Read the story on the Turner Classic Movies website.
While Jack Cole was, indeed, a talented man and a unique creative force, he was certainly not the be-all and end-all of theatrical dance. I am SO glad that Ms. Gennaro placed some of this misplaced idolatry of Jack Cole into its proper perspective. Ms. Gennaro summed up this Cole-fever in one word: “irresponsible”.
Jack Cole is the father of jazz dance just as Katherine Dunham is its mother! This does not ignore anyone and like all individuals exists thanks to its two parents, all the form and aesthetic of jazz dance is represented therefore in association with these two names. Jack Cole bought essential things to jazz dance just as Katherine Dunham did.
I’m glad Liza Gennaro wrote her say on Jack Cole and his Contributions. She is no small thiung herself in terms of jazz dance, and I think the daughter of Peter Gennaro. I always wanted to be a Peter Gennaro dancer on the Perry Como show, and sat glued to my parents’ television (black and white) in the 50s.
I did finally take one class with him before I moved to NYC in 1974. I couldn’t do the Peter Gennaro style, alas, very well, as an adult, but I did eventually become a jazz (tap) dancer myself, and a key architect in the tap dance revival (based on the kind of jazz dancing Ms Gennaro mentions in ” vaudeville and Revue performers,” very segregated at the time.
I remember Peter Generro’s amazing memorial service after he died, and how in my class he had a hearing aid. He still looked great and “jazzy.”
While Jack Cole is an important figure in American dance it is irresponsible to refer to him as the “father of Jazz dance” and/or the “Father of theatrical Jazz dance.” Jazz dance, as Jack Cole was the first to admit, is an African American vernacular dance form. In the early to mid-20th century it is embodied in the Charleston and Lindy. Cole fused his modern dance training (Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, Charles Weidman) with his knowledge of Bharata Natyam and African American Jazz dance. He also employed Strip vocabularies and Latin dance forms. This complex fusion combined with a specific body alignment and cecchetti technique to create his unique style. To say that he was “The father of theatrical Jazz dance” dismisses the contributions of Katherine Dunham and the legion of vaudeville and Revue performers who successfully employed Jazz dance on stage prior to and concurrent with Cole’s innovations. Jazz dance is the expression of Jazz in the body. That expression, which has an essentially improvisational quality, takes many forms. Jack Cole’s choreographic style is one highly successful example of Jazz dance.
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