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This Choreographer Taught the Temptations and Other Motown Acts How to Dance

The Temptations

The Temptations is one of the most successful and important groups of Motown Records. The group was known for the sharp way they dressed, their harmonious voices, and their dance moves - a mix of snazzy and classic choreography. Few people know, however, that a man named Mr. Cholly Atkins worked with them behind the scenes helping them with their "vocal choreography".
Atkins (born September 30, 1913) grew up when tap dancing was at its cultural peak. Unfortunately, he faced a segregated Hollywood, and found little success in the beginning.

He started out dubbing tap sounds for white dancers, and he reportedly gave some ideas to Eleanor Powell. When he moved to New York, he also formed a partnership with Honi Coles - a famous American actor and tap dancer.

In 1965, however, his biggest break came along. Atkins started work with the Temptations. He was part of a behind-the-scenes operation with Motown Records called Artist Development that consisted of teaching young artists how to become versatile entertainers.

Shelly Berger, the Temptations' manager in 1966, said: "Berry Gordy, Motown's founder, wanted Motown artists to be more than recording artists." And that was exactly what Atkins did with the Temptations and other artists like The Pips and The Supremes; He refined them.