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Howard Rye

(Oliver )

(b New York, NY, Feb 14, 1946; d Los Angeles, CA, Aug 9, 2003). American tap dancer and actor. He began dance lessons with Henry Le Tang in 1949, before he was three. When he was five he began performing with his older brother Maurice in a dance act first called The Hines Kids and later The Hines Brothers. Their father, drummer Maurice Hines Sr., joined the act, thereafter known as Hines, Hines and Dad, in 1964. In 1973 Gregory left the act and moved to Venice, California, where he formed a rock band called Severance. He returned to New York in 1978, resuming his stage career as a dancer in The Last Minstrel Show and later appearing in Eubie (1978–9), which reunited him with Maurice, Comin’ Uptown (1979-80), and Sophisticated Ladies (1981–2), while simultaneously developing an acting career on stage and screen. He appeared again with Maurice in the ...

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Elizabeth Aldrich

(b Hoosick Falls, NY, Sept 25, 1905; d Arlington, VA, June 9, 1977). American dancer, choreographer, and teacher. After ballet studies in New York City, Hoctor made her Broadway debut in the chorus of Jerome Kern’s musical Sally in 1920. In 1922 she joined the Keith-Orpheum Circuit as a solo ballet dancer. The next year she appeared in Vivian and Rosetta Duncan’s (known as the Duncan Sisters) Topsy and Eva, a musical comedy adaptation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The show toured the United States and opened on Broadway in 1924. In 1927 Hoctor starred in the Broadway revue A La Carte, and critics noted that she was the only member of the cast who “is certain to be pleasantly remembered.” Having caught the eye of producer Florenz Ziegfeld, she danced in his sumptuous Broadway production of The Three Musketeers, which opened in 1928, and in 1929 she appeared in ...

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Mitsutoshi Inaba

(b Hillsborough, NC, April 4, 1929). American Piedmont blues guitarist, singer, dancer, and storyteller. He grew up on a farm in rural Orange County, North Carolina. When he was 13 or 14 years old, he learned acoustic guitar by watching his uncle and cousin. He drew repertoire from the artists he heard on the radio, such as Blind Boy Fuller, Brownie McGhee, and Lightnin’ Hopkins. He played at social gatherings in the community and added buck- and tap-dancing, which he also learned from his uncle and cousin. In 1954 he moved to Durham where he started to play electric guitar and incorporated more modern blues, including songs by Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed. Teaming up with pianist Quentin “Fris” Holloway (1918–2008), Holeman performed in and around Durham. In 1976 folklorist Glenn Hinson invited Holeman to a local festival that attracted 5000 audience members. Since then he has been playing professionally. During the 1980s, he toured in and outside the United States with Holloway. While his precise finger picking––as heard in “Step It Up and Go” (...

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[Edvard, Eduard ]

(b Copenhagen, Denmark, 1843; d New York, NY, Feb 4, 1899). Composer, dancer, and playwright of Danish birth. He immigrated to the United States in about 1874 and was active in New York in both music and theater. He provided the music for several musical comedies, including A Circus in Town...

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Barbara Palfy

(b Oak Park, IL, Oct 17, 1895; d New York, Dec 29, 1958). American dancer, choreographer, teacher, and pioneer in modern dance. Descendents of Pilgrim stock in New England, her well-educated parents moved to the Midwest for better income, first to Chicago and then the suburb of Oak Park. Trained first by the highly regarded dance educator of the time, Mary Wood Hinman, and various itinerant ballet instructors, Humphrey showed early talent and, finishing high school, launched into a cross-country performing tour; there being little other work in dance for a proper young woman, she taught dance classes at home for children and adults, and for actors at a summer theater camp in New England, where she first encountered the music of Edward MacDowell. World War I preserved this status quo until she was finally able to break away in 1920 to join the Denishawn school and company in California, where she was not only a principal dancer but also choreographed many solos and small group works....

