Class Act

Class Act : The Jazz Life of Choreographer Cholly Atkins

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4 (6 ratings by Goodreads)

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Cholly Atkins's career has spanned an extraordinary era of American dance. He began performing during Prohibition and continued his apprenticeship in vaudeville, in nightclubs, and in the army during World War II. With his partner, Honi Coles, Cholly toured the country, performing with such jazz masters as Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, and Count Basie. As tap reached a nadir in the fifties, Cholly created the new specialization of "vocal choreography," teaching rhythm-and-blues singers how to perform their music by adding rhythmical dance steps drawn from twentieth-century American dance, from the Charleston to rhythm tap. For the burgeoning Motown record label, Cholly taught such artists as the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Temptations, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Marvin Gaye to command the stage in ways that would enhance their performances and "sell" their songs. Class Act tells of Cholly's boyhood and coming of age, his entry into the dance world of New York City, his performing triumphs and personal tragedies, and the career transformations that won him gold records and a Tony for choreographing Black and Blue on Broadway.
Chronicling the rise, near demise, and rediscovery of tap dancing, the book is both an engaging biography and a rich cultural history.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 280 pages
  • 165 x 241 x 17.27mm | 444.52g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 52 illus.
  • 0231123655
  • 9780231123655
  • 2,383,312

Table of contents

Preface and Acknowledgments Introduction 1. Going North 2. The Rhythm Pals 3. Cholly and Dotty 4. Struttin' for Uncle Sam 5. Coles and Atkins 6. The End of Our Road 7. Rhythm Tap and More 8. In Walked Maye 9. Hitsville, U.S.A. 10. Back to Freelancing 11. The Way I Do the Things I Do 12. Black and Blue Epilogue Glossary Selected Bibliography Index
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Review quote

Cholly is one of the true icons of American culture-an original hoofer. He took social and street dances of the time and combined them with style and class, introducing a new dance genre, vocal choreography. Weaving rhythm and groove seamlessly, he created dance with flair while allowing several generations of young people to stand on his shoulders. Pops put a little dip in their hip and a little slide in their glide. He is a serious legend and one of the finest human beings I've even known. The legacy of Cholly Atkins is one that will be with us forever. We are blessed to have been touched by his magic. -- Quincy Jones He's the wellspring from whence we flow... [He] understands the way that the human body moves, he understands the grace of dance. -- Melvin Franklin, original member of the Temptations His choreography is so unique, it's just like a Rolls Royce among a whole lot of Yugos. He's classic, man. -- Otis Williams, member of the Temptations Cholly Atkins was our everything... He taught us how to walk onstage, how to walk offstage, how to move. -- Gladys Knight As Class Act makes clear, professional tappers formed an elite brotherhood, a society of proud, resolute strivers with no shortage of dignity, talent or wisdom. We should be grateful to Cholly Atkins for generously sharing his with us. International Herald Tribune To have Atkins' memories preserved is to have an immense contribution to nearly a century of American popular song and dance acknowledged, and in his own lifetime. Motown may have been just a stopover in this storied life, but we, and the company, were lucky to have him. -- Terry Lawson Detroit Free Press A personal encounter with an exceptional man whose winning personality shines through on every page...provides solid information about the history of American jazz dance. -- Carol J. Binkowski Library Journal (starred review) Without having first read Class Act... you may be half-informed at best about the evolution over the past century of black dance rhythms and the importance of vernacular choreography. Class Act chronicles Atkins' amazing career, from his entry into New York City's dance world to his performing triumphs and personal tragedies to the career transformations that won him gold records and a Tony award. Anyone interested in tap dancing and/or the history of rock and roll will enjoy this book. Dance International
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About Cholly Atkins

Cholly Atkins has been a jazz dance artist, choreographer, and director of stage acts for decades. He has been honored by the Smithsonian Institution, the National Endowment for the Arts, and many dance organizations. Jacqui Malone, who began interviewing Cholly Atkins in 1988, was awarded a Ford Foundation Grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship to write this book. Author of Steppin'on the Blues: The Visible Rhythms of African American Dance, she is a professor of drama, theater, and dance at Queens College.
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6 ratings
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