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    Eleanor Torrey Powell a famous Broadway dancing actress

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    Introduction:

    Eleanor Torrey Powell, was an entertainer. Commonly known as a dancer and actress, she was the first female to achieve star status as a tap dancer. Powell was named the Queen of tap and the Best tap dancer in the world. Even though she is most known around the world as only a tap dancer, she appeared in many musical films and Broadway productions.

    Eleanor Powell danced alongside Fred Astaire, an american singer, dancer and actor( see appendice 1 ). They performed a few numbers together, leading Astaire to state that he loved her, but Powell danced like a man, and she had a very masculine style(see appendice 2). Many may think that this would be considered a rude and impolite remark, but this comment seemed to break stereotypes of men being the leaders of the tap dancing genre.

    Early Years:

    Powell was born on November 21, 1912 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Powell’s mother was Blanche Torrey and her father, Clarence Powell worked as a hardware retailer. Powell’s parents were divorced when she was just several months old. She was then handed over to Harold Torrey and Susie Belle Torrey, her grandparents. While her mother worked hard as a bank teller and waitress, Powell was brought up by her grandparents. She began her journey of performing arts at the age of six with ballet.

    Powell was on a family vacation playing on the beach in New Jersey. A businessman, Gus Edwards, offered her an opportunity to work at his dinner club as a performer. Powell’s routines were contemporary and classical ballet. Powell would watch from backstage as the tap dancers that went on stage would perform. Powell observed this and had no special feelings for the genre she would eventually excel in. In an effort to try and make it on the stage of Broadway, Powell moved to new York where she performed at Nightclubs and private parties.

    Education:

    Since Powell was determined to make it onto the Broadway stage, she enrolled into the Jack Donahue’s Dance School. Powell had previously danced acrobatics and ballet, causing her to move more than just her feet during her tap lessons. Donahue made an exercise with Powell where he taught her that tap is nothing more than just the movement of the feet and the arms will follow. Donahue also made a belt with sandbags bonded onto it and made Powell wear it during tap class to enhance the bend of her knees. Therefore, helping the clarity of her tap dancing. Because of Donahue’s interesting tap teachings, Powell’s career started to take off.

    Career/Adult Life:

    Powell’s first performance on Broadway was for the show Follow Thru(see appendice 3). She then appeared onto the Broadway stage again with the show, Fine and Dandy. Powell acted in her first movie Queen High in 1930. These productions included a couple tap dancing routines, which highlighted Powell’s talent. Powell then performed a few tap numbers at George White’s Music Hall.

    Thus, leading her to appear in the local newspaper as a tap dancer who stands out. The public then named her the “world’s greatest female tap dancer” and compared her to various male tap dancers. Powell gained attention when she was asked to perform a tap dancing number with Fred Astaire. Fred Astaire was one of the most trending male tap dancers of their time. In this movie, Broadway melody of 1940(see appendice 4), the scene starts off with a tap dancing team competing for the spotlight in a broadway show.

    Fighting for the spotlight, they all show off their talents and tricks. Producers and Directors thought about pairing these two together for another upcoming movie, but Astaire was not very fond of Powell, for a reason not to be publicized. Powell went on to continue her career as a solo performer and book movies and performances on her own time and accord.

    Powell died on February 11, 1982 in Beverly Hills, Eleanor Powell was not only the first female tap dancer, but she was also an influencer for women all around the globe. She taught females that they are capable of everything that a male can do, if not better. She helped women realize that it is perfectly fine to wander outside the lines of society’s norms and venture beyond. Powell was compared to men throughout her life and had to deal with criticism of those around her and even in the film industry with her.

    Powell stayed strong and continued to pursue the job that she loved even if she was put down. She followed the path she dreamed to take and changed the mindset of her peers and showed them that women can take part in the dance industry, as well. Powell danced with a man, in a non-romantic way, which was also a trend-set, and she gave confidence to those women who were too timid to change the attitude of our society.

    Conclusion/ Reflection:

    Eleanor Powell is a big part of our history and she took part in our desire for equality. Even though we haven’t reached full fairness, we are still improving, learning, and growing as a group. Powell showed me that regardless of what others will say, think, or do, it is okay to just be you. She taught me to ignore the negative thoughts of others and to shine as I will. Powell showed me that I do not always have to listen to others if what I want to do, is what I think is best for me and my growing mind.

    I am still a child, but I do believe that it is time that I start to grow, learn, and improve as a person. I think I should do my part in this society, as young people are the future and my decisions are what will make the world better or worse. Powell was a very inspiring dancer who always danced a solo and even performed in a suit and tie. She even performed in a group of men, as well. Powell was a great idol for those young women looking for a place to shine and be an independent individual.

     

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    Eleanor Torrey Powell a famous Broadway dancing actress. (2022, Dec 22). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/eleanor-torrey-powell-a-famous-broadway-dancing-actress/

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