Dance History Quiz | The dancer who gave Motown its moves

Fun facts for teachers & students

Motown musical groups The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and Martha and the Vandellas got some of their best onstage moves from which distinguished performer?

a. Bob Fosse
b. Charles “Cholly” Atkins
c. Charles “Honi” Coles
d. Gower Champion

b. Charles “Cholly” Atkins

The tap dancer, a former vaudeville star who worked as a Hollywood extra and in clubs with hoofing partner Charles “Honi” Coles, also created what he called “vocal choreography,” starting with Harlem doo-wop groups in the 1950s. Motown founder Berry Gordy brought him to Detroit in 1964 to give his musical stars performance polish. “He taught us to move in spite of our capabilities,” said Martha Reeves, lead singer of Martha and the Vandellas, who worked with Atkins for more than a decade. “Before he started, he would analyze the songs and he would have a mapped-out set of steps for each vocal movement.” According to The Guardian, at the end of the 1980s, Atkins was asked to recycle the Miracles’ routines for New Kids on the Block. When he died, in 2003, he was surrounded by family and “students” such as Gladys Knight and Mary Wilson.

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