Marion Coles is the dance director of the Silver Belles, and has seemingly boundless energy. During the filming, Marion had to get a pacemaker, and the first question she asked her doctor was, "When can I dance again?" She hardly skipped a week before she was back on the floor. "I don't like to sit around." "She always used to hang out with guys between shows, eating up any tap moves they could teach her. "Dance, dance, dance, she'd dance all day if she could," say the ladies of Marion. She is the widow of the legendary hoofer Honi Coles, and continues to teach tap to pass on traditional steps that would otherwise be lost to a new generation.
Marion grew up in the Harlem’s theatrical district, and as a teen starting lindy hopping at the Savoy and the Renaissance Ballroom in the early 1930s. She and her partner, with other uptown swing dancers, started taking lindy demonstrations and swing competitions downtown to the hotels and ballrooms, where it spread like wildfire into the larger community. She toured as lindy hop dancer, and then in 1936 joined the Apollo's Number One Chorus Line. She was a leader in the successful Apollo chorus dancer’s strike that shut down the theatre on a Saturday night in February 1940, and established the American Guild of Variety Artists. She danced with “Round the World” tours (Baltimore, DC, Philadelphia, and back to New York), toured with Leonard Reed, and danced at the 845 until the late 1940s.
After 24 years working in sales, Marion put her tap shoes on again and joined Jane Goldberg’s Changing Times Tap Company. In 2002 Marion was awarded an honorary doctorate from Queens College for her dedication to her craft and her students. Devoted and indefatigable, she has continued to teach tap seminars around the country.
March 15, 1915 - Nov. 6, 2009
Right, in 1945, Marion between shows at New York's 845 Club.