rush said. "I'm in jail now. What more can you do?"

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