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Arthur Murray

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Arthur Murray, photo from the New York Public Library

About

A native New Yorker, Arthur Murray (1895-1991) combined a talent for dance instruction with keen business acumen. He invented the concept of home dance instruction by mail. Murray studied with and was a teacher for Irene and Vernon Castle and earned a degree in business administration at Georgia Tech University. Murray's innovative ideas and savvy advertising techniques built an international empire through mail order, lessons at studios, and a television series, The Arthur Murray Party, which ran for seven years in the 1950s. With his wife and partner Kathryn Kohnfelder, he built the major studio on East 43 Street in New York into a six-floor dance learning emporium with 150 teachers. Murray created the second American franchise business, encompassing between 350 and 500 licensed studios in the United States and Europe, while also sending instructors to hotels and resorts. As a dance promoter par excellence, he helped to build dance participation at the grass-roots level.

Pictured left: Arthur Murray with an unidentified partner. Libby Smigel writes of Murray's ballroom dance technique, which emphasized ballet positions and stepping out onto the ball of the foot, "The business-minded Murray recognized the appeal of a high-art form, the classical ballet, to those who were affluent or who harbored social aspirations." (Photograph from the Dance Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.)


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Read essay by Libby Smigel -- Selected resources


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An episode of that popular 1950's TV series "The Arthur Murray Party". This show aired on ABC for the first few months of its broadcast as Arthur Murray Party Time. Throughout his career, Murray seized on new technologies to disseminate his teaching.