Alton, Robert [Robert Alton Hart]
- Claude Conyers
[Robert Alton Hart]
(b Bennington, VT, Jan 28, 1897; d Los Angeles, June 12, 1957). American choreographer and musical theater director. He fell in love with show business at an early age. When his hopes of becoming a circus contortionist were dashed by his parents, he began seriously studying dance and eventually made his professional début with Mikhail Mordkin’s ballet company. He spent the early 1920s dancing in Broadway musicals and on the vaudeville stage in a duo act with his wife. When she left to have a baby, he began staging dance numbers for a St. Louis movie theater and teaching dance in a local school.
Alton’s early success as a dance director led to a choreographic career that encompassed most of the major Broadway hits of the 1930s and 1940s. He learned stagecraft from working with innovative director John Murray Anderson and developed his instinctive musicality through collaborating with composers such as Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers. He revolutionized Broadway show dancing by replacing the precision routines of the chorus line with dances for soloists and small groups, always elegantly staged and with unusual attention to stylistic details. Among the many shows for which he staged dances are ...