The strict discipline of Bharata Natyam technique enabled Cole to tilt, shift, and isolate the head, shoulders, ribs, and hips into dozens of small, sharp changes of direction. It was a powerful tool to rivet focus as well as to sexually titillate his audi
, Cole-determined to make "art dance" palatable to blase sup- perclub habitues-stopped his audience from eating and drinking through the sheer intensity and variety of moods he evoked in each of his dances. Appassionette had violent and decadent jerking and posturing; Dance for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals "interpreted" oriental rhythms5; Japanese Lanterns, a solo for Cole, was inspired by Ted Shawn's Japanese Spear Dance (1919); and Love Dance offered interpretations of Bali.
e "Father of Modern Jazz Dance
), Sing, Sing, Sing was a stylized Lindy Hop, or jitterbug, tfat popular swing-era social dance that flung and flipped partners into "breakaway solos and daring "air" s
The fading of swing bands instigated a virtual blackout of jazz dance in its traditional form of tap dancing on the popu- lar stage. Many vaudeville houses converted into movie theaters. Popular tastes on Broadway turned from tap dance to ballet. And jazz musicians moved into small clubs, playing a new and virtually undanceable style of jazz called bebop
Sing, Sing, Sing is an early example of this "modern" jazz dance. "I remember him [at the Rainbow Room]" Walter Terry wrote about Cole, "doing not only the oriental dances to jazz, but also Harlem dances, in brown chinos with bare feet and bare torso. He must have been the first to use Harlem rhythms that weren't done in terms of tap
Hindu-Swing is his own invention, stylized Boogie Woogie a specialty, and formalizations of Caribbean and South American rhythms his trademark" (1943)
e Cole would have abhorred and blatantly rejected. 'The idea that some people have that I am in some way responsible for the 'modern jazz dance' movement of today is in itself a distortion
, Sing, Sing, Sing-in its eclectic mix of American modem and African-American social dance forms and classical East Indian dance technique, and danced to the rhythms of swing in the tempos of bop-is illustrative of a postwar style of modem jazz dance that would be emulated by choreographers of the concert and musical stage, commer- cialized in the Hollywood musical film, and codified into a dance technique that would to this day be taught to jazz and musical theater dancers. I will explore the origins and influences of this style of modem jazz dance
Cole left the concert world of modem dance for Manhattan's Embassy Club, a cabaret run by mobster Dutch Schultz. At twenty-one years old, he had already trained from the age of sixteen with Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn at Denishawn, danced with Ted Shawn's Male Dancers (1930-1933), and performed with the Doris Humphrey-Charles Weidman dance group
Exotic to its core, Cole's club work won him critical acclaim.
dy of "authentic" East Indian dance with the American-born dancer La Meri, who states, "From me he wanted the adavus of classical Bharata Natyam, and these I gave
, 18). Cole mastered the technique- the cobra head movements, undulating arms, subtle hip-shoulder isolations, precise "mudra" hand gestures, and darting eye actio
sic. Swing Impressions of an East Indian Play Dance, which Cole performed with partners Florence Lessing and Anna Austin, used the big-band swing arrangements of Larry Clinton and Raymond Scot
. Hindu-Swing? It seemed outrageous, but Cole was dead seri
ce. An exception is Jack Cole, who performs authentic Indian dance technique to swing tempos without losing the general dignity of the art
In 1942, Cole's melting pot of "ethnic impressions" shifted from Spain and Cuba to Spanish Harlem U.S.A. Wedding of a Solid Sender, performed at the Rainbow Room to Benny Goodman's "Yes, Indeed," characterized wartime zoot-suiters as young, urban, black and Hispanic gangste
e." Tap dancer Leticia Jay wrote that Wedding of a Solid Sender was "the first modem jazz dancing" she had ever seen: "It employed the principles of sharp dynamics and clarity of line characteristic of Bharata Natyam technique, without in any way suggesting East Indian type of dan
What is ironic about Cole's evolving style during the mid-1940s is that it was neither pu Harlem nor pure Hindu, and fit into no easy c
said, "He is not of the ballet, yet the technique he established is probably the strictest and the most spectacular. He is not an orthodox 'mod dancer,' for though his movement is extremely individual it employs objective material fro the Orient, from the Caribbean, from Ha
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