UNSUNG GENIUS: The Passion of Dancer-Choreographer Jack Cole by Glenn Loney

UNSUNG GENIUS: The Passion of Dancer-Choreographer Jack Cole

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With the help of lively interview-quotes from Broadway/Hollywood colleagues, Dance Magazine writer Loney details, with some anecdotal flavor, the influential, oddly frustrated career of choreographer Jack Cole--whose combination of ethnic dance with jazz formed a basis for the Broadway styles of Bob Fosse and others. After an unhappy New Jersey childhood, Cole studied and danced with Denishawn and Doris Humphrey; but, stymied in modern dance by ""his ego, his temper, his eccentricities, and his apparent lack of discipline,"" he opted for a commercial career, starting with the world of supper-club choreography. His daring successes there, using Asian and Afro-Cuban movements along with showbiz styles, led to a long, semi-satisfying Hollywood career--coaching Rita Hayworth, Jane Russell, and Marilyn Monroe as well as fashioning big musical numbers. Meanwhile, Cole worked on Broadway too, most controversially in Magadelena (1948); there's extensive discussion here (from Agnes de Mille, from composers Wright-and-Forrest) on the failure of that ambitious, expressionistic musical. But, while continuing to study and teach seriously through the decades, Cole ""had definite misgivings about mounting serious ballets, possibly because he feared he lacked"" sufficient classical training. And his difficult personality--sarcastic, demanding, with an infamous temper--led to problematic working relationships, especially during his illness-plagued later years. (Quarrels still rage over the extent of his contributions to Man of La Mancha.) Loney sometimes tends to exaggerate Cole's achievements; there's little serious dance-history, no attempt to relate Cole's personality or homosexuality to the nature of his often-erotic choreography. But, with candid comments from Gwen Verdon, Alfred Drake, Jane Russell, and others, this is a solid documentation of an important show-business/dance career.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Watts