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Claude Conyers

(b Philadelphia, PA, May 10, 1943). American modern dancer, choreographer, and company director. She studied with Marion Cuyjet and at the Philadelphia Dance Academy. There, Agnes de Mille saw her in a class and invited her to dance in her ballet The Four Marys (1965) for American Ballet Theater. Jamison moved to New York City, continued her training with several prominent ballet and modern dance teachers, and soon joined the Alvin Ailey company, where she remained as a principal dancer until 1980. Of her many roles, the most remarkable was Cry (1972; music by Alice Coltrane, Laura Nyro, and The Voices of East Harlem), a fifteen-minute solo that was Ailey’s tribute to “black women everywhere, especially our mothers.” After leaving the Ailey company, Jamison starred in Donald McKayle’s Sophisticated Ladies (1981) on Broadway, formed her own company, and began to choreograph. Upon Ailey’s death in ...

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Barry Kernfeld

[Edgar ]

(b Pittsburgh, Aug 3, 1918; d Detroit, May 9, 1979). American singer, lyricist, and dancer. For many years he worked principally as a tap-dancer while also learning to play tuba, guitar, and drums. In the 1940s, with his dancing partner Irv Taylor, he created what came to be called (misleadingly) jazz vocalese (see Vocalese) by setting lyrics to improvisations on Panassié Stomp and Taxi War Dance by Lester Young with Count Basie’s orchestra and Body and Soul by Coleman Hawkins; a decade later this type of piece became an important element in the success of Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. From 1952, following King Pleasure’s popular recording of Jefferson’s Moody’s Mood for Love (based on a saxophone solo by James Moody), Jefferson was able to record his own gritty-voiced vocalese; among the four titles from his first session were a different Body and Soul (based on an uncelebrated recording of the piece by Moody) and ...

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[Anver, Abdullah Jaffa Anver Bey]

(b Seattle, WA, Dec 24, 1930; d New York, March 25, 1988). American dancer, choreographer, teacher, and ballet company director. After early studies in ballet, he presented his first choreography in his native Seattle in 1948. He continued training in New York at the School of American Ballet, and studied modern dance with May O’Donnell and Gertrude Shurr. He performed with Roland Petit’s Ballets de Paris and O’Donnell’s modern dance company. In 1953 he established the American Ballet Center, which became the official school of his company. His first dance group, Robert Joffrey Ballet Concert, was founded in 1954; two years later he began a new company, the Robert Joffrey Ballet. With Gerald Arpino as chief choreographer, Joffrey molded the company (subsequently known as City Center Joffrey Ballet and, beginning in 1977, simply as the Joffrey Ballet) into a purveyor of dynamic, youth-oriented ballets with wide appeal. Astarte...

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Howard Rye

(fl Los Angeles, mid-1930s–1954). American drummer, singer, and dancer. He began his musical career in Dallas in the early 1930s in the Sharps and Flats, a band led by his elder brother Bert Johnson, a trombonist. While he was primarily a dancing frontman with this group, he was also featured on tom-toms. Both brothers moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1930s, where Cee Pee joined the band of the alto saxophonist Emerson Scott at the Onyx Club, Hollywood. He took over leadership of the group during a residency at the Paradise Club, and during a succession of engagements at such venues as the Del Mar Club (1940), the Rhumboogie, Sugar Hill (1942), and Billy Berg’s Swing Club he led one of the most prominent West Coast big bands of the era; among his sidemen were Teddy Buckner, Karl George, Buddy Banks (i), Marshal Royal, Jack McVea, Johnny Miller, and Buddy Collette. Alton Redd was the band’s second drummer, filling in when Johnson was featured on tom-toms or engaged in showmanship. The band made many visits to the film studios, some of which probably remain to be identified. Johnson continued to lead bands until at least ...

