2 3 Throwback Thursday and Honi Coles | Ballet Webb

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday and Honi Coles

Throwback Thursday and Honi Coles

Charles “Honi” Coles was born in Philadelphia On April 2, 1911. He learned to tap dance on the streets of Philadelphia and made his debut at the Lafayette Theatre in 1931 as a member of the Three Millers. The Three Millers group was known for exciting dance moves like barrel roles and steps done on large set pieces.

But soon he was replaced by another dancer, so Honi went to New York City determined to improve his technique. And improve it he did. He soon became known as the dancer with the fastest feet in show business, as well as being the most graceful.

Honi Coles went on to tour with Duke Ellington and Count Basie and other big swing bands. By 1940 he was a soloist with Cab Calloway’s orchestra, and it was there that he met Charles “Cholly” Atkins, another accomplished tap dancer. Together, they created an act called Coles & Atkins, and throughout the 1940s they performed with many big bands. In 1949, they appeared in the Broadway musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in a show stopping number called Mamie is Mimi choreographed by Agnes de Mille.

Later, Honi Coles worked as production stage manager for the Apollo Theatre, president of the Negro Actos Guild, and continued his membership with the Copasectics, a tapping fraternity. He then appeared in the touring company of Bubblin’ Brown Sugar, and in the Joffrey Ballet production of Agnes de Mille’s Conversations on the Dance.

At age seventy-two He received a Tony Award, Fred Astaire Award, and Drama Desk Award for the best featured actor and dancer in a musical for My One and Only.  He was also awarded the American National Medal of the Arts. He has appeared in many films including Dirty Dancing.

Honi Coles died in November 1992, leaving a rich legacy for today’s dancers.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Dance History Factoid #60:  
Charles “Honi” Coles was a lengendary tap dancer.

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““In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
Mahatma Gandhi

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