The American Dance Machine
by John Gruen
Dance Magazine February 1978
The sounds issuing from Studio A at New York's elegant Harkness House are wild. A combo of bongos and electric guitar is going loud and crazy. The music is a sixties frug, and the two young musicians at their instruments keep the beat steady, the rhythm even, and the drive of the tune staccato and soaring. Just what is happening in Studio A, where classical ballet classes are usually in progress...?
..."Five, six,seven, eight...shake one shoulder, now the other...head to
the left, head to the right...pivot and move back...now straighten the torso,
but keep the pelvis going..." Some quick claps of her hands stops the class
and the music. And Lee Theodore, who is conducting the proceedings, calls
for a new rhythm from the combo in the corner...
On other days, these same students learn
the specific techniques and mechanics that will result in a twenties Charleston
or tango, a thirties one-step, a forties lindy, a fifties jitterbug or samba.
Indeed, these classes offer a survey of popular dance styles set within a
context of the American musical theatre. And the whole range of these activities
is only a part of the elaborate dance curriculum instituted by Lee Theodore,
who only two short years ago invented something called the American Dance
Lee Theodore and Gwen Verdon in an ADM class
The American Dance Machine performed on Broadway and on tour throughout most of the 1980s. The company curtailed its activities when Lee Theodore died of cancer in the late 1980s. Classes were held in NY at the Broadway Dance Center for a few years, but these also have been cancelled recently. ADM has documented choreographies on film and videotape, and these are available in the Dance Collection of the Library of Performing Arts in Lincoln Center, NY.