Cholly Atkins

Choreographer, Performer

Also known as: Charles Sylvan Atkinson

Male

Born: September 13, 1913
Pratt City, Alabama

Died: April 19, 2003
Las Vegas, Nevada

Cholly Atkins, a Broadway tap dancer and choreographer whose collaborations with Charles "Honi" Coles were the stuff of showbiz legend, died in Las Vegas April 19, 2003, at the age of 89, according to The New York Times. On Broadway with Coles, Mr. Atkins performed specialty work in the Jule Styne-Leo Robin musical, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in 1949. In 1989, 40 years later, he was one of four choreographers who contributed to the Broadway revue, Black and Blue; they took home Tony Awards for their work.

The Times reported Mr. Atkins also choreographed the smooth, precise moves of Motown performers such as the Temptations, the Supremes, the Shirelles and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. He was also a teacher of a young Sammy Davis, Jr.

Mr. Atkins also staged dances at the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater in Harlem and toured with big bands led by Count Basie and Louis Armstrong. Along with the Nicholas Brothers, the Coles-Atkins act was renowned for its precision moves, class and elegant energy.

The Times reported Charles Sylvan Atkinson was born in Pratt City, Alabama, and moved to Buffalo with his family, at an early age. He learned how to dance from his mother. At age 10, he won a Charleston contest. Early in his career, he was one-half of an act called the Rhythm Pals, and changed his name to Cholly Atkins, taking the first from a newspaper columnist of the day.

Mr. Atkins and Coles (who died in 1992) became dance partners after World War II and broke up in the 1950s, though they reunited from time to time. His autobiography, "Class Act: The Jazz Life of Choreographer Cholly Atkins," written with Jacqui Malone, was published in 2001.

Mr. Atkins's wife, Maye, survives him.

 

Roles

Playbill Cover - Black and Blue Black and Blue
Jan. 26, 1989 - Jan. 20, 1991
Choreographer
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Dec. 8, 1949 - Sep. 15, 1951
As Himself Performer
(Original)
Who's Who
 

Inside the Playbill (2)

See more Who's Who

Awards


Tony Award

Year Category Production Winner/Nominee
1989 Choreography Black and Blue Winner
 
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