Jack Cole, born John Ewing Richter, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Early on he decided to pursue dance with the Denishawn Dance Company led by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. He made is first professional appearance in August 1930, and although he had previously studied ballet, Cole was entranced by the Asian influences Denishawn utilized in its choreography and costuming. Cole also performed with another pair of pioneering modernists, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, but eventually left the modern dance world for commercial dance career in nightclubs, performing with Alice Dudley, Anna Austin and Florence Lessing.
A fund-raising event launched this long overdue tribute to the “Unsung Genius” of Jack Cole,. It will preserve the legacy of this great innovator, the father and pioneer of Jazz Dance in America. Jack developed his own movement style, vocabulary and technique. In the late 1930s he combined East Indian Bharata Natyam, modern dance, ballet, Afro-Cuban and African American movement, and set it to swing music.
Before Jack Cole, the commercial dance was line dancing and tap. His highly innovative choreography influenced many choreographers such as Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins, Michael Bennett, Ron Field and Michael Jackson. Jerome Robbins (Vanity Fair, December 1984) wrote that “ Jack Cole’s contributions were so far-reaching that without him present day theatrical dancing would not be the same” Jack was the genius behind the sultry presence of Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, and Betty Grable. Jack changed the face of dance, not only in films but the musical theater and night clubs.