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Charles Coles : biography

April 2, 1911 - November 12, 1992

Charles “Honi” Coles (April 2, 1911 – November 12, 1992) was an American actor and tap dancer.

Biography

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Coles developed his high-speed rhythm tapping on the streets of his hometown. He first went to New York City as one of the Three Millers, who were known for their intricate and difficult dance steps executed on tiny platforms. He later returned to headline at the Apollo Theater.

In 1940, while dancing with Cab Calloway's band, he met and teamed with Charles "Cholly" Atkins. As Coles & Atkins, their routine opened with a fast-paced song and tap number, followed by a precision swing dance, a soft shoe, and a tap-challenge. Their partnership lasted nineteen years.

Coles placed tap in the world of concert art when he performed in the Joffrey Ballet's production of Agnes de Mille's Conversations about the Dance.

Coles made his Broadway debut in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1949. He also appeared in Bubbling Brown Sugar and My One and Only, for which he received both the Tony and Drama Desk Award for his performance.

During the 1980s, Coles taught dance and dance history at Yale, Cornell, Duke, and George Washington University.

Coles was a close associate of Brenda Bufalino, who was instrumental in helping him rebuild his career in the early 1970s. Coles also had a part in the 1987 hit movie Dirty Dancing.

In 1991, Coles was awarded the National Medal of Arts. He was inducted, posthumously, into the Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2003.

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