By Cholly Atkins, Jacqui Malone
Cholly Atkins's occupation has spanned a unprecedented period of yank dance. He started acting in the course of Prohibition and persisted his apprenticeship in vaudeville, in nightclubs, and within the military in the course of international struggle II. along with his accomplice, Honi Coles, Cholly toured the rustic, acting with such jazz masters as Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, and count number Basie. As faucet reached a nadir within the fifties, Cholly created the hot specialization of "vocal choreography," instructing rhythm-and-blues singers tips on how to practice their song through including rhythmical dance steps drawn from twentieth-century American dance, from the Charleston to rhythm faucet. For the burgeoning Motown list label, Cholly taught such artists because the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the enticements, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Marvin Gaye to command the degree in ways in which could increase their performances and "sell" their songs. category Act tells of Cholly's boyhood and coming of age, his access into the dance global of latest York urban, his appearing triumphs and private tragedies, and the profession alterations that gained him gold files and a Tony for choreographing Black and Blue on Broadway. Chronicling the increase, close to loss of life, and rediscovery of faucet dancing, the publication is either an attractive biography and a wealthy cultural background.
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Extra info for Class act: the jazz life of choreographer Cholly Atkins
There used to be this Italian guy who sold hot dogs in the back of the theater; the best hot dogs in the world. And he was there summer and winter. ” Then he would buy him out completely and tell him to give them to the guys in the neighborhood. That’s how he was, just a real good person. Through the years we became real close friends. Back in ’33, he had just come to Buffalo from Pittsburgh. Red and I put together a little soft-shoe thing to do with him because he always wanted to dance, you know.
I held the junior high hundred-yarddash record for two years. 4 or something like that, but pretty good. I really didn’t like football so much, but basketball, track, and baseball, I loved. I usually pitched or played ﬁrst base, but Mr. Russo made everybody learn all the positions. He was a Russian immigrant who taught physical education and coached most of the teams. I remember he had an accent . . a very nice man, very wonderful. Everybody loved him because he was just great with kids. He would put on musicals in the auditorium once or twice a year.
All that Uncle Tom stuff. Mr. Russo put together a little elementary soft-shoe for three of us guys. He also knew about the cakewalk, struts, acrobatics, and a little bit about tap. Nothing complicated. We did a soft-shoe with taps on . . just TIK-A-TA, TAK-A-TEE, TIK-A-TAK-A-KOO, PAH—anybody could do it, you know! At the time, I thought he was a good tap dancer, but when I think back on it there was no ﬂow. The sound would be there, but you had to look real hard for the feeling. That was the ﬁrst time I was introduced to any type of choreography.