Class Act: The Jazz Life of Choreographer Cholly Atkins

Class Act: The Jazz Life of Choreographer Cholly Atkins

Class Act: The Jazz Life of Choreographer Cholly Atkins

Class Act: The Jazz Life of Choreographer Cholly Atkins

Excerpt

He can dance as well as those kids on Soul Train. … I mean he was showing us how to moonwalk before Michael Jackson was doing it. And when you can be that age and outdance anybody … you're going to be around. —RICHARD STREET

This is a book about one of America's most influential twentieth-century dance masters, Cholly Atkins. The broad spectrum of American dance figures includes very few artists who have had a comparable impact on the evolution of indigenous American dance forms and their dissemination to a worldwide audience.

From the 1920s through most of the 1940s, American tap dance in the jazz/rhythm tradition experienced its heyday. Suddenly in the late forties, the bottom dropped out for many rhythm tap dancers who had established successful careers in vaudeville, in musicals, and with big bands. By the sixties, even Marshall Stearns, the great champion and chronicler of American vernacular dance, wondered in what form classic jazz dance would survive.

Although we know now that black vernacular dance evolves in a cyclical pattern, no one could have predicted in the sixties that dance movements from the twenties, thirties, and forties would live on through the nineties and beyond in many of the performance traditions that span African American culture. The lively existence of such black dancing vocal groups as the Temptations, the O'Jays, and Gladys Knight and the Pips has helped preserve and recycle much of the vocabulary of classic jazz dance, including some tap, and the man largely responsible for this particular cultural transference is Cholly Atkins. He is America's quintessential jazz dance artist.

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