The Ultimate Entertainer
By Michael Scanlon, Contributor
October / November 2000
As dancer, singer, actor, director, and producer, Gene Kelly has provided audiences with some of the greatest moments in the history of show business.
On the Irish in dance: The Irish really dominated the popular dance in 20th-century America, no doubt about it. I think it came from the fact that the dancing in Ireland for centuries has been clog dancing and reels, and these dances certainly influenced the American people in the late 19th and 20th centuries so that it actually became part of American tap dancing. And then Americans who were Irish had this big advantage. They blended the tap dancing of the Irish – as I call it – with the syncopation of the music of the blacks and created a whole new form of tap dancing. But originally, American tap dancing came through that Irish source, from Ireland.
On his father: He went along with my mother because they were eager, as all of the lower-middle-class Irish were, that their progeny should have the benefits of everything they didn’t have. So all five Kelly kids took music and dance lessons when we could. And we weren’t a rich family. I took a couple of years of dancing when I was six or seven but then I had to fight the kids on the block too much about it, so my mother let my brother, Jim, and me quit. And then when I was in high school, I began dancing again because I discovered girls.
My father was out of work, so for purely economical reasons, my whole family started to give little dance lessons. My mother started a dancing school with us and it grew and grew. And finally as I learned more and more from teachers, mainly in Chicago where I went to study every summer, I found that I was really interested in doing dancing as my living. So I stayed with it. – December 1990 ♦
Gene Kelly died in 1996.