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Jack Cole

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Jack Cole, Florence Lessing and cast; courtesy of NYPL


"Father of Jazz Dance" Jack Cole (1911-1974) began his career with Denishawn, appearing for the first time in August 1930 at the Lewisohn Stadium. His early training was Cecchetti and he left Denishawn to study with Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, performing with them on Broadway in School for Husbands (1933). Cole's mastery of India's bharata natyam influenced his personal jazz style, which emphasized isolations, placements, quick directional changes, and long knee slides. Among his Broadway works were Magdalena (1948), Kismet (1953), Jamaica (1957), and both Donnybrook and Kean in 1961. He established an important dance workshop at Columbia Pictures in Hollywood to train dancers, while choreographing movies, television, and casino shows. At Twentieth Century Fox he coached such stars as Ann Miller and Marilyn Monroe. Cole's films include Eadie Was a Lady (1945), Down to Earth (1947), On the Riviera (1951), and Some Like It Hot (1959). Revered by dancers, the Cole legacy has been continued by protégés Gwen Verdon, Matt Mattox, Marc Platt, Carol Haney, and Rod Alexander.



Pictured above: Jack Cole's involvement with the musical Moon over Miami drew on his background in ethnic dance, which he often blended with modern and popular dance. (Photograph from the Dance Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.)



Essay by Debra Levine -- Selected resources





Jack Cole's performance as a flamboyant choreographer in the movie Designing Woman (1957) exemplifies his signature explosive style of jazz dance and the forceful image he projected as a dance-maker.