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John Cowley, Jeffrey Green and Howard Rye

[Hymans-Johnson [Hijmans-Johnson], Kendrick Reginald ]

(b Georgetown, British Guiana [now Guyana], Sept 10, 1914; d London, March 8, 1941). British Guiana bandleader and dancer. The birthdate of 22 June 1917 given in the first edition of this dictionary derives from an error in the registers of his British school. He had little musical training, but was featured in a comb-and-paper band at Queens College, Georgetown. From 1929 he attended school in England. His interest in dancing developed from his contact with the African-American choreographer Clarence “Buddy” Bradley, and he began working as a dancer and choreographer in 1933; he assisted Bradley with film choreography, and he may be seen dancing in the film Oh Daddy (1934). A tour of the Caribbean in 1935 was interrupted by work in American film studios in April and May, and Johnson allegedly danced for Fletcher Henderson and made two film shorts. He returned to England in ...

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Claude Conyers

[William Tass Jones ]

(b Bunnell, FL, Feb 15, 1952). American dancer, choreographer, designer, author, and company director. He did not begin his dance training until his freshman year in college, at the State University of New York at Binghamton. There he met Arnie Zane (1948–88), who became his companion and collaborator for seventeen years. After creating their first dance together, Pas de Deux for Two (1973; music by Benny Goodman), they founded American Dance Asylum in 1974, for which they created both individual and collaborative choreographies. Prior to founding the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1982, Jones choreographed and performed nationally and internationally as a soloist and as a duo with Zane. In addition to making more than fifty works for his own company, he has created dances for numerous American and European ballet, modern dance, and opera companies. Many of his works are set to music by American composers or to audio collages of music and spoken text. Characteristic of his early work with Zane are ...

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John Macinnis

[Kaminski, David Daniel ]

(b Brooklyn, NY, Jan 18, 1913; d Los Angeles, CA, March 3, 1987). American Singer, dancer, and actor. Kaminski began his career as an entertainer by traveling widely and working nonmusical day jobs. He was first billed as Danny Kaye in 1933 while working with the dancing act of David Harvey and Kathleen Young. Kaye specialized in singing with non-English accents punctuated with spurts of double-talk, tongue twisters, face contortions, and dancing. He met his wife, pianist and songwriter Sylvia Fine, while working variety shows in New York, and, with her assistance, developed some of his most famous numbers, including “Stanislavsky,” “Anatole of Paris,” and “Melody in Four F.” In 1939 Kaye appeared in Broadway in his Straw Hat Revue and again in 1941 in Cole Porter’s Let’s Face It.

Kaye’s film career began in 1944 with the RKO film Up in Arms. Other musical comedy films in which he starred included ...

Article

Gordon Haramaki

[Ethel Hilda ]

(b Halifax, NS, Aug 25, 1910; d Rancho Mirage, CA, Feb 28, 1993). Canadian dancer, singer, and actress. Born in Canada, she moved in 1912 with her family to New York, where she studied tap. She made her Broadway debut in 1923 and continued to work in musical theater before marrying Broadway star Al Jolson in 1928. In 1933 Daryl Zanuck cast her in 42nd Street, the first of a successful series of “backstage” musicals that Keeler made with choreographer busby Berkeley for Warner Bros.—Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), Footlight Parade (1933), and Dames (1934)—and for which she is best known. While Keeler herself remarked that she had limited talent, she possessed a charm and wide-eyed sincerity that, along with her energetic dancing, appealed to Depression-era audiences. After Keeler and Jolson divorced, she remarried in 1941 and retired from performing. Thirty years later Keeler returned to the Broadway stage for the successful revival of the musical ...

Article

Todd Decker

[Curran, Eugene]

(b Pittsburgh, PA, Aug 23, 1912; d Beverly Hills, CA, Feb 2, 1996). American dancer, actor, choreographer, and film director. Kelly started out in Pittsburgh, running a family-owned dance studio and performing regionally. Turning down an opportunity to join the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo touring company, he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1933 and briefly attended law school before going to New York in 1937. On Broadway, Kelly quickly went from chorus boy (Leave It to Me, 1938) to leading man (Pal Joey, 1940) and soon departed for Hollywood, making his film debut opposite Judy Garland in For Me and My Gal (1942). Under contract with MGM, Kelly first made his mark in a loan out to Columbia (Cover Girl, 1944); the innovative “Alter Ego” solo in the film initiated Kelly’s interest in both directing and integrating musical numbers into the plot. He is among very few studio-era stars to cross over into directing. Most of his director credits were shared with Stanley Donen, including ...

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Claude Conyers

[William Kersands ]

(b Baton Rouge, 1842?; d Artesia, NM, Jun 30, 1915). American comedian, singer, and dancer. He began performing with the minstrel troupes managed by Charles Hicks in the early 1860s, soon winning a reputation as a comic song-and-dance man. After a European tour in 1870, he played with most of the major black minstrel troupes in America, and in 1885 he formed his own company, which became well known for its marching band. He was the most popular and the best paid African American comedian of his day, renowned for his comic routines involving his large mouth, which he could contort in odd ways or stretch to accommodate a variety of unlikely objects. He was also proficient at dancing, singing, acrobatics, and drumming. As a dancer, his specialty was the Virginia essence, a flat-footed, smoothly gliding dance style that accommodated his comic antics. Among his signature songs, “Old Aunt Jemima” (...

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Claude Conyers

[Greenwald, Milton ]

(b New York, Aug 12, 1915; d Los Angeles, Dec 23, 2007). American dancer and choreographer for stage and film. After winning a scholarship to the School of American Ballet in 1937, he decided to pursue a career in dance. He danced on Broadway and with several ballet companies before joining Ballet Theatre in 1942. During his five years as a soloist with that company, he choreographed his only ballet, On Stage, to music by Norman Dello Joio, in 1945. This led to a commission to create dances for the Broadway musical Finian’s Rainbow (1947; music by Burton Lane), for which he won the first of five Tony awards for his choreography. He won the award again for Guys and Dolls (1950; music by Frank Loesser), Can-Can (1953; music by Cole Porter), Li’l Abner (1956; music by Gene de Paul), and Destry Rides Again...

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Reg Hall

[Bill, Merry ]

(b Headington Quarry, Oxon, 1872; d after 1949). English traditional concertina player and morris dancer. Kimber’s grandfather and father were both central figures in the Headington Quarry Morris team that has danced annually at Whitsuntide since at least the mid-18th century. Kimber, who accompanied the Headington Quarry Morris team from 1888, learnt his concertina technique from his father.

It could be argued that the folkdance movement was founded on Boxing Day 1899, when Cecil Sharp saw the Headington Quarry Morris team perform. Sharp noted morris tunes from Kimber the next day and, when Mary Neil invited Kimber to London to teach the girls at the Esperance Guild, Sharp became reacquainted with him. Kimber subsequently became integral to Sharp’s didactic folkdance programme: Sharp lectured and played the piano; Kimber danced and played the concertina. They taught regularly at Chelsea Polytechnic and the Royal Academy of Music, and played several times at the Queen’s Hall and the Steinway Hall. After Sharp’s death, Kimber continued the same working relationship with Douglas Kennedy, Sharp’s successor in the English Folk Dance Society (...

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Jonas Westover

[Keith, Mae Eartha ]

(b North, SC, Jan 17, 1927; Weston, CT, Dec 25, 2008). American singer, actress, and dancer. Kitt came from a poor family, but managed to make her way into show business. Her first break came in 1943 when she was hired by the Katherine Dunham Company as a dancer, and she remained with that organization until 1948. Given the opportunity to perform throughout Europe, Kitt learned French and incorporated it into her vocal performances at cabarets. Kitt began to record in the early 1950s, and her distinctive voice—somewhat deep, purposefully raspy, and openly seductive—made her an African American sex symbol. Her early hits include a cover of “Let’s Do It” by Cole Porter, “C’est si bon,” “Love for Sale,” “Je cherche un homme,” and “Mink, Schmink.” Kitt’s breakout Broadway appearance came when she appeared in the revue, New Faces of 1952, singing “Monotonous,” which she revived for a ...

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Maureen Needham Costonis

(b 1655; d 1738). French dancer. She was called ‘la première des premières danseuses’ because she was the highest-ranked of the first ballerinas permitted to appear in public at the Paris Opéra. She danced the leading role in Lully’s Le triomphe de l’Amour at the Opéra (1681...