Hal Schaefer, Jack Cole's longtime musical accompanist said
style was both "intellectual and savage." Critic Debra Jowitt offered this
assessment: "Cole dancing strikes me as immensely aggressive; almost
every gesture is delivered with maximum force, but then has to be stopped
cold in mid-air to achieve the clarity of design he wanted...an immense counter
effort has to be used to stop the gesture."
Jazz teacher Nat Horne, who worked for both Jack Cole and Matt Mattox, noted:
"Matt didn't like a lot of expression in class, and neither did Jack Cole.
They liked that cool, cold look. But what often the student didn't understand
was that even though they wanted that cool, cold look - underneath there
was a fire in the center of the body, and the feeling of the shoulder isolation
coming from the center. Sometimes the face would never change expression,
but you could just see the body curl into the contraction."
Camille Long Hill
Florence Lessing recalled the mastery of Cole's intricate
isolations as requiring "a great deal of concentration, of
control. You need a lot of intelligence to do this. It's
extremely difficult to master. So many parts of the
body, so many muscles moving in opposition to each
other, and each in isolation from the other!" To
which dancer Buzz Miller added, "Cole demanded a lot
of isolations; for instance in an East Indian dance getting each
finger to move quite separately, like a Buddha. All
Cole's work was very isolated -- very strong,
very controlled, very cool. Even his and his dancer's eyes
The legendary Gwen Verdon, during the Lincoln Center's "Tribute to Jack Cole,"
noted: "Jack once said to me 'I'm going to tell you what to do with the
second joint of your little finger - so don't think that it's going to be
any other way!'"
Critic John Martin said that a Cole dancer "is a depersonalized being, an
intense kinetic entity rather than an individual. In this state of technical
preparedness, which amounts to almost possession, he performs incredible
movement, with a dynamism that transfers itself to the spectator as sheer
Nat Horne offered: "With the girls, he'd call them aside and say something
in their ear, and when they came back they did it! And I have no idea, but
I can imagine what sometimes he would say. Sometimes he would be very graphic
with what he wanted you to think of. Sometimes you have to shock the students
in a nice manner and give them images so the movement has meaning and not
just technique behind them."