Seeking Jack Cole at the Rainbow Room

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It was a lovely holiday event, a swellegant affair. First Republic Bank of New York, generous supporters of myriad arts organizations, threw a reception at the Rainbow Room high atop Rockefeller Center.

Rocking the Room were the Fat Afro Latin Jazz Cats, whose youthful big-band sound boomed beneath the clatter of cocktailers while the crazy Manhattan skyline twinkled beyond the expansive windows.

For a dance historian, attendance brought an ulterior motive. Amidst the fun and chatter, the ghostly memory of a great dancer-choreographer…

At this historic art-deco night club Jack Cole and his Dancers, in as many as 20 return bookings starting in 1934 and running through the 1940s, lay down the choreographer’s inimitable brand of Hindu jazz — the progenitor of today’s theatrical jazz dance.

Cole would come tearing down a set of stairs and slide, on his knees, across the highly polished dance floor right up to the tables peppered around the room. He’d slide nearly into the laps of the society dames who frequented the club garbed in their formal wear. It was a good night out.

michelle-5Memories of Cole remain. But in a really fun update, another guest of First Republic was tap-dance ‘it’ girl Michelle Dorrance — seen in photo at left as well as above with company executive director Donald Borror, and scholars Meryl Rosofsky and Debra Levine, both Fellows at The Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU.

Dorrance Dance, her kicking tap troupe which enjoys the support of First Republic, has itself performed at the Rainbow Room.

When informed of her dance predecessor’s Rainbow Room roots, Dorrance proclaimed of Cole, “He was bad-assed.”

You got that right, Michelle Dorrance.

Happy Holidays to all!

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