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He's the wellspring from whence we flow.... [He] understands the way that the human body moves, he understands the grace of dance.
His choreography is so unique, it's just like a Rolls Royce among a whole lot of Yugos. He's classic, man.
To have Atkins' memories preserved is to have an immense contribution to nearly a century of American popular song and dance acknowledged, and in his own lifetime. Motown may have been just a stopover in this storied life, but we, and the company, were lucky to have him.
Cholly is one of the true icons of American culture--an original hoofer. He took social and street dances of the time and combined them with style and class, introducing a new dance genre, vocal choreography. Weaving rhythm and groove seamlessly, he created dance with flair while allowing several generations of young people to stand on his shoulders. Pops put a little dip in their hip and a little slide in their glide. He is a serious legend and one of the finest human beings I've even known. The legacy of Cholly Atkins is one that will be with us forever. We are blessed to have been touched by his magic.
Cholly Atkins was our everything.... He taught us how to walk onstage, how to walk offstage, how to move.
As Class Act makes clear, professional tappers formed an elite brotherhood, a society of proud, resolute strivers with no shortage of dignity, talent or wisdom. We should be grateful to Cholly Atkins for generously sharing his with us.
— Terry Lawson
Without having first read Class Act... you may be half-informed at best about the evolution over the past century of black dance rhythms and the importance of vernacular choreography.
Class Act chronicles Atkins' amazing career, from his entry into New York City's dance world to his performing triumphs and personal tragedies to the career transformations that won him gold records and a Tony award. Anyone interested in tap dancing and/or the history of rock and roll will enjoy this book.
Preface and Acknowledgments
1. Going North
2. The Rhythm Pals
3. Cholly and Dotty
4. Struttin' for Uncle Sam
5. Coles and Atkins
6. The End of Our Road
7. Rhythm Tap and More
8. In Walked Maye
9. Hitsville, U.S.A.
10. Back to Freelancing
11. The Way I Do the Things I Do
12. Black and Blue
Columbia University